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Open Source Educator (Part Two: Academia) February 28, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 12:29 am
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<polyachka> what is difficult about open source culture?

<mchua> Things like “release early, release often” – in academia, you keep your paper private until it’s *completely* polished, you don’t want to show it to anyone before then.

<mchua> So it’s hard sometimes to break professors of that habit.

<polyachka> what else?

<mchua> Or the “ask forgiveness, not permission” mentality – people are so used to being assigned work, asking what to do, that it’s weird for them (professors and students both, sometimes) to realize that they’re supposed to come up with their own ideas and just start *doing* them.

<mchua> The radical transparency is a big shift. “Begin with the finishing touches,” as well. Oftentimes in academia you get credit for 100% original work – so you always, always start from scratch… instead of finding the existing code someone else has written that will do 90% of what you want, and then tweaking it until it does the rest.

<polyachka> don’t they want to get credit for their work, and in open source it is not that clear who created what?

<mchua> Oh, in open source it’s *extremely* clear who created what. Every single commit, every line I change in a wiki, every sentence I say in a meeting – all that is logged, and it’s clear *I* said it.

<mchua> Professors have reported that it’s actually easier to grade open source work. For instance… there was a group of co-op students at RIT making a math game Activity. And their professor asked me to grade their work, as an external evaluator.

<mchua> Now, I’ve done grading before… I was a TA throughout college, and it’s usually this horrible tedious messy thing. But these students had done their work right on, they’d kept their documentation on the Sugar Labs wiki. So all I did was pop into the git logs – – and poof, there was *every* line of code every student had written… I could go in and look at coding style, cleanness, difficulty of the modifications, etc.

<polyachka> so you do get to interact with students too, not just professors

<mchua> Yeah, sometimes I’ll go visit classrooms. One of the perks of the job. 🙂

<polyachka> tell me about that project with Remy

<mchua> That project wasn’t with Remy – I think he had just started at RIT back then.

<polyachka> is it a big open source community at RIT?

<mchua> It’s pretty big compared to most other schools. Seneca and OSU have larger open source groups (in terms of professors who specifically teach open source participation and students actively working on getting involved in projects – open source as an explicit aim there) but they’ve also been doing it for a bit longer.

<polyachka> how many students participate in open source projects there?

<mchua> I… don’t know how many students, you’d have to ask Remy or Steve Jacobs or Dave Shein (or one of the other professors) for that.

<mchua> The neat thing about the Teaching Open Source community, though, is that you find these professors all over the place. There are these little pockets of open source activity – oftentimes just one professor thinking it’s the right thing to do – and it’s amazing to introduce them to each other because all of a sudden, “aha! oh, I’ve handled that before in my class, let me tell you how…”

<polyachka> so what other open source projects do you get professors involved into, besides Sugar

<mchua> Other than Sugar, it’s largely Fedora – or the intersection between Sugar and Fedora.

<mchua> Those are the two I spend most of my time in, and therefore the ones I’m best at getting others into… but we stress that we’re teaching general skills and tools and cultural principles, that the aim is for them to be able to get students into *any* open source project.

<mchua> So they might leave the workshop and think “okay, I want to get involved in GNOME because they do some great accessibility work that’s an interest of mine.” Or “well, I’m more of a hardware person, maybe I’ll do some beagleboard stuff with my students.” And that’s great – we don’t want to limit people to just two projects!


Open Source Educator (Part One: Red Hat) February 26, 2011

I heard about Mel Chua in open source circles and asked if I could interview her on IRC. Here is part one of our interview:

<polyachka> Good morning! Where are you now?

<mchua> I’m sitting in Raleigh, NC at the moment. I tend to move around a lot, though. 🙂

<polyachka> and where is your home?

<mchua> The internet. :)I don’t really have a place I consider a (geographic) home base at the moment… been moving and traveling quite a bit. I’ll be settling a bit more in West Lafayette, Indiana this summer to start my engineering education PhD studies at Purdue University, though.

<polyachka> but where did you go to high school?

<mchua> Aurora, IL. I lived away from home for high school; it was a residential public magnet – my family didn’t live in Aurora.

<polyachka> by traveling you mean going from one project to another for Sugar?

<mchua> Oh, my travel isn’t for Sugar events these days. Mostly for work, and to see family and friends on occasion.

<polyachka> what do you do for work?

