News

SUMMER 2017: Affordable Summer Camp (a Possible Event)

posted Jun 4, 2017, 9:29 PM by Admin Activiteca   [ updated Jun 4, 2017, 9:35 PM ]

You can make it happen!

Many parents would like to enroll their children in some summer activity that would make a significant difference in the youngsters' growth, but especially with camps there are sometimes obstacles: the desired camps are too expensive, or too far away, or scheduled in ways that conflict with the family's own schedule, or are already full because the family didn't know about them in time.

The Affordable Camp is a pilot program to set up a camp that not only is low-cost, but is designed to meet the needs of busy families. This camp would be not only different from school (as every camp should be), but different from most other camps.

DIFFERENT PLANNING PROCESS

The location, the schedule, the staff, and the rules would be worked out by a group of interested members of the community or neighborhood where the camp is desired; this “core committee” would represent the interests of the people in that area, and help find the best venue, decide if the camp would be half or full days (or both), and agree on the best ways to manage the campers' behavior, relations with parents, issues of health and safety, and other concerns.

DIFFERENT WAY OF PAYING

The cost for the parents will be significantly under $100 per week. This is far less than paying baby sitters, who now are typically charging $10 per hour. The final fee will depend on other sources of funding, the costs of the venue, if any, and other ways to reduce expenses. For example, the campers' parents will pay only for the amount of time the student is attending (in units of half-day); thus new campers can enroll at any point, and others can be absent when needed. A child may want to attend for only one day, and that's okay.

DIFFERENT STRUCTURE OF THE LEARNING PROCESS

This camp will not consist of a curriculum that spreads out over a week or two weeks to complete a project or develop a complex skill. The learning sessions are made up of experiences that fit together in a “package” to help learners discover some major scientific or mathematics concept through manipulation and discussion. Some sessions are simply to challenge the campers to observe, analyze, compare, etc. to strengthen their thinking skills. If missed, or requested again, any of these lessons can be repeated for those who want them.

DIFFERENT TYPE OF “COUNSELORS”

The guides for the camp will be volunteers from the community where the campers live, not from somewhere else. This makes it possible for the volunteers to be recruited and screened by the Core Committee so that the campers have instructors who are familiar and trustworthy. These guides must be 16 or over, above average in intelligence, quick to learn new material, and comfortable when working with people. They will be trained in Activiteca materials and methods, so that the campers get maximum chances to be actively learning, instead of passively listening or watching. Other volunteers will be recruited to help with camp security, communications, and other services. Again, they must be 16 or older, and approved by the Core Committee.

DIFFERENT WAY OF LEARNING

The contents of the camp program will be science, math, and thinking skills. Some of the science and math will seem very basic, things that are taught in early years in school. However, sometimes these things are “taught” without the student really remembering or understanding them. Even adults may “know” these things but not see their significance. The experiments and games make the learners grasp what is going on, at the level they are ready for. For example, in doing a set of experiments with magnets, young children will focus on the “tricks” they can do, and not understand explanations well. But they will remember those amusing experiences later when they encounter the subject in their schoolbooks, and will more easily understand the text. Meanwhile, doing the same experiments, older children and adults will be able to ask questions about magnetism's “how” and “why” and become more proficient in the theory as well as the real-life applications of magnetism.

Other scientific concepts are rather sophisticated, but in the camp they will be introduced in a way that the students can deal with them and see their connections to other areas. For example, inertia is rather abstract to read about, but with ridiculously simple objects, learners can see clearly what it does, and at a higher level, proceed to quantify it.

Besides these sessions guided by the trained volunteers, there will be some periods when individuals or groups can use the special room with mind-stimulating games and puzzles, plus books and magazines, for their self-chosen enjoyment. Also, the camp will invite guest presenters, who will explain their profession to campers—not just with talk, but with an activity and a question-and answer session. The career options introduced would be in STEM, investigation, or service.

DEADLINE

This summer camp will happen only if a group of people from the same area, willing to serve as a planning committee for the camp, will contact us by June 8. If there are more than one group applying, the first group that made contact, or the one that can hold the initial meeting with Activiteca International first, will get to have the camp. (This initial meeting of the Core Committee and Activiteca International would come after June 8, hopefully within a week.) At the initial meeting, all 8 members should attend, as well as any additional interested persons, and they should be able to present several viable locations they have investigated for the venue of the camp. They would address the most important aspects of the camp, including the target dates for the camp's beginning and ending, and schedule any other meetings.

If there is no response to Activiteca International by June 8, this offer will not be repeated.

Contact us!

