How our partnership with Cojolyá empowers our community

Who is Cojolyá and what is their impact? 

 

Cojolyá is a non-profit organisation in Santiago Atitlán that began during the Civil War in 1983. It has developed into an association of artisans who create Fair Trade products for sale locally and internationally. Cojolyá has a holistic approach that, includes providing educational programs for the children of the community, as well as personal and professional development for the artisans. 

 

Cojolyá programs currently support ten children and adolescents by providing school supplies and scholarships. Lately, because of the restrictions in public schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic, assistance programs have provided the students with a tutor in addition to regular educational supports.

 

Cojolyá is having a direct impact on the lives of the artisans, their families and the general community of Santiago, and it is also supporting Fair Trade efforts.

nglish Teacher Volunteers in Santiago

English Teacher Volunteers in Santiago

 

How does our partnership work?  

 

One, Two…Tree! has partnered with Cojolyá to ensure that both organizations are able to have double the impact in Santiago. 

 

Beginning last year,  One, Two… Tree! teamed up with Cojolyá to provide students with English lessons. It was immediately apparent that the collaboration was having a positive impact. The in-person classes were a success and the students enjoyed them. Now, with our very own Learning Center, the students will be able to attend lessons and take advantage of more opportunities to learn and practice English. 

 

Similarly, Don Antonio, Cojolyá’s artisan founder, and Carina, the administrator, both attend adult classes at the center as well. 

 

Learning English in Guatemala

Learning English in Guatemala

 

This year, One, Two… Tree! is collaborating on various activities with the students of Cojolyá every month, which provides them with different ways to learn and practice English that are outside the traditional methods of education. For example, every month One, Two… Tree! hosts a cultural celebration in English featuring a different theme each time so that the students can learn new vocabulary in a fun and unique way. 

 

One of the volunteers, Kelly from Greece, was also a part-time volunteer with Cojolyá when she was here earlier this year. Some of our other volunteers have collaborated with Cojolyá’s partner artisans by taking weaving classes and buying Cololyá’s products, since Cojolyá is a weaving association part of the WFTO (World Fair Trade Organization). Doña María, one of the partner artisans, really enjoyed the visit from the One, Two… Tree! volunteers, so she dressed them all in traditional clothes! 

 

English Teachers in Guatemala

English Teachers in Guatemala

 

What is your role as an English teacher volunteer? 

 

Apart from in-person teaching and activities in the classroom, it is exciting to watch volunteers get creative and find new ways to present English materials to the students.

 

For example, this year, volunteers Elinor from Belgium, Alizée from France, Kelly from Greece, Carmela from Spain, and Gersom from Guatemala have all been helping us plan the cultural activities and curriculum for the students. Through the use of fun activities, these volunteers ensure that each student receives equal amounts of attention and opportunities to practice their English. Carmela is also a part-time volunteer math tutor with Cojolyá.

One, Two… Tree! is proud to be partnering with Cojolyá to provide students with the opportunity to learn English to increase the overall impact of education and development in Santiago Atitlán. 

 

Teach English in Guatemala

Teach English in Guatemala

 

Volunteer with us this year! 

 

One, Two… Tree! is seeking more English teacher volunteers to come to Santiago, Guatemala to help expand the programs and reach of the organisation, and boost impact on the community. 

 

If you would like to learn more about volunteering with One, Two… Tree! and Cojolyá, please send us an email to: guatemala@onetwo-tree.com  

 

Nonprofit partnership in Guatemala

Nonprofit partnership in Guatemala

 

 

Our partnership with Puerta Abierta to increase our impact in Santiago

 

Who is Puerta Abierta? 

Puerta Abierta is another non-profit in Santiago Atitlán focused on education and development of the community.

 

They have opened the first creative school in the area that focuses on education through innovative programming for students at the kindergarten level through to grade six. They also have a community library that is open to other schools and programs to use as a resource to support their curriculums. 