<mchua> My dayjob is working for Red Hat’s open source community team; I’m responsible for the company’s education strategy.

<polyachka> interesting

<mchua> So I work with professors who are getting the students in their classes involved in open source communities, and help them figure out how to do that. One of things I do is teach summer workshops for those professors – many of them have never been open source contributors themselves, so during the workshop we have them go into an open source project and make a contribution of their own.

<polyachka> how many people work for Red Hat?

<mchua> I think somewhere around 3,200 worldwide at the moment…

<mchua>Last summer, one of the workshops we ran (in Worcester State, Massachusetts) featured Sugar Labs as the community to get involved with. And Peter Robinson and Walter Bender were my co-instructors, with a lot of remote support from Sebastian Dziallas. Professors were patching Walter’s “Abacus” Activity, editing Sugar on a Stick documentation and using it for testing – good stuff.

<polyachka> so is it a big trend for professors- to learn about open source? Surprising, as all they publish is not open source…

<mchua>  I wouldn’t say it’s a “big trend” yet, but we’re hoping it will be. It’s certainly a growing movement. There are professors who contribute to open source as a hobby, and there are professors who research open source as a career.  So it’s not just CS professors – economics, sociology, etc. researchers look at our communities as well. Apparently we’re rather fascinating. 🙂

<mchua> And open source communities have characteristics of a lot of things they’d like their students to experience – real world projects, distributed collaboration, things for building their portfolio, etc.

<mchua> The Teaching Open Source (TOS) community,, is a gathering of these professors and open source community members working to support them – great group, the Worcester State crew from the Sugar workshop hangs out there as well. (It’s an open community that centers around academic rather than code projects, basically – everyone’s welcome to join.)

<polyachka> what was your favorite workshop?

<mchua> My favorite workshop would have to be POSSE – that stands for Professors’ Open Source Summer Experience.

<polyachka> where was it?

<mchua>It’s been taught a number of times. The first time was in Raleigh in July 2009. It’s been to Singapore, Cape Town… I taught the last one with Sebastian Dziallas in Doha, Qatar.

<mchua> Yeah, he and I have been revising the curriculum for the past year or so to make it more scalable and understandable (and teachable by people who aren’t us).

<polyachka> where is Sebastian from?

<mchua> He’s from Germany, but is currently studying in Boston. You should interview him, actually – he’s the guy behind Sugar on a Stick. (and started Sugar on a Stick while in high school.)

<polyachka> so any favorite topics for workshops or projects?

<mchua>In terms of workshop topics… the most difficult thing for professors is not learning the tools – they already know how to develop software and all that stuff, some people already know what bugtrackers are (some don’t) – the hard part is the culture.

<polyachka> how many people are in one workshop on average?

<mchua>On average I’d say we have between 8-15 professors in a workshop. Local open source community members swing by, though, so when we all go out to dinner we’ll have 15-20. I think of the workshops as cultural immersions – open source communities have weird quirks that sometimes we forget the rest of the world doesn’t know yet.

This work is licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY


Announcement of Weekly olpc/sugar MAP JAM February 22, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 1:34 pm
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From Adam Holt:

Every week you will learn completely new tricks about how to build local edutech community, during our global audio/chat calls, that you will be able to use the rest of your life. I want to give out a red XO every week to the local who most vividly/authentically communicates her/his on-the-ground accomplishment, experience, eye-opening trivia (or quite simply photography) onto , til they run out!  Or will they 😉

*VERY* preliminary schedule follows — dates and 4PM EST/EDT Sunday timing will both change if we can hopefully accommodate the “doer” country/group’s request:

    Feb 27 – Southern California Meets @ : How it All Comes Together
    Mch 6 – OLPC France: How to Build a Volunteer Network that LASTS
    Mch 13 – on Africa: Gabon, Cameroon, Mali, Senegal
    Mch 20 – eKindling / Philippines Island-Hopping Expansion?
    Mch 27 –  Kenya’s Extensive Community Deployment Fabric
    Apr 3 – OLPC Austria
    Apr 10 – Washington DC’s & Sugar Labs DC
    Apr 17 – OLPC Deutschland
    Apr 24 – Ghana: Princeton Engineers w/o Borders Build a Broad-based XO Library
    May 1 – Rural Uruguay: do the Rural Poor really want Internet?
    May 8 – Urban Montevideo: Are We There Yet?
    May 15 – Jamaica: Teacher Training Truisms (you think you know, but don’t)
    May 22 – Lifelong Learning in Haiti: How to Fight the Good Fight

