Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Book Bus Ecuador

Launched in March 2010, the BISEE Book Bus Ecuador has already worked with over 1800 children in 4 provinces: Manab’, Chimborazo, Napo and Pichincha.

During its first year, the bus has proved extremely popular with pupils and is always greeted with lots of smiles, waving and shouting! We have been working with primary school children (5-12 years) in small groups, reading stories together, letting children choose their own story to read alone and doing activities to improve children’s imagination. Imagination, creativity and curiosity are essential for children to get the most out of the stories, and are sadly lacking in rural parts of Ecuador visited by the bus. Although the literacy rate is quite high, children have no access to story books; their teachers don’t like reading and see no benefit in reading to the children. Next year we hope to work more closely with the teachers so that the children continue to benefit when the bus has moved on.

As well as working with the schools in the mornings, in the afternoons the bus is parked in the street and opens its doors to any child who wants to come onboard and read with us. We often get the same children come every day; these children have chosen to give up their free time to come and read stories, rather than having to as part of their school day.

In Chimborazo, when we found some children weren’t able to come some afternoons because they had homework to do, we decided to help them in the bus after reading. A lot of children in this area live with grandparents (who are often illiterate), as their parents have moved to the cities to find work. These children have no help with their homework, and one boy we worked with had failed many school years because he had no extra support. He was 11 and could barely read and write. it took a while for him to trust us enough to feel able to bring his homework as he was used to being laughed at for being so behind. In the month he worked with us his confidence soared and he started playing with the other children who came on the bus, who stopped making fun of him when they realised he was trying to learn.

Another girl we worked with also lived with her grandparents. She needed 8 sheets of plain A4 paper to do her homework, it only cost about 20 cents but her grandparents didn’t have the money; they were hoping to get it the day before the work was due in leaving her one evening to do all 8 pages of work. When we offered to give her the 8 sheets she needed the look of joy and relief on her face was amazing.

These are just two stories from two of the children we worked with this year. Every child has their own story to tell; when you walk around the market and see hundreds of children working to sell food or clothes you realise that every one of those has a different story. The only way out of poverty for these children is education, and if the Book Bus can inspire some of them through reading, we can really make a difference to their futures.

Annelisa Sadler
BISEE Book Bus volunteer 2010

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Helen's Book Bus experience in Zambia

My name is Helen, I am 29-years-old. I volunteered with the Book Bus in May and June of 2009. The Book Bus is a wonderful project based in Livingstone, Zambia. We visited five different schools in the Livingstone area, one for each day of the school week. The Book Bus is a Livingstone icon - everybody knows the Book Bus!     

Volunteering with the Book Bus is such a rewarding experience. I remember one of my fellow volunteers commenting after my first day that she had never seen anyone smile so much! The children are amazing, so keen to learn and so happy that you have taken the time to help them. They are often packed sixty to a class so any individual attention you can give them is really appreciated. 
In a typical day I would take four small groups for an hour each, grades four to seven. The work was also challenging at times as we would work with 8-year-olds who had excellent reading skills as well as 16-year-olds who could hardly read at all. Creativity, flexibility and patience are great skills to have as every group is different. In the lessons we would usually read together, talk about what they had read and do an activity based around the story and themes of the book, usually arts and crafts (drawing, making masks etc) or play games to further their understanding (football, netball, word games etc). Sometimes we would work on little projects together that would continue over into the next weeks lesson! The children especially liked 'The Banana Song'!  

One of the best things about volunteering with the Book Bus for me, was the wonderful people I met. I made some great friends, my fellow volunteers, the teachers and of course the children. The support I had from the Book Bus and VentureCo staff was great, both pre-departure and whilst in Zambia.
Zambia is a wonderful country and in our free time we explored the lovely town of Livingstone and the surrounding areas. There are so many things to do - see Victoria Falls aka Mosi-o-Tunya (‘the smoke that thunders’ - and it really does), go white water rafting and kayaking on the mighty Zambezi river, pet lions and cheetahs, walk to the Devil's Pool, bungi jump 111m from the Zim-Zam bridge, the second highest bunji in the world (if you're brave enough – I’m not), see hippos and giraffes on a sunset cruise, take high tea at The Royal Livingstone and visit Chobe National Park in Botswana, the elephant viewing there is amazing! 

I can’t wait to go back again!!


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Wanderlust Magazine February 2011

Wanderlust Magazine have published an article on volunteering in their latest issue and The Book Bus in Ecuador stars as one of their chosen features. Wanderlust journalist Ed Stocker spent 2 weeks on the Book Bus as it visited schools in the Amazon and coastal regions of the country. You can follow his story on pages 112 to 115 of the February issue of the magazine which is available from WH Smith and other newsagents.