School in Santiago, Guatemala

School in Santiago, Guatemala

What does our partnership look like?

At the beginning of this year, we began our partnership with Puerta Abierta in order to bring more programming, resources, and development to Santiago. 

 

We are providing English lessons to all students at Puerta Abierta, and providing bilingual materials to support their learning as well. Our English teacher volunteers are sharing their time with Puerta Abierta to ensure that these English classes are being delivered to their students on a regular basis. 

 

In exchange, Puerta Abierta has provided us with books and materials to help our teachers with lesson planning and developing activities for our Learning Center so that they are well prepared and equipped, especially since some of our volunteers do not have an education background. 

 

Amanda, the founder of Puerta Abierta, has also prepared a workshop as a resource for our teachers to learn techniques when working with younger students. We are so thankful for the opportunity to learn from their work in alternative education in Santiago. 

English Teacher Volunteer in Guatemala

English Teacher Volunteer in Guatemala

Our impact

This partnership means that both organizations can have a stronger impact. Amanda Flyer, the founder of Puerta Abierta talks about our impact and work together:  

 

« At the beginning of 2022, we were overjoyed to learn that One Two…Tree! would be partnering with the Puerta Abierta Learning Center to offer English classes to our students. 

 

Our collaboration with One Two…Tree! goes much further than teaching English. My favorite moments of observation have been the mutual exchanges of inquiry and curiosity passed between volunteers, teachers, and students regarding culture, lifestyles, and countries of origin.  We have been fortunate to receive volunteers from Greece, Spain, Belgium, France, and different areas of Guatemala in just a short span of time.

 

One Two…Tree! volunteers have also been collaborating with ongoing cultural exchanges that the Puerta Abierta has established with schools in the United States. I have found great joy in working with Carmela on our preschool exchange with a school based in Boston, MA.  I’m grateful for Carmela’s extra set of hands and creative outlook which have enhanced our interaction with young children in Guatemala and the USA. » 

Puerta Abierta Partnership

Puerta Abierta Partnership

Joining forces 

Our partnership is beneficial for both nonprofits to do their work efficiently and effectively. Juanita Chiviliú, the Director of Puerta Abierta explains what this partnership means for her work. 

 

« As the director of an unconventional school in rural Guatemala, finding creative, dynamic, and empathetic English teachers proves to be a great challenge. So having the link this year with One Two…Tree! has been a great opportunity for our center to continue to provide an education full of love, joy, and celebration of cultures with our students.

 

Personally, I love to see the friendship that is cultivated between the volunteers and the students and teachers during the English classes. Teachers and children always want more, which means that they enjoy it and want to learn, so both institutions are achieving our goals.”

English Teacher Volunteer in Santiago

Your role as a volunteer

Mary Chiviliu Ajtujal, a sixth-grade teacher with Puerta Abierta talks about the role of One Two Tree…! volunteers within this partnership. 

 

« It has been nice to have the teachers of One Two Tree…! in the class during these months. For the students, it has been very positive to see different people and learn about other cultures while learning another language. It has helped them a lot since sometimes it is difficult to meet and talk with new people. 

 

The teachers have made it possible to resume learning the English language. It has been difficult lately with the hybrid education modality (online and in person, due to the pandemic) to maintain continuous learning of this language, but the teachers have been very open to accommodate the changes that this modality represents. All the teachers are very grateful for the openness, passion, and creativity that they bring to our center in this way and in other ways. »

 

We are so grateful for and excited about this partnership with Puerta Abierta and all of the possibilities it brings to the students and the community of Santiago Atitlán. 

 

If you would like to learn more about volunteering with us and Puerta Abierta, please send us an email to: guatemala@onetwo-tree.com  

Informative interview with our amazing English volunteer: Kelly!

In this #InterviewSeries post, we interview Kelly, a volunteer from Greece who joined us in January. She shares all of the details about her time and experience as an English Teacher Volunteer with One Two… Tree! in Guatemala. Let’s get started!