Those who share the very most creative stories of grassroots/community accomplishment will receive a RED XO, as a month+ ago here, when so many similarly unknown talents were shared here:


Caryl Bigenho Presentation on Sunday, Feb 20 February 19, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 4:01 pm
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From Adam Holt:

In 2009 Caryl Bigenho took the pioneering initiative of building the 1st known /local/ (and lowercase ;)) olpcMAP, showcasing ~10 Sugar/XO projects — long before itself reached 500 volunteer/projects — crystallizing and catalyzing a community now made up of well over 100 Southern California volunteers:

*Thanks OLPC Southern California OSSIE (Open Source Software in Education!) *We’ve come a long way Babe!

Now, on Sunday 1PM PST (that’s 4PM EST) we’re coming together to reinforce Caryl’s extensive+amazing “glocal” mentoring of projects around her city, and around the globe.  Much of this work done silently around and not yet recognized by anyone at all!  And she’s not the only one.

So our “barn raising” will introducing new larger LA/Southern Calif edutech volunteers to the next level here — to each other — and to each others’ projects we’ll work together to showcase here:

In preparation for Feb 25-27’s quite huge SCALE / Southern CA Linux Expo:

     Sunday Feb 20, 1PM PST  (4PM EST) +1 866 213-2185    or    +1 609 454-9914
     Access Code: 1671650# Backchannel:

Sunday we’re all about to learn how far we’ve come, with OLPC/Sugar/edutech with along our favorite Hollwood iBoulevards &
iHighways — next week we’ll be hitting the longer road exploring a new city/region each week, so think hard about those Sugar/OLPC teachers/kids projects in your own town that have done phenomenal stuff, WHY YOUR CITY IS DIFFERENT, and most important the secret dad/sister/mentors behind the scenes who deserves their fair shake /quiet honor around our global community map at long last (lowercase+UPPERCASE ;))

Those who share the very most creative stories of grassroots/community accomplishment (whether told already in and or not, will receive a RED XO, as a month+
ago here, when so many similarly unknown talents were shared here:


Mai Am Ba Chieu

Exactly one year ago I was in Vietnam. About two weeks ago, I wrote an email to my students at Ba Chieu in Saigon and sent them a card to congratulate them with New Year of Rabbit! I received two emails back from Bi and Hanh. I was glad Hanh wrote in English or translated her letter into English with Google Translate, so I could understand the meaning very well.

Hello Marina!
I am happy to receive your mail you, thank you about the pictures, it was very beautiful. How is the knife? How are you? all is not favorable?
You know now there are more changes that, and Thao, Truc, Huong skin no longer with us anymore, and there is a lot of new kids on with us. I hope someday you can come visit us again as the days past are happy with us.
New Year, wishing the men that a lot of fun and always smiled. all good things will come to you most.
miss you very much.

I was really concerned about three girls who are no longer in the shelter, and I immediately wrote to Hanh asking where the other girls went, to Andy, who is  a VPV local volunteer organization coordinator, asking him to investigate what happened. I also wrote to Kris, who was a volunteer just like me, who lives in Spokane, WA, and who is going to Vietnam again  this year to teach children English in another shelter. I asked her to bring presents from me (which I mailed to her) to my students at Ba Chieu shelter and to find out about missing girls. She will be flying to Saigon next week on Thursday. I also did some research online to learn more about Mai Am Ba Chieu and that is what I found:

Bà Chiểu Home
Add: 149/1 Nguyen Van Dau, Ward 11, Binh Thanh Dist, HCMC
Tel: (+84). 85.150.556
The Ba Chieu Home for disadvantaged and homeless girls in Ho Chi Minh City was set up in May 1996 with initial funding from the New Zealand Embassy. It is administered by the Women’s Charity Association of Ho Chi Minh City, a voluntary, non-governmental organisation set up in 1989 under licence from the HCMC People’s Committee. After the first two years, the Embassy could no longer fund operating costs, so I have organised fundraising and private donations mainly from New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses with a Vietnamese connection ever since.

