Long-term volunteer in Guatemala grateful for learning experience
By Kelsey Buckner
GUATEMALA CITY – In a foreign country, teaching English to children who are uncomfortable with discipline made long-term volunteer Daniela Robles’ trip a “learning experience.”
Teaching English for 10 months in Guatemala through Buckner Family Hope Centers was no vacation for Robles, who lives in Everman, Texas. Robles said she wanted to go to another country to volunteer long-term because she had a heart for missions and knew at the time that was what God called her to do. When she found out she would be working with kids, she said she could not wait.
The vision for Robles and Buckner was to certify an English course. She was asked to write a lesson plan for level-one English students that would teach them for free. After achievement, each child would receive a certificate of completion. Taking a class to learn another language is expensive in Guatemala, but by taking Robles’ class, the parents of the students saved money and their child would be ahead in school.
“The parents saved a lot of money and the kids would be ahead of the other students,” Robles said. “When they get older, they actually will have better opportunities for a job if they continue with the English courses.”
Working with the children was not always a simple task, she said, and discipline was an issue.
“At the beginning, it was a little hard for them to adjust to my teaching style,” she said. “I was more serious and I wanted to give them more discipline – have a routine established for them.”
Teaching her students a second language was not the only thing that mattered to Robles. She said she cared for her students because not all of them have happy home lives. She noted one boy in particular, who was mistreated at home: One day she saw him limping – and she realized she needed to take action by alerting social workers.
She may have been there to teach, but she said every day she learned something about life in Guatemala.
“Once you’re there for almost a year, everything is so different,” Robles said. “I was learning every day how the kids lived over there, what they thought, the education system and the dynamics of the family.”
One of the biggest things she said she observed in Guatemala was their lack of resources. She said the Buckner Family Hope Center provided her class with materials, but many teachers go without adequate supplies.
Robles is back in Texas and will teach third grade dual language this fall. She said because she experienced what it is like to have and to not have resources, she plans to visit Guatemala again to help in a new way.
“I eventually plan to go back on my own to give school supplies to the little bitty schools that don’t have anything,” she said. “Because I appreciate everything I have and I am grateful, I want to give more because I know there’s so much need out there.”
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