 

Question (One Two… Tree!): Hi Kelly! Thank you for joining us for this interview.

Answer (Kelly): Hello! Thank you for inviting me to share my experience!

 

QCould you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background?

A: For as long as I can remember I have loved traveling, meeting people, and being a (non-formal) teacher :). I am a youth worker back in Greece and manage many global education projects. So, I thought, “what could be better than some action in the field with One, Two…Tree?”

English Teacher Volunteer in Guatemala

English Teacher Volunteer in Guatemala

Q: Could you provide some details about when and where you volunteered with us, and for how long?

A: I volunteered with One, Two…Tree! in rural Guatemala (I recommend always going to rural areas for such projects), in the village Santiago Atitlan on the Lake. I was there for 1 month; the first month of 2022 (wish it could have been for longer) for the best start to the year!

 

QCould you tell us a bit about what your daily life was like as an English volunteer?

A: My daily life was more than exciting. You are always doing so many different things with different people and with so many stimuli that you take with you back home. You are busy with the classes in the mornings, then have lunch with your host family or explore the colorful market and prepare your own food. Then, you prepare for class materials, grade, complete worksheets, participate in team meetings – you know… the teacher’s life!

 

Team activities on the weekends range from day trips around the lake to hiking and Mayan ceremonies, interactions with the locals- students or others – exploring the rich culture of Guatemala, and enjoying the warm hearts of the people. The list is as endless as your imagination!

English Classes in Santiago Atitlan

English Classes in Santiago Atitlan

QWhere did you stay in Santiago, Guatemala?

A: I stayed with a lovely local family, in a private room with a nice balance of autonomy and blending at the same time. Maritza, the host mom, was cooking for me and helped me practice Spanish in the most efficient way. Pedro, the host dad, was caring and also explained a lot about the institutions and situation in Guatemala. Azul, the sweet girl, was one of my students and it was amazing to see her at home and at school. The stay was very comfortable and very interactive. I really miss them!

 

Q: Did you feel that your volunteering work had an impact on the community?

A: Absolutely, from day 1. The engagement with the students in the English classes and beyond is so direct, and much needed. The classes are helping them to improve their lives, increase their employability and have a more dignified future. It is much more than that though, as it is a very enriching intercultural engagement, a beneficial way for both sides (volunteer and community) to gain more self-confidence, more ideas, self-esteem, deep connections, and life satisfaction.

One Two Tree Volunteering

Q: Did you have an opportunity to learn any Spanish?

A: ¡Absolutely! This was one of the highlights of the experience. Staying together with a family is the best way to learn the basics and beyond and become proud of it. Knocking down the language barrier also opens up the heart and makes the connections and your impact even deeper. You can also have a language exchange with your new Guatemalteco friends to boost your language skills!

 

QWhat is something you wish you knew before coming to Guatemala to volunteer?

A: I wish I knew how much you can do, give and learn – I would have scheduled to stay longer!

 

QWhat is the best memory you have from your experience?

A: It is impossible to pick just one, I have so many precious moments, connections, activities, smiles, and hugs. I think if I had to choose, it would be the first opening day of the One, Two…Tree! learning center that took place in February, thanks to the amazing teamwork by the volunteers. The reward of the emotions felt when the kids, teens, and adults were coming to learn English cannot be put into words.

Teaching English to Children in Guatemala

Teaching English to Children in Guatemala

Q: Do you have any advice for future volunteers who want to start this adventure?

A: Come live this life-changing experience, serve a community really in need, and receive more than you will give! Come with an open mind and an open heart leaving every fear from the Western world behind!

 

One, Two…Tree!: Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, Kelly!

Kelly: You’re welcome!

 

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering in Guatemala this year, please contact us at: guatemala@onetwo-tree.com

One Two Tree English Teacher Volunteer

Our first English Learning Center in Santiago, Guatemala!

Our English Learning Center opened in Santiago Atitlan in February to provide more English classes to more students, both children, and adults of all levels.