Mai Am Ba Chieu (MABC)  

Mai Am Ba Chieu is an open house for street children and little girls without parents’ care. It was established in 1998 and twenty children, at the age from seven to sixteen are living in it. Before NVC‘s gathering money through PR at TV and constructing the current house, there was just one room. It should be mentioned that WOCA offers land and Ambassador of New Zealand sponsors for Mai Am Ba Chieu. It is a model open house in Ho Chi Minh City and many volunteers from overseas and the members of Embassies visit there. This is one of the successful projects which NVC sponsored as the facility constructions. Twenty girls live in MABC in 2001, seven high school students, five junior high school students and four trainee of national factory.  They used to be street children, who had lived on collecting garbage, begging and selling them. They have to leave MABC to society at the age of seventeen or eighteen, so they are job-trained in MABC. Some of them will be able to go to college by the scholarship of NVC.

 Please, also see Video 1 and Video 2, and one more Article about a New Zealander Celia Caughey, who helps Ba Chieu Shelter.


Invite to E-Toys Training and Teacher Volunteer Project Boston/Haiti February 14, 2011

Dear Boston OLPC Community,

What: Class to train adults to train teachers/create content with E-Toys

E-Toys is a childrens’ programming environment used extensively around the world including Haiti with

Who:  Techies interested in education, Educators interested in technology.

We are working on a project at the Haitian Coalitian and the Clarendon Hill Apartments housing project in Somerville, and we need your help! Read on if you’re a techie, teacher, Haitian translator, or anyone else who’s interested in educational software.

The focus of this class is an educational program called eToys – I’m sure many of you have heard of it. For those of you who haven’t: eToys is a multifaceted program that is currently being used in courses in Haiti on XO laptops. With it, kids can learn basics of programming, animation, and logic, but it’s so much more than that. Waveplace has created an innovative curriculum that extends eToys to virtually every subject…math, science, social studies, even language arts.

Teach Kids in Somerville: Our goal is to run our own eToys classes for children here in Somerville. For the kids of all ethnicities at the Clarendon Hill Apartments, we want to run an eToys course on storytelling that will use a similar curriculum to that being taught in Haiti.  We have donated computers for the students to use.

Teach volunteers who will be going to Haiti this Summer: We would also like to run a series of classes for those interested in traveling to Haiti to do their own training – namely adults at CHA and possibly local high school students. That’s where Sprout comes in – we need your help to run these “train the trainer” sessions! These trainers would then bring their knowledge to Haiti to enrich childrens’ education.

Create Curriculum for Haiti: There are a good number of curriculum units available and being used in Haiti with E-Toys, but the need is extensive!  Curriculum needs to be written, turned into interactive E-Toys projects, and translated into Haitian Creole.  Somerville has a wealth of people with each of these skills. We would like your help bringing them together to provide free educational materials for children in Haiti.  All content will be under open licence and will also be available to be translated for use in other countries, and of course here in Somerville!

Learn More about E-Toys and the Existing Curriculum:  You can find examples of existing curriculum and students’ projects at an Illinois school here: or some tutorials from Waveplace here:

We will be running an eToys training class soon for anyone interested in learning more about eToys or working with us and the Haitian Coalitian. You’ll get to learn how to use basic eToys functions, from creating sketches to animating them by using scripts. You can even create your own games – eToys is LOTS of fun! You will also learn more about education work in Haiti through organizations like Waveplace and locally with the Haitian Coalition.

When and Where? Soon and in Somerville! We will be working with interested people to figure that out.  Please contact me at or Caroline at if you’re interested.

Thanks for your help!

Derek Redfern/Caroline Meeks

Caroline Meeks
Solution Grove


How can you start a project with OLPC? February 12, 2011

Filed under: Volunteering — polyachka @ 2:10 pm
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We received a letter from Lindy in Australia, she wants to start a project with OLPC computers in Cambodia. There are a lot of people who want to do the same thing, just countries differ. How can OLPC help these people? The answer is either to guide them through the process or direct them to existing deployments. Please, see correspondence below and submit your comments.


 I recently spent 3 months volunteering in a small school in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The school is a Not For Profit run by an NGO.
The school is about to celebrate it’s first birthday and has already  made a huge difference to the lives of the wonderful children who go there. I would love to see the children with your computers, while they are learning so much now there is a desperate need for books and educational materials. I am concerned that the children only get to  look at books while at school and have often thought how much more quickly they would develop if they could work at home as well.
There are currently 140 children at the school and most of them are under 12. I know that they would be extremely grateful for the computers and make very good use of them. Is it possible to apply for a donation of the computers to the school and if so how do I go about it?