Indiegogo campaign falls on its face, the struggle goes on

posted Oct 10, 2015, 11:41 AM by Director Activiteca

When it ended on Aug. 18, the online campaign yielded only donors who were people we knew, most of whom had already donated to us in the past.  There were no new ones, which is the point of going online.  However, luckily Soluz president Richard Hansen had meanwhile rounded up other support for the solar project, including donations of an inverter and enough solar panels for the first phase, and some volunteer engineering graduate students from Massachusets who will help with the installation and provide educational experiences for the students. 

The installations are supposed to begin in October or November, as soon as the panels arrive in Honduras from the U.S.  The Loyola students in all classes are being given activities related to photovoltaic power, so that they grasp this phenomenon that now makes their school lead all the others in the area.  So the project will not just save on the electric bill, but may attract more students to enroll.

The online campaign was also supposed to provide us with salary money for our Activiteca coordinators.  We are still trying to raise money to pay those salaries.   Each coordinator earns $400 a month, the standard Honduran teacher salary.  (Some health and retirement benefits are included.  Also, due to past teacher strikes, the government has added 2 more monthly salaries, tacked on at mid-year and year's end.)  We will eternally grateful to any donors who will send us a check, made out to Activiteca International, to our headquarters at 2610 Sherwood Lane, Austin, TX 78704.  Tax deductible.  

Loyola Institute goes solar, moves out of debt shadow

posted Oct 10, 2015, 11:30 AM by Director Activiteca   [ updated Oct 10, 2015, 11:32 AM ]

Loyola Institute is getting the supplies for a solar power installation on its roofs, which will cut down the high electric bills they've been getting from the Honduran National energy company, ENEE.  The bills are big because Loyola has several high electricity users in its workshops of welding, carpentry, electricity, and "Gastronomia" (cooking-- which doesn't use electric stoves, but does have freezers and refrigerators.)

A shipment of donated solar panels is going to Puerto Cortes, a short distance from El Progreso, where the school is located.  There's also a donated inverter, which is normally pretty expensive.  And three engineering graduate students from University of Massachusetts will come to assist with the installations and educate the students in the whole process and the science behind it.

The installation is a complete unit in itself and can go into operation as soon as set up, but one or two other units would need to be added to generate so much power that it would feed enough electricity back into the grid for Loyola to owe nothing.  

Activitieca is participating as much as possible in this significant event, not simply because it is a "hands-on" lesson in science that the whole student body shouldn't miss, but because it is a landmark in bringing energy alternatives to the front in Honduras and will help raise awareness in the surrounding community, plus the rest of Honduras viewing the information on various media.

Another way that Activiteca is involved with the solar energy project is that Joan initiated the whole thing in June by contacting Soluz after she realized that Loyola and Nazaret both needed to get away from the black hole of electric bills, which were both current and for past usage, or else the schools would never have any solid ground to keep going.  If these schools were to close, more than a thousand adolescents would be on the streets with nowhere else to go, and Activiteca, of course, would also close at those sites.  Yes, Activiteca International could look for other sites in Honduras to set up operations, but there could hardly be any other institutions or organizations with such dedicated personnel, such clear needs, and such desirable locations. Not to mention the strong relationships that have been created with them in just two years, the kind you don't just walk away from.   

Indiegogo Campaign Launched!

posted Jul 24, 2015, 7:25 PM by Director Activiteca   [ updated Jul 31, 2015, 5:17 PM ]

We have just launched an Indiegogo fundraiser to help the two schools in Honduras.  We're trying to raise $20,000 by late August. If we meet the goal before Aug.18, we get to contiue fundraising after the deadline.

The pressure is on to save the two vocational institutes from crashing under the load of electric bills.  Both Centro Tecnico Loyola, in El Progreso, and Centro Tecnico Nazaret, in Urraco, have to support themselves not only by charging tuition (which is minimal because the students are low-income), but also by selling products from their workshops.  The biggest users of electricity are the carpentry and welding shops, which both bring in income and use much of the power.  The government-run electric company and the Honduran legislature refuse to offer reduced rates to the schools that serve the poor, so both schools have to cover not only current electric bills but also installment payments on accumulated back bills.  If the schools can't pay, their power is cut off; if they don't want their power cut off, they can delay paying their teachers. Great choices.  

We already knew that the schools couldn't afford to pay the Activiteca coordinators, one at each school, the $400 a month which is standard teacher salary, so we raised funds for that from relatives and friends.  But when we found out that there was a bigger problem, where the school staff was stressed and the principals couldn't sleep at night because of their constant battle to keep up with the electric bills, we saw that the schools themselves were in danger of failing.  

We thought of trying solar as an electricity source, checked out what kind of companies were already in Honduras, and contacted the president of the company with the demonstrated experience and a base in the U.S.  By a lucky coincidence, the U.S. president of Soluz.inc,  Richard Hanson, was coming down to Honduras in a few days, and became interested in visiting the schools.  He did so, gave us some ball-park figures for installation construction and savings, and authorized audits of the current system of use.  