 

Our Learning Center Brings More English Classes to More Students!

 

At the beginning of February, the doors to our new Learning Center opened in Santiago, Atitlán. Since our work was affected by the pandemic due to the constantly changing rules around classes and restrictions in public schools, we decided to open our own center in order to bring more English classes to more students! We will still be bringing our English teachers and curriculum to schools, additionally offering these classes to the community.

English Teacher Volunteers at our Learning Center

English Teacher Volunteers at our Learning Center

We found the space in a central location, close to the schools we work with. With the help of our current volunteers, we painted the building and cleaned it up in order to open our doors quickly because we were receiving lots of inquiries from families in the community. We have already begun teaching our English curriculum to both children and adults in the center.

Volunteers Painting Our Learning Center

Volunteers Painting Our Learning Center

How the English Learning Center Works

The Learning Center is open every day and classes are available for students during after-school hours. Classes for children are available between 4:00-5:00 pm, and teens and adults can join us for classes between 6:00-7:00 pm. There are three classrooms in the center, meaning that multiple groups can study simultaneously. We currently have two classes for each age group; one is for students at the beginner level, and the other is for more advanced levels.

English Classes in our Learning Center

English Classes in our Learning Center

We are using the same curriculum as we have been using in public schools. This curriculum focuses on introducing our students to English with a special focus on developing listening and speaking as well as the acquisition of basic vocabulary to provide a foundation on which to continue learning English. We include worksheets, activities, games and short quizzes. Some of the materials, such as books, that we are using in the Learning Center are provided by Puerta Abierta, a nonprofit organization that we partner with here in Santiago. These materials help to enrich our English classes and enhance the experience of the students.

 

What Does This Mean for Our English Teacher Volunteers?

One Two…Tree! volunteers will still work with us for approximately 16 hours per week, however, now those hours will be divided between working in public school classrooms and teaching at the Learning Center. These hours will vary depending on the current government restrictions for public schools, as well as the demand for classes at the Learning Center.

English Teacher Volunteers in Santiago

English Teacher Volunteers in Santiago

The Learning Center will provide our English teacher volunteers with a home base that they can help develop and contribute to. So far, our volunteers have helped us set up the space and ensure the classrooms are optimized for learning at all levels.

 

The Space Will Be Open to the Community

Our Learning Center will also be open to other local programs and organizations. The intention behind the Learning Center is to create a safe learning space for everyone in the community. For example, Instituto Tzanjuyú, the secondary school that we partner with, has lent us chairs, tables, and whiteboards, and in exchange, they will use the space to host a chess club and guitar lessons for their students and anyone who wants to join.

 

The Learning Center will also be a recycling point for the community. Our friends at Amigos del Lago will come every Monday to pick up everyone’s recycling. Currently, the community throws everything out together in the garbage, so not only are we providing a space for recycling to be easily dropped off and picked up, but we are also educating the community on the importance of recycling and what items can be recycled in our programming.

Adult English Classes in Santiago Atitlan

We are excited to continue to develop our Learning Center to ensure it is an open space for the whole community to come together and learn.

 

If you are interested in learning more about our Learning Center or volunteering with us in Guatemala this year, please contact us at: guatemala@onetwo-tree.com 

Informative interview with one of our English volunteers: Dani!

In this #InterviewSeries post, we interview Dani, a volunteer who joined us last year. He shares all of the details about his time and experience as an English Teacher Volunteer with One Two… Tree! in Guatemala. Let’s dive right in!

 

Question (One Two… Tree!): Hi Dani! Thank you for joining us for this interview. 

Answer (Dani): Thanks for inviting me.

 

Q: Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your background? 

A: I am Dani Thomas and I live in Pontypridd in Wales. I have been a Computer Programmer for many years and I have an interest in music and politics. I also have a great interest in Spanish and Latin American issues. One of my ambitions was to spend some time in Central or South America possibly doing voluntary work.