Kind regards, Lindy


Dear Lindy,

How wonderful of you to think of a present for the school in Cambodia. Please, remember that everything in life is visualized first and then becomes real. If you really want to make it happen and you work on it, it will come true but you need to know what the steps are.

While OLPC doesn’t offer donations, it mentors along the process. The main steps in the process are:

  1. Make sure the school is ready to handle the project  
  2. Raise money to buy computers
  3. Find volunteers to provide training to teachers
  4. Enable on-going support
  5. Develop curriculum to teach

More detailed:

  1. The school has to  have electricity and teachers willing to commit to learning computers and teaching them (extra load for teachers) plus other resources, including on-going financial (teachers salary).
  2. You can always create a project plan and post it on to raise money to buy computers (maybe not all 140 at first, you can always start with lower number to test it out). Several on-line fundraising sites are good for that.
  3. When you have the computers you will need to find volunteers, who will teach the teachers at Cambodian school how to use computers, so that teachers can teach children year-round.
  4. You will also need to have someone on your team of volunteers who knows how to fix computer when kids break them and have spare parts ready, also provide support (repair, technical support, teacher support, maybe long-distance).
  5. The last thing will be to develop curriculum and be able to revise it as software changes rapidly.

See more deployment guides on

You can’t just give XOs (OLPC computers) to kids without giving thorough instructions, as XOs have their own unique software. Also unsupervised, children lose interest in developing their skills, so teacher guidance is needed…

We will post similar instructions and sample project plans on that we created especially for people like you. The map also serves as a tool for communication with other volunteers and current deployments, so that you can contact them and learn from their experience. Feel free to look up schools and volunteers in Cambodia. If you collaborate with them, maybe you can combine or share resources.

Last year I volunteered in Saigon, Vietnam for three months teaching children in a shelter how to use XO computers, they have only 5 XOs and it was still a lot of work. I had to have a translator, set up Internet connections, educate teachers who were not interested in teaching, and deal with children’s resistance to be motivated to have after school classes, not integrated into their school curriculum.

I also went to Seam Reap and helped an NGO to demonstrate three XOs they have. Unfortunately, those XOs are unused, because teachers didn’t receive training  plus the school doesn’t have electricity to run computers, never mind money to pay teachers to give computer classes.

If after reading all above mentioned you are determined that you can make it happen and run the project well, you should pursue it.

Also, if you first want to try yourself as a volunteer, you can help an existing deployment, acquire skills needed and then implement OLPC computers in your school in Cambodia.

Let me know if I can help you with anything else.

Sincerely, Marina.


Dear Marina,

Thanks so much for your reply. I was actually going to send an email back with the question – how do I make it happen? – you have answered before I had a chance to!

As you say, visualizing it is the first step. I would love to make it happen so I’ll have a really good think about it and see if it can be done.

While I’m really keen to go back and volunteer again I’m not good with computers myself but I’ll do my best to search out for some people who are.

Thanks for your encouragement.

Kind regards, Lindy


Blue Ocean Strategy for olpcMAP (Part Four) February 6, 2011

Reach beyond existing demand. Do not just focus on existing customers and drive for finer segmentation. Instead of focusing on customer differences, we need to build on powerful commonalities of what users value.  This allows to unlock a new mass of customers that didn’t exist before.  Think non-customers before customers, commonalities before differences, and desegmentation before pursuing finer segmentation. Three groups of non-customers: those who don’t like us, those who don’t know of us and those who are about to leave. Find what they all don’t like and fix it!

So what we did: we gathered feedback from customers and non-customers (i.e. volunteers and non-volunteers) to learn what we can help them with.  Their answers were:

– easily find volunteer opportunities on the website,

– if they inquire – to hear back quickly and

– be helped with finding flexible opportunities that match their availability plus

– get trained;

– then people want to meet in person, share ideas and each other’s stories to get inspired;

– they want to be treated as valued individuals 

– and have purpose to feel useful and appreciated.

Get the strategic sequence right.  So after we looked across paths to discover possible blue oceans, constructed a strategy canvas that clearly articulates our future strategy, and via survey learned how to aggregate the largest possible mass of buyers for our idea, the next step is to build a robust  model to create value for the users.

Sequence of buyer utility, price, cost and adoption. What is the value or compelling reason for users to use it? In short: what needs of customers do you satisfy compared to others or before?

