By Kelsey Rondini, Needham High School '20
Participating in my third school build, I had another amazing week with School the World. Every year has been a unique experience, and I have taken away something new each time. Whether a greater appreciation for school, a better understanding of nonprofit work, or a memorable friendship with a student, the lessons I have learned are invaluable and push me to do—and learn—more.
This year, working in a community called Pachó Chicalté, I was particularly touched by the level of involvement I witnessed. From the pre-primary students to the parents, each community member was committed to—and involved in—the project. Mothers, fathers, and children came after school to help paint, mix and pour cement, and plant trees. The efforts they put into the school—a crucial and symbolic part of the process—were incredible, demonstrating an inspiring dedication to education and learning.
Throughout our week at the primary school, we truly worked as a team. Parents, teachers, community leaders, students, volunteers, and School the World staff members worked together with the immediate goal of completing a new classroom and the long-term vision of improving access to quality education.
Further, this joint effort is far from over. For the next five years, School the World will partner with the school, facilitating both teacher and parent trainings. All of this is made possible by a combination of donors; funds from the municipality; and the work and dedication of community members, School the World staff, and volunteers. I realized, more and more, why each part is so essential, and why everyone involved is so dedicated to a shared goal.
One afternoon, as we were wrapping up work for the day, some of the young girls that had been helping us paint started to ask questions. At first I was nervous and apologetic—my Spanish is very limited—but with the help of some other volunteers and, eventually, a translator, we ended up having a long conversation, ranging from our favorite foods and airplanes to our career aspirations.
I learned a lot about these primary school-aged girls. Two want to be doctors. Another plans to become a teacher. Each is outgoing, thoughtful, and curious—deserving of a quality education and so much more.
Another afternoon, as I was walking past a classroom with a bucket of paint, I noticed there were people sitting inside. Usually by that point in the day, the students have gone home and the classrooms are empty. Looking closer, I realized that there were five or six women participating in a lesson of some kind. I was surprised; many of the parents in the community had never attended school. One mother even told me how she wished she could have had the opportunity to study. After asking one of the School the World staff members about the class, I learned that the class was designed to teach adults literacy skills. I smiled, hoping the mother I had spoken to would have the chance to join. Undoubtedly, the school in Pachó Chicalté will be a valuable and productive space in the coming years.
I hope the students’ education does not end with primary school, that they have the opportunity to continue learning. Perhaps with School the World's expanding secondary school program, coupled with their intelligence, hard work, and supportive community, that will be possible. The importance of furthering access to education brought together an incredible group of people, and I hope that their efforts will create lasting change and facilitate learning for years to come.
School the World is hosting an information session for their 2020 service trips to Panama NEXT Wednesday September 25th @7PM at Needham High School Library. Learn about their service trip offerings, ask questions and hear from returning World Changers about why we keep returning and why these service trips are so unique!