 

Q: Wow – sounds like you achieved that ambition! Can you give some details about when and where you volunteered with us, and for how long? 

A: I started volunteering with One, Two…Tree! Guatemala in August 2021. This was the first opportunity for a while, as foreign travel was blocked by the pandemic. I stayed for three months and I was based in Santiago Atitlan.

English class in Santiago, Guatemala

English class in Santiago, Guatemala

Q: Could you tell us a bit about what your daily life was like as an English volunteer?

A: As the pandemic was still affecting things, we were not able to do as much teaching in the schools as was originally envisaged. It was limited to explaining and retrieving the homework, and the classes were split in order to keep the classroom numbers down. However, we did start a twice-a-week adult class which included a number of workers from the local coffee cooperative. This had to go online as the Covid rules changed. We also got involved with Friends of Lake Atitlan helping with their recycling efforts.

Volunteers at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Q: Sounds like you were able to pivot successfully! Where did you stay in Santiago, Guatemala? 

A: I stayed in the house of Señora Argentina. This was great as she was always very helpful and welcoming and knows everyone in Santiago, pretty much.

*Argentina is one of the hosts One Two…Tree! collaborates with. She is a retired teacher from Guatemala City and is respected and appreciated by the community for her work with local projects. 

 

Q: Did you feel that your volunteering work had an impact on the community?

A: Yes. Despite the difficulties due to the pandemic, I believe that both the children and adults made real progress during the time I was there.

Volunteers in Guatemala

Q: Did you have an opportunity to learn any Spanish? 

A: I was already fairly fluent in Spanish but it was great to get the chance to use the language daily. However, since Tz’utujil is the main language spoken in the area, I decided to start having lessons in that language which I found very interesting and fulfilling and gave me a great insight into Mayan culture. After coming home I wrote a song about Santiago in the Tz’utujil language which mentions a number of places and people I met there. This can be seen here.

English teacher volunteer Dani in Guatemala

English teacher volunteer Dani in Guatemala

Q: Wow – that is incredible! What a lovely song, Dani, thank you for sharing. What is something you wish you knew before coming to Guatemala to volunteer? 

A: Nothing starts on time!

 

Q: What is the best memory you have from your experience? 

A: It is difficult to think of one in particular. I really enjoyed preparing for the adult classes and was able to use some ancient Welsh myths and legends as part of the comprehension. Exploring the various towns and villages around the lake which all have their own characters was great. Visiting the ruins of the prehispanic Tz’utujil capital Chuitinamit. Also just the friendship and companionship with the other volunteers.

English teacher volunteers in Guatemala

Q: Do you have any advice for future volunteers who want to start this adventure?

A: I would say it is absolutely worth doing. Definitely go for it.

 

One, Two…Tree!: Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, Dani! 

Dani: My pleasure! 

 

If you are interested in learning more about volunteering in Guatemala this year, please contact us at: guatemala@onetwo-tree.com 

 

What does teaching English in Guatemala look like in 2022?

Our objective in 2022 is to provide more English lessons in Guatemala

 

English teacher volunteer in classroom with children in Guatemala

Teacher Pauline with students

You may be wondering what our programs and teaching English in Guatemala will look like in 2022, entering a new year with the pandemic still ongoing. 

 

Our objective remains the same: to introduce English lessons in public schools in Santiago Atitlán, one of the Maya indigenous communities on Lake Atitlán, as a tool for the future of kids and teenagers.

 

At this moment, we are still collaborating with elementary schools in Santiago, and we have also established a relationship with our first secondary school, where our volunteers will teach English to teenagers of various ages in 2022. Through these lessons, we are preparing the students for their English classes in school in the following years. They can also use this knowledge in their future professional lives, as English is soon becoming more and more important in Central America.

 

How does the pandemic affect volunteer teachers?

 

English lessons in Santiago Atitlan

English lessons in Santiago Atitlan

The pandemic impacted our work greatly, however, we did reactivate our programs in 2021, and we are looking to expand our work again to maximize our impact in Central America as soon as possible.

