Fundamind is a preschool that is partially funded by the government of the city of Buenos Aires. The rest of Fundamind functions off of donations. This school was started 20 years ago, and had one classroom of 20 three-year olds. The original intent of this school was to reach out to children in the community that came from impoverished families, whose parents could not otherwise afford to send them to childcare or preschool while they worked. These children were (and are) more exposed to HIV/AIDS, and many of them are carriers of the illness. Today, Fundamind hosts over 150 students each day, providing them with quality childcare and education. It is a safe place for children whose homes aren’t even necessarily safe. Most of them come from complicated family situations – divorced or abusive parents, poverty, and dangerous neighborhoods (here they are called the villas).
When I first showed up to Fundmind two weeks ago, I wrote the blog post after entitled “The Volunteer World”. I closed that post saying that I was excited to find my place at Fundamind (also implying that I hadn’t found it quite yet).
I am happy to report that I most definitely have a place and purpose at Fundamind. When I was working with the school director, Marisa, she told me they did have a need for an English teacher. During our conversation, it came up that I went to a school in Nashville that is known for its music program. I told Marisa that I originally went to Belmont to study classical piano, and her face lit up when I shared this information. She exclaimed, “We’ve been looking for a music teacher for months! We had a piano donated to us years ago, but no one has ever played it”.
I’m well into my second week of providing music classes for each room. We sing songs in Spanish and then in English, and the children are always amazed when I start singing in English. “Winsy Winsy Aranya” (The Itsy Bitsy Spider) is by far the most popular song we sing. Some days, I take the classes down to the main room where the piano is. I’ve played some Scott Joplin for the kids (they love to dance to it) and some classical songs and scales. The first time I told a class we were going downstairs to the piano, one student asked me: “What’s a piano?”
These kids don’t have the same exposure to music or arts that most other children their age do. It is my hope that by teaching these children songs in English, their interest in learning the language will be sparked. I also hope to provide them with the fond memories of music class that surely every child has (and should have).
I did find a school that actually needs help in their English department, and the children are middle school aged. I’m going tomorrow for the first time to meet with some of the teachers to see where I can help. It will be great to put my TEFL certification into practice, but I’m also blown away at the opportunity that I’ve encountered at Fundamind to teach kids music and bring some fun into each day. Many of the children already remember my name, and as soon as I walk into the class, they all yell, “Raquel!!! Cantas Winsy Winsy en ingles!!” (Rachel! Sing Itsy Bitsy in English!!). I successfully taught the 4-year olds class “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” today, and they were thrilled to have learned some new English words.
This adventure is unfolding differently, yet better than I ever could have expected. I will keep you updated on how my day tomorrow goes at my new school!