“I was impressed by United for Hope’s Vision”

KateRpic

This month our Team Member Profile series continues with a glimpse into the life and motivations of one of our copy writers, Kate Rodriguez.

I’m a copywriter, but I’ve had a long and varied career. Early on, I worked for the U.S. government in Washington, DC in foreign affairs and international trade. That’s where I met my husband, a German physicist. Then we decided to move to Chile where I worked as a writer and event coordinator for a volunteer organization while also taking care of our two young sons. We landed in Munich in 2007, and I first learned German before working in customer service and marketing for a start-up company here. I launched my freelance copywriting business last March.

Back in October 2014, Tara was invited to speak to a women’s professional group that I am a member of. She really impressed me with her vision and ideas for creating change at the village level in India. I liked United for Hope’s practical approach. Tara mentioned she was looking for volunteers, so I emailed her a few days later asking if she needed a writer. And she did! I started in November 2014 and do writing projects. I’ve helped with updating the text on the United for Hope website, drafting landing pages for the Christmas campaigns, and writing or editing brochures, reports and presentations.

I’m particularly enthusiastic about the Seeds of Hope project, which I really hope goes forward. It’s a program through which village women will undergo vocational training in sustainable gardening, health & nutrition, and literacy & basic business skills. By growing produce and selling it, they earn an income and improve their family’s and their own health. Plus, they gain some confidence and independence. I think these small, grassroots efforts can be game-changers over time.

Our Pilot Education Program

12841198_1021636251248427_165339610669634440_o

In February, United for Hope launched our first Education Program in our Community  Education Centre in the village of Tirmasahun. The pilot project includes 10 local children, five boys and five girls, between the ages of 10 and 12 who meet for after school classes 5 days a week. The topics for the classes range from general school subjects to awareness topics, such as citizenship, hygiene, cleanliness, respectful behaviour, and responsibility.

Patrick was on site at the village and directly involved in the project. He shared his experience with Teresa, a Munich-based volunteer.

Arriving at the village of Tirmasahun 

In March I came to the village Tirmasahun to support United for Hope in their water-, solar- and education projects. A big part of that was to set up a pilot class of ten students and assist the local teacher and help them get to know more interactive and modern ways of teaching.. I also helped recruit an additional female teacher, a smart young graduate who is the local school principals daughter, and from that day on we were giving classes together. The idea was to give her knowledge and confidence that she can keep on teaching the children after I left. This worked out pretty well and I had a great month at the village.

First impressions 

The first day I attended the classes the children were looking at me like I was an alien from Mars.. There was also a big language barrier, as I could just ask for their names in Hindi and little else. For the first weekend I had the idea to do some sports classes, as they don’t have anything like that in their school. I introduced two games that I played in sports classes in elementary school. This changed a lot. It took a lot of time to explain the games, as I could only use the few words I knew and the rest had to be gestures. As soon as they understood the game, it was very hard to stop them because they were having so much fun. Another big thing was when I told them how to write my name in English and Hindi. After that I was only hearing “Patrick Sir, Patrick Sir…!!!” a thousand times each day. 

After the students warmed up to me, the classes were the highlight of each day in the village. The children showed up half an hour before the classes were supposed to start, they were motivated and participated very well. It was also amazing how fast they could learn. The problem is that local teachers don’t speak English well, so they can only teach them vocabulary without any context. When I played games or gave them little tasks they remembered everything much easier and even started practicing on their own. For example, they were walking around and saying “This is a tree, a house, an apple…”etc. 

DSCF2735 (1)

Extended learning 

As the English classes were going well, I started to do maths and awareness topics. In contrast to schools in Germany, they were even asking me to write more tests just to get a smiley on their paper after I had corrected it. For awareness topics it was very important to teach in small pieces and very slowly; but for an average age of eleven that’s natural. So from the second week we had a mix of English, maths and awareness classes during the week and sports or gardening work on the weekends. Two of the students were very supportive with some gardening work we had to do. So I decided to give them a little bit of Pepsi I had. I don’t know if they had it for the first time, but the reaction was overwhelming! Anyway, they didn’t want a second glass because this would be too much of that ‘crazy sparkling drink’. After some time my Hindi skills improved a lot, as I got tired of not understanding what people were saying. Due to this, teaching became much easier and even more fun for the children.

DSCF2924 (1)

Wishes for the future

In the end I didn’t expect that it would be so hard for me to say goodbye. I had given English classes in other countries before for a longer duration. But in this one month I spent much more time with the children than we actually had planned. So I had a really strong feeling of responsibility for those children and I really hope that they get the chance for a good education and a good future. Hopefully, other volunteers can also contribute to that. 

Teresa for United for Hope