 

Currently, our teaching schedule in public schools is subject to the local authorities’ decisions regarding covid restrictions and safety measures. Due to this, we have part-time opportunities available, which gives you, the volunteer, more flexibility to work on personal projects or part-time work. We also have full-time opportunities available for those who want to immerse themselves completely in our work and help out where restrictions allow.

 

 

 

 

Enhance your volunteering experience in Guatemala

 

Volunteers participating in local projects in Santiago, Guatemala

Volunteers participating in local projects in Santiago, Guatemala

Although classroom time in schools may be restricted due to changing safety protocols, we also teach English to adults and teenagers through collaborations with local projects and encourage volunteers to participate in community-building activities in other ways as well.

 

There are multiple chances to help the community grow and to immerse yourself in local culture by getting involved in local projects, such as taking care of the environment, helping at a local community farm, coffee cooperative, or artisan cooperative.

 

We have collaborations with Cojolyá, a collective of women artisans; CoAtitlán, a coffee cooperative; Amigos del Lago, an environment preservation program; and ADECCAP, a local community farm, and organic waste management program.

 

Become an English teacher volunteer with One Two…Tree! in 2022

 

Although the situation on the ground in Guatemala is constantly changing, there are many opportunities for volunteers to join us in 2022.

 

In the communities in which we work there continues to be a large number of projects with which to collaborate. Your volunteer experience with us will not go to waste. Whether you are teaching in classrooms or helping with local projects, we are dedicated to the development of Santiago Atitlán.


If you are interested in learning more about volunteering in Guatemala this year, please contact us at: guatemala@onetwo-tree.com 

Volunteers in Guatemala

Volunteers in Guatemala

#Interview Series: Leire

Hello! Welcome to this new interview!

Hello! Thanks for inviting me! It is nice meeting you.

Could you tell us more about your background? Are you studying/working?

I have a degree in Teaching (education), but I finished four years ago. Since then, I have been travelling abroad and now I am back in Spain.

How did you get to know 1,2 Tree?

So, I got a friend who was doing a volunteering experience in Nicaragua. I think it was five years ago, and she already had an experience with this organization, so when I started looking for NGOs offering volunteering experiences, I asked her for a recommendation and so that is how I became a 1,2 Tree volunteer.

How long did you volunteer with the organization?And Where?

I went there last year and I stayed almost two months: I went there at the end of October and I stayed until Christmas. I was in Mexico!

What was your daily life as an educational volunteer?

I worked four days: from  Monday to Thursday. Usually we had from three to four lessons in the morning, in the public school and then we would switch in the boarding school, because there were two schools. We used to go first to the boarding school indeed, stay there with the kins and also do some games.

How many volunteers were in the learning center with you?

We were five or six volunteers and we really had a good team! We used to go to different places and that really created a cool atmosphere to live in.

Which is the best memory you have about your experience there?

Nice question! I would say the day that we painted a tree on the wall: basically we painted a wall and the kids had color hands and it was amazing! Everyone was happy, singing and having fun. I really have a good memory of that day!

Oh wow! That seems very nice. I knew also other volunteers, first Totó told me that same memory.

Would you say that our volunteering work had an impact on the community/kids?

Yes, I really think so and I thought I also learnt a lot from the kids and the local people back there.

Yeah, I can understand. Anyhow, sometimes there are many controversies regarding international volunteering activities, like programs where you need to pay a lot of fees. 123 is one of the few that you can trust for this!

I didn’t pay anything and this is the reason why I decided to start this project with 123. When you have to volunteer you are already ‘paying back’ I think. Of course, we bought some presents for the kids, but I never had to pay a fee. I knew what my money were for (e.g. food and accommodation costs) and my flight which I personally paid. I organized myself to book the ticket to go there.

What would you recommend to future volunteers who want to start this adventure?

I would say that it is an amazing experience! You will never forget it and I think to live the full experience to really understand it. You need to live it in person because there are no words to explain it.