So, seeing that technology could help reduce the electric bill dramatically, we have decided to join together our two searches for funds: the one for salaries, and the one for solar installations.  Indiegogo is the place where we're fundraising for both, and we are telling everyone to go there and visit our page, "Activiteca helps Honduras" to donate.

We hope you will go to indiegogo, too, right now!  indiegogo.com    "Activiteca helps Honduras"

Why?  Because the hundreds of students in those two schools now, plus thousands of other students coming up in age, will lose one of the few opportunities they have of getting out of poverty without sacrificing their dignity, their health, or their lives.  You can help rescue hundreds of kids with a few dollars!  What a bargain!


 

Strong Volunteer needed in a Safe Pocket of Honduras

posted Jun 14, 2015, 11:47 AM by Director Activiteca   [ updated Jun 14, 2015, 12:34 PM ]

The Need

Instituto Técnico Loyola is a trade school for at-risk boys, grades 7 – 12, located in a low-violence city, El Progreso.  The students take both vocational and academic courses.  Some of their teachers in the academic classes have trouble managing them, even though the school is trying to introduce more interactive methods in those subject areas.  We're looking for someone with experience working with troubled adolescents, as well as teaching academic subjects, who can do consulting and team-teaching with the weaker instructors, coaching them to develop the needed skills to manage their classes by themselves.  Besides being a “reinforcer,” it would be especially valuable if this coach could also offer some counseling for the teens, either group or individual.  The school has no funds for a counselor.  Having this sort of help in improving the learning atmosphere at the school would be greatly welcomed by the faculty and exciting for the students, who will get more interesting educational experiences as a result.

Boys of the Instituto building molecular models
The boys are not all hard-core; some are just poor.  Others have been referred by a court; some are involved with drugs.  If a class is in chaos because a few are acting up, all the students suffer the results: they get even more behind in their education. The volunteer teacher coach would be linked up with a recently launched Activiteca program and help the teachers to implement it in their classes, using the learning resources from the large collection of equipment, models, experiments, and games.  When the teachers use these materials in hands-on activities, it's very motivating for students.  The volunteer coach would cooperate with the Activiteca coordinator to get more of such activities into the classes, especially those where the students are most in need of such experiences but are not getting them because of their behavior problems.

Time Frame of the Position

The job is open now, even though the school is nearing the middle of the Honduran school year.  During the winter school vacation, beginning in late November, the Executive Director of Activiteca International will be in El Progreso to conduct training.  If the volunteer starts working in this position before that time, he or she will be able to get involved with classes right away to gain some familiarity with the students, teachers, and their needs, and then in vacation time will take part in that winter training group.  Then the volunteer would work for the entire 2016 school year.  And if things go well and the volunteer is available, it would be great to have him or her stay on for another year.

Qualifications/Skills

Adult of either sex, age 23 or over.  High level of Spanish fluency, successful experience with at-risk youth, teaching experience in various subject areas, openness to new ideas and methods, ability to deal with challenges.  Qualifications in counseling are especially valuable.  

Benefits

The volunteer will have free lodging in the neighborhood of the school, but will be responsible for other living expenses, which are lower than in developed countries.  Other benefits: an in-depth experience with a culture and people well worth knowing; the chance to help some young people avoid having to join gangs or flee their country in order to survive.  The opportunity to demonstrate and disseminate alternative learning methods as a way out of a moribund educational system. 

To Apply

The interested person should examine the rest of this website, and make contact as indicated below.  A resume and contact information for references will be required.  As part of the “interview” process, the candidate will need to supply a video of a demonstration science lesson that he or she conducts in Spanish with a small group of low-income students. (Guidelines for the demo are available on request.) The purpose of the demo is to be sure that the teachers and kids at Loyola will get someone who can truly perform. If the volunteer travels to Honduras from the U.S., or through the U.S., and does so any time before November, she or he can get a more focused introduction to the job by first going to Austin, Texas, and spending a week or more with the executive director there. This advance training session, and room and board during that period, would be free.
 

Contact Us


Update on Honduran Program

posted Jan 27, 2015, 7:52 PM by Admin Activiteca

We are now training teachers and a future coordinator at a new location, Instituto Nazaret, in Urraco, about 30 miles north of the other Jesuit-established school we are supporting, Instituto Loyola in El Progreso.

