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Peace Corps Colombia Begins... Again

9/26/2010 – 10/15/2010
C1
On September 26, 2010, I arrived along with 8 others to Barranquilla, Colombia to reinstate the United States Peace Corps . We are called Colombia 1 (C1) even though there were many groups before us from 1961- 1981. Peace Corps had to shut down its programs to protect Peace Corps Volunteers’ (PCVs) safety endangered by guerilla warfare and civil unrest. Now, we are back serve to Colombia`s northern coast, but are still proud to be former PCVs from Liberia, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Dominican Republic, Guatemala,  Honduras, Paraguay, and Colombia. Our ages range from 26 to 69 years old. We are all are from different regions of the US and have different ethnicities. One PCV, Carolina, is from Bogota, Colombia, but moved to Florida when she was 17 years old and became a US citizen. Now, she is serving both the US and Colombia. Our oldest PCV, Philip, served in Colombia from 1963- 1965, returned home to be an ESL teacher in the Compton and Watts neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and now he has come back to the country that sparked his interest in education and teaching. All of my fellow C1 PCVs are an inspiration and it is an honor to serve with them.

Our project is called Teaching English as a Foreign Language. All of us are working with public school English teachers in Baranquilla, Santa Marta, and Cartagena. The Colombian Ministry of Education has chosen to increase English classroom hours since, it is the global language of business, higher education, and tourism.  We will be working in primary, secondary, and vocational schools. My project is working with a two-year teacher training program in Cartagena. My students will be primary school teachers (K- 5 grades) and be required to teach 1 -3 hours a week of English in their classrooms. My focus will not only be on English, but also teaching methodology and classroom management.

Our training was for three weeks in a hotel in a nice part of town. We lived in an easy, safe American bubble. Training was shorter than normal, since, we are all fluent in Spanish and have served before. It consisted of educational theory, classroom activities, Colombian education system, a workshop with our  teachers, and Peace Corps’s security and medical policies. Our trainer, Allegra, has been teaching ESL for 35 years and really knows her material. Training felt like a refresher of graduate school. I had not gone over most of the material since, I received my Master of Education in 2003. Training ended with a swearing- in ceremony on October 14th, the same day presidential candidate Kennedy proposed the Peace Corps to Univerisity of Michigan students in 1960. The mayor of Barranquilla and US Ambassador, who flew in from Bogota, were the very special guests. Our Colombian counterparts were impressed that we learned the national anthem and sang it with conviction. We were impressed by how well a children’s band played the American national anthem with native instruments. It was a great moment  for Colombia, the US, and a proud C1.


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