I really recomment volunteering with 1,2 Tree. I really felt welcome when I went there. They explained me everything, so I knew how was the project like. At the start, it’s gonna be hard,  don’t think you’re coming here for holidays and you’re not gonna work! They didn’t try to persuade me or else. So I would say that they are very clear and try to solve any problem. So if you have any doubt they would be happy to explain everything you need. I am really happy by now.

 

 

#Interview Series: Leire

Hello! Welcome to this new interview!

Hello! Thanks for inviting me! It is nice meeting you.

 

 

Could you tell us more about your background? Are you studying/working?

I have a degree in Teaching (education), but I finished four years ago. Since then, I have been travelling abroad and now I am back in Spain.

 

How did you get to know 1,2 Tree?

So, I got a friend who was doing a volunteering experience in Nicaragua. I think it was five years ago, and she already had an experience with this organization, so when I started looking for NGOs offering volunteering experiences, I asked her for a recommendation and so that is how I became a 1,2 Tree volunteer.

 

How long did you volunteer with the organization? And Where?

I went there last year and I stayed almost two months: I went there at the end of October and I stayed until Christmas. I was in Mexico!

 

What was your daily life as an educational volunteer?

I worked four days: from  Monday to Thursday. Usually, we had from three to four lessons in the morning, in the public school and then we would switch to the boarding school because there were two schools. We used to go first to the boarding school indeed, stay there with the kids and also do some games.

 

How many volunteers were in the learning center with you?

We were five or six volunteers and we really had a good team! We used to go to different places and that really created a cool atmosphere to live in.

 

Which is the best memory you have of your experience there?

Nice question! I would say the day that we painted a tree on the wall: basically, we painted a wall and the kids had colored hands and it was amazing! Everyone was happy, singing and having fun. I really have a good memory of that day!

 

Oh wow! That seems very nice. I knew also other volunteers, first Totó told me that same memory.

Would you say that our volunteering work had an impact on the community/kids?

Yes, I really think so and I thought I also learned a lot from the kids and the local people back there.

 

Yeah, I can understand. Anyhow, sometimes there are many controversies regarding international volunteering activities, like programs where you need to pay a lot of fees. 123 is one of the few that you can trust for this!

 

I didn’t pay anything and this is the reason why I decided to start this project with 123. When you have to volunteer you are already ‘paying back’ I think. Of course, we bought some presents for the kids, but I never had to pay a fee. I knew what my money was for (e.g. food and accommodation costs) and my flight which I personally paid. I organized myself to book the ticket to go there.

 

What would you recommend to future volunteers who want to start this adventure?

I would say that it is an amazing experience! You will never forget it and I think to live the full experience to really understand it. You need to live it in person because there are no words to explain it.

 

I really recommend volunteering with 1,2 Tree. I really felt welcome when I went there. They explained everything, so I knew how was the project like. At the start, it’s gonna be hard,  don’t think you’re coming here for holidays and you’re not gonna work! They didn’t try to persuade me or else. So I would say that they are very clear and try to solve any problem. So if you have any doubts they would be happy to explain everything you need. I am really happy now.

 

 

#Interview Series: Teacher Totó

 

Welcome Everyone to the first of our #InterviewSeries. In this new section, you will get to know Former Volunteers, their stories, and past experience in One, Two… Tree! and take inspiration for your Future Volunteer Experience, when hopefully things will get back to normal. Enjoy!

 

This time we get to know Totó, a former Volunteer-Coordinator who has volunteered with One, Two ..Tree! for more than a year and who is currently working.

 

First, thank you very much for making this interview possible! As a fresh start, I would like to ask you a bit more about your background.