Regarding Urraco. our Director writes:
“This place is like a tropical paradise because all you see are trees, both the diverse native plants and the massive palm oil plantations.  In Urraco people walk the sandy streets freely until bedtime, leave their bicycles and motorcycles unattended, and don't worry because the only large-scale vehicles are buses and palm trucks, and the thieves do better in other cities. The staff at Nazaret are mostly women, working long hours at jobs they get very scant salaries for, but they're attentive to everybody and manage things in an admirably cooperative style. 
Everywhere in the city, the water comes only for an hour once or twice a day, so you always have a cement storage tank or a plastic barrel, and flush the toilet with a pail of water. Despite the omnipresent mosquitoes, nobody has screens.  The school has the bare bones of furniture, the computer lab equipment is in bad shape because there's no money for a trained lab teacher, and the electric bill for the machines in the wood and welding shops is killing the budget.
Fe y Alegria helps with the salaries of all its institutions, but is now telling them they need to be “self-supporting.” Here you can't raise tuition, because the students are poor, so some shop teachers do projects for customers to bring in revenue. Yesterday we drove around the country for 8 hours visiting the offices of palm plantation cooperatives to ask the landowners—about the only people here with money—for pledges. 
Last year Nazaret got donations from some cooperatives, a total of $1,200—enough to pay 3 teachers for one month.”

NO LONGER Seeking Volunteer Facilitator for Honduran Program

posted May 11, 2014, 3:17 PM by Frida Gess   [ updated Nov 1, 2014, 4:09 PM by Director Activiteca ]

THIS HAS EXPIRED

Do you have the urge to do good abroad?
Do you have time, a sharp mind, and a soft heart
Help young Hondurans get a superior education by multiplying your effectiveness!

Volunteer to be an Educational Innovation Facilitator 

You'll never get another chance like this, to turn two schools into centers of interactive learning for both their own students and their community!

In this job, you'd work directly with Honduran teachers to implement engaging hands-on activities, drawing from an impressive supply of learning materials

The Project

This project is located in the small city of El Progreso, Honduras. The schools where the Activiteca programs take place are a public elementary school (Primaria San Jose) and a private secondary school (Instituto Tecnico Loyola), both serving lower-income populations. They have received a large donation of learning resources (kits, models, equipment, manipulatives, games, etc.) – the type of things you see in most American schools, but which are absent in most Honduran education.

The schools receiving the materials cannot keep these items solely for their own use; they are required by the conditions of the agreement to offer out-of-school programs for the public, using the materials and methods to expand opportunities for learning to other citizens. And they are being trained carefully to do so, so that the work can be replicated by training other teachers in other schools. 

Joan, our Executive Director, will fly to Honduras in late July or early August, 2014, to spend a month training the teachers, but we need a facilitator, a qualified person to assist in the training and stay on afterwards. The facilitator is to help the teachers implement the changes in their own classes and launch the programs for the public, staying at least for the rest of the Honduran school year, which ends by December, 2014. If all parties agree, the position can be extended longer.

Students build molecular models
In an Activiteca session at Instituto Tecnico Loyola where four tables of different activities were provided, students complete an assembly of chlorine and sodium atoms to form models of salt crystals.

Would you like to be our Facilitator in Honduras?

Qualifications

The facilitator needs to be: over 24, fluent in Spanish, experienced in teaching at more than one grade level, experienced in teaching using small groups and interactive methods, possessing a solid background in science and math, and able to engage people in new and unfamiliar efforts. To qualify for the position, we will ask you to do a demonstration of a science lesson, conducted in Spanish, with a group of about six low-income students, to be videotaped and/or observed. To make the teachers training move faster, we would try to have you spend a week or two in Austin before the trip to Honduras, getting some focused training with us, so that you can take a more active role in the workshops for the teachers.

Benefits

You'll be able to make a difference in many lives because you'll help launch changes that stand a good chance of continuing into future years. You'll be working with kids who will love doing the activities, and teachers who will be wanting to learn the ropes, not to mention the people from the neighborhood and nearby villages who will get fascinating encounters with science, math, and thinking skills. You'll have to pay somewhat over half of your own way, to cover the flight and the cost of living in the neighborhood of the schools. Room and board with a local family would be about $350 a month. (This could be cheaper than living in the States.) We can offer a $1500 stipend, half of it paid about halfway through the term, and the rest when you complete the school year. You will have opportunities to travel around Honduras to visit some fascinating natural areas and archeological sites. Working closely with the teachers, volunteers, and other people you meet, you can make some lifelong friends, as we did. And of course this experience should look good on your resume. 

To apply:

First read the information on the rest of this web site, and view photos on the Activiteca Facebook page, which show scenes from fairs and other events at Activiteca's former location in San Pedro Sula. You would need to be available to go to Honduras in late July or early August of this year. (Some vaccinations and a passport will be needed.) If interested, promptly send your resume and any other pertinent documents to: info@activiteca.org or phone: (512) 350-4864.

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