Jiquilillo is lively fishing community in the far north-west of Nicaragua. A couple of hours on a chicken bus from Chinandega, the sun blessed Nicaraguan coastline comes to end at this sandy peninsula of welcoming smiles and plentiful waves. Despite its beauty, there is a realisation of the need for support here as sea levels continue to rise and fish stocks decline. Coastal erosion has claimed many homes and strained many already impoverished households. This has caught the attention of NGOs including Together Works Society who provided me with the opportunity to help out.
In Jiquilillo I was greeted by a diverse group of eager students, as young as three all the way to middle age. Ever grateful for the opportunity to learn English, volunteering brought daily cries of anguish as well as a feeling of great accomplishment and reassurance. Much of the adult population in this remote region has not completed primary let alone secondary education, nonetheless the students relish the chance to study English and develop an invaluable asset. For many this English class has served as a first crack at classroom based learning.
Four daily classes started with the reliably inconsistent local surfers (if the waves were down), primary school kids on their way home after school, and concluded with a reliably consistent group of beaming young mothers. This made for dynamic classrooms and plentiful surprises. These included opening up student textbooks to multiple scorpions, a regular attendance of crying babies and local dogs in a stubbornly hot classroom, and a greater realisation of the need for educational support in this part of the world.
The coastline here is remarkable and pristine. Sunset surfs were a great way to let off some steam but also to practice with students out in the water. Declining income from fishing has meant that many of the young men are short on work and looking for new ways to make a living. English language is helping by providing opportunities to interact with a new wave of tourism in this part of Nicaragua. Examples of their language application include selling homemade jewellery, running local tours and providing surfing lessons. Teaching these students and then seeing their language used to support their future was a great privilege.
As the men are out at sea on often-dangerous multi-day fishing expeditions, the women stay at home to look after the family. For many of the young mothers in this community, the daily English language classes are the highlight of their day, giving them the chance to meet up as a group and challenge themselves in ways they had not been able to before. Empowering these women through these classes brings priceless smiles to their faces.
Often struggling with the fledgling government school system in the area, many kids came to class still full of energy and a desire to test themselves and practice their English. It was always a lot of fun although sometimes a test to match the energy levels of the kids. One classroom was based out of a container in a little community garden. This gave us the opportunity to get up and out of what can sometimes be a difficult to manage classroom environment. The greatest pleasure was seeing how some students applied themselves despite their circumstances and have made leaps and bounds in their English in such a short time.
Helping this community progress with their English given their personal challenges was an unforgettable experience and I encourage anyone entering teaching English as a foreign language to look into similar opportunities.
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