I am from Spain, from Vigo. I am Thirty-four and I was Thirty-two when I started working with One, Two… Tree! I’ve studied Journalism and worked in Marketing for many years. Then, back in 2018 I decided to quit that and went to Cambodia to volunteer as well. When I was there, I kind of knew about One, Two … Tree!, and Pedro; he told me that they were going to open a new project in Mexico. He already knew I wanted to volunteer with One, Two .. Tree and told me that it would have been great if I wanted to start a new project and collaborate with them. So, I decided to leave and start over again, because I didn’t like my job in Marketing, so I went to Zinacantán.

 

That’s very cool! And how long did you volunteer?

I was two weeks in Guatemala, in Santiago with Gergana and then I was for around a year with One, Two… Tree!

 

The project actually started in Nicaragua, which was the first project, and then it was April 2018 when a revolution started against the Government, and at that point, we were kindly asked to leave. Basically, right now Guatemala is the biggest one and Mexico is restarting again.

 

What was your daily life as a volunteer?

School starts at Nine or Ten, until Three o’clock. Each volunteer has one or two grades that they teach. They go to the school for three hours and then go to another school, which is a boarding school but not the kind of boarding school we are used to. These are proper schools made for kids from families who have poor resources, therefore they pay almost nothing and had numerous kids from 6 to 12/13 who live in a school by themselves. They have dorms, make their beds, etc.

 

And we would teach them another couple of hours and that is basically the beginning. Then we decided those kids from the boarding schools needed more support so we decided to go every afternoon. But it wasn’t always about English classes, it was more about being with them, playing some games, sometimes. We wanted to make those kids loved. It is hard to say but sometimes kids just need a hug and just need to know that they can be loved. Therefore, sometimes, we just had fun with them and that was the nicest thing we did during the second part of the year. In the end, we were also a big group of volunteers, around eight.

 

What I used to say to the volunteers was to try to take your mind out of everything you know and just enjoy it. If you want to do “this” with the kids, just do it. Just be respectful and kids are going to love it!

 

That’s also very rewarding from the human aspect.

I know that for me the important part was to enjoy what I was doing. If they liked an activity, I would repeat it until they stopped liking it.

 

Which was the best memory that you bring with you?

Well, there are many. But I guess at the end of the year when we were going to play with the kids in the afternoon, we had very close bonds with them and by the end of the term, we ended up painting the wall with the One, Two Tree Logo. And also, on that wall, we painted six trees. Those were really good days! But I might say that the best memory I had was during the last days when I had to leave, I was really sad to finish. Because, you know, when you start to connect, and all the volunteers are cool with each other. We all had good ideas. So yes, the last couple of weeks were the best, and also the summer camp that we made which was a lot of work, 4 weeks and 60 kids and our duty on the school. Everything went very well and the kids enjoyed it a lot!

 

Would you say your contribution had a social impact on the community?

Well, I believe the kids understood the meaning of learning English. For the development of the community and learned how to interact and bond with people from Abroad. “To break the walls”: that was one of the most relevant things.

 

I think the biggest impact was the kids learning and being able to make such connections which is really cool. They still don’t realize how important it is for their lives, to know that people from abroad don’t’ come to take advantage of them.

 

How is the Covid-19 impacting the Project at the moment?

I can speak for the Mexican Project. Schools are still closed, so even if we had volunteers, they would not be able to do anything. So I guess that is one thing that affects us, because they do not have this ‘continuous’ of volunteers. We really hope to restore the project as soon as there will be the safety conditions to do it!

 

As the last thing, what would you recommend to Future Volunteers who are willing to start this new Adventure?

Do it! Don’t think about it Twice. You won’r regret it. Just Enjoy the Experience! Time literally flies, so try to get the most of it from the very beginning. Especially if you go there for a month. It is really something you will remember and it is one of the best « job » to do.

 

It is always inspiring to listen to past Volunteers’ Experiences. Totó has certainly made a life experience that will always remember. And with him, also all the kids he had the chance to teach to. We sincerely hope to restore the projects as soon as the Health-Emergency will be over.

 

Thanks again to Totó for his time and we Wish the best of luck to him with his new Projects and Work in Central America!