Love, Friendship, and Learning in a Migrant Community
JumpStart is an intensive four-week long English Camp designed to empower students with the knowledge, academic skills and confidence to make a successful transition to high school. In 2020, PCVs hosted 20 camps throughout Costa Rica. Check out Olivia's story.
My first time arriving to my community, I was convinced that we had been driving in circles for an hour before entering the smallest town I had ever seen. On the drive up, everything looked the same. Red, clay-rich mud mixed with greenery; thick grass and tall trees extended out to horizon, as far as the eye could see. And of course, a small town on the border of Nicaragua is never complete without the pineapple fields and cows. My site is a migrant community, and the students come and go just like their parents, who travel across the border sometimes weekly to look for work, which often means long hours in the hot sun.
During the Costa Rican equivalent of "winter vacation", many students just stay at home and help around the house while their parents work. Very rarely are they granted the opportunity to get involved in a recreational activity or learn a skill during the entire month of January. That´s why I was so excited about JumpStart, not because of the wonderful and rare opportunity to bring an English intensive to a neglected community, but to provide a healthy, dependable, interactive space for kids during their winter break.
Coming from an impoverished community, many kids might only eat one meal a day during the school year- the school lunch they receive from the Ministry of Public Education. That´s why I was so grateful that my community collaborated to provide a small meal for the kids everyday. I watched parents collaborate like never before to make empanadas, tortillas, picadillos, and other foods for the kids, sometimes sacrificing the food they had in their own kitchens in order to feed the students. My counterpart, a young student from a similar, even smaller community, was patient and loving with every learner, despite JumpStart being her first teaching experience. We also had the opportunity to involve another volunteer from an urban community and give students even more cultural exchange and different learning experiences. As the students are incredibly affectionate, it wasn´t long before they won the hearts of my counterpart and the visiting volunteer. They students sent them off with thank you letters adorned with hearts and invitations for their return. I watched students, too afraid to say their name in Spanish the first day of camp, bravely ask questions, make mistakes, and express themselves in English with the support of their peers.
It´s easy to get caught up in meeting objectives, vocabulary lists, homework, and exams. JumpStart is an intensive program, so I found myself often thinking about how I could ensure that every student is learning what they need to in the allotted time given. But a forgotten miracle of JumpStart is its ability to build community, help students build relationships and co-exist, and create a healthy, consistent space for learning not just English, but life skills. The last day of JumpStart was bittersweet, but I knew that the students would start the following school year with love, friendship, and learning as their foundation.