The buyer utility map (customer productivity,  simplicity, convenience, risk, fun and image, environmental friendliness) vs. buyer experience cycle (purchase, delivery, use, supplements, maintenance, disposal)  – all 36 possible combinations to think through… From utility to pricing… Competition is almost eliminated when exceptional utility is introduced together  with great price…

Here we learned that we can offer convenience, simplicity and fun by helping our users to find each other easier and share their thoughts via olpcMAP, also resolve issues and questions.. by making help transparent and hence easy to answer as according to “six degrees of separation”, when you connect to bigger number of people, you have access to more problem-solvers … Also the importance of being part of the group of people who share your views and passion supersedes many other worries people have.

Now it is scary, it is disruptive as no one knows if it is successful or not… Here comes Adoption matter and the need of educating all: employees, business partners and general public that this new strategy will work…


Volunteering puts crisis in perspective (Ireland vs. Nicaragua) February 5, 2011

Read full article at

The organisation sponsors 90 children through secondary school and a further 11 ‘ayudantes’ (or helpers), who work full-time for La Esperanza for US$80 (about €60) per month in return for being sponsored through University at weekends.
My job involved making videos of the volunteers at work, organising the weekly volunteer meetings, and bringing computers out to the schools where the joy of the youngsters was overwhelming.
Early on, I learned the value of acceptance and patience when an attempted Skype link-up with an American school failed. The children, so full of expectation earlier, just shrugged their shoulders and got on with things. In the Third World, things we take for granted here in Ireland don’t always work out.
For six weeks, at the same time every week, we tried to get the connection going until, almost magically, it all worked out and, finally, the little seven and eight year olds got a chance to share their experiences and life stories with youngsters in St. Louis. They took such joy out of sharing their names, favourite colours, food, or animals with the children in America.
I would have given up, but one of the more experienced volunteers taught me the importance of quiet determination. Week after week, she tried to get the connection up and running. The joy on the faces of the children was infectious when we finally got it going. It made the long wait worthwhile.
Some of the classes contained up to 60 children and most of our volunteers were assigned to work with four or five children who were identified as needing a little extra help each day. It was remarkable to watch how the bonds grew between the youngsters and the volunteers, who were mainly from Europe and North America.
In Nicaraguan schools, there is very little competition between the students. The brightest two or three answer for everyone and it does not take long for the weaker pupils to be left behind. Volunteers are required to have intermediate Spanish and to give a two month commitment to working with La Esperanza.
The volunteers gave the children, many from large or single parent families, the personal attention they craved and the parents provided unbelievable welcome when we visited their houses for afternoon homework clubs. They might have had very little, but they were generous to a fault at times.
For the children, the ‘ayudantes’ were wonderful role models. They work in their local primary schools every day, liaising with the teachers, assisting the foreign volunteers and, most importantly of all, showing the children that there is no limit to what they may achieve.
They brought home the true value of education, something I had always taken for granted, to me. To see how these 20-year olds only wanted to become teachers, to help the children in their own deprived neighbourhoods, and also to see the light of recognition in the children’s eyes when they learned something new.
I could not get over how much fun there was in the La Esperanza office and how much hope these impoverished youngsters had for the future. Hardly any children from their communities had ever attended University before. Their optimism seemed to be in marked contrast to the despair back in Ireland whenever I checked the news from home during the IMF ‘bailout’ in November. That even made headlines in Central America!
It was humbling to note how much pleasure the staff took from a simple meal out in Tip-Top, the Nicaraguan equivalent of Supermac’s, in my last week. For these young people, eating out is a rare luxury they might get to enjoy just once a year.
Living in the city for three months was a great way of improving my Spanish, as I was even able to take private lessons for US $3 per hour.
It was also a great way of making friends with people from all over the world, including Germany, Spain, France, the USA, and the UK. There always seemed to be a party on in one of the four volunteer houses and there was an incredible range of ages among my colleagues, from fresh-faced 18-year olds starting out in life to retired teachers in their 60s who brought huge expertise to the schools.
We socialised together on La Calzada, the city’s beautiful pedestrianised street, and organised trips away at weekends. In late November, there were a lot of emotional farewells at the end of the Nicaraguan school year.
Living in Nicaragua taught me that there is great joy in helping others and that the poorest people on the planet deserve to have some hope. The locals reminded me of the importance of community and friendship, the extended family, taking my time, and how to have fun with very little. Lessons to be treasured in these troubled times.


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