08 Feb Update on Planned Bottle School Project in El Salvador (By M. Pantano)
Much has progressed since last year’s community meeting, where I first presented the idea of constructing a Kindergarten Bottle School for the children that live in Upper Candelaria. Luckily the community was very much excited about the idea, and in agreement to make sacrifices needed to make this project become a reality.
The first step that we had to overcome was to test out how well a Kindergarten classroom could potentially work in Upper Candelaria. Considering that many of the children had to travel up to 3.5 miles each day to attend the local school in Lower Candelaria, it was common that those living in the upper part of the community never began their education. In an effort to gauge how effectively a Kindergarten could work for these children, in August of 2012 we began to give classes in a vacant house in Upper Candelaria. The local Mayor of Sociedad has been supporting these efforts by paying a local community member, Nina Isabel, to teach classes to the 5-8 year olds that attend. On the first day of class we began with 11 students which quickly grew to 18. This past December we held our first graduation that had ever taken place in Upper Candelaria. The excitement and support of the families was incredible, and the event was a great way to motivate the moms who would be sending their kids the following year.
On January 21st classes resumed, and we have 27 students currently attending the Pilot School. With the success of the Pilot School, the community has now begun to focus on the necessary preparations to construct our Ministry of Education approved Kindergarten Bottle School, before my time in El Salvador comes to an end. The past couple of weeks have been devoted to preparing the land that will be donated for the classroom. Family members have been sacrificing their time and energy to come help clear out the land where our Bottle School will be built, and hopefully within this week we will be able to call the Mayor’s architects who will measure the exact coordinates of where the school will be constructed. This is crucial, because we will need to send this information to the Ministry of Education in order to officially donate the land in the name of MINED, which would make the classroom MINED official, guaranteeing that they will finance the teacher that is assigned.
It has been amazing to see everything come together throughout the last couple of months, and to see how close we are to making this dream a reality. The community is so excited as well and has been really supportive in collecting the bottles and plastic materials that we will need for the project (the bottles will serve as the “Eco-Ladrillos” of the school). In order to complete our school we will need to collect approximately 20,000 12 ounce soda bottles, which will each be filled with roughly 130 empty potato chip bags. The amount of plastic that we will need to complete this project is immense, but with the community’s dedication and support I know that we will be able to do it.