Monday, November 26, 2007

Nahuel is on the move!

A few days ago Nahuel made his first point in the world championship of chess for youth. It was nice to see him getting started after he had lost the two first rounds.

If you want to see how Nahuel is doing, check out the results.

To explain a little how to read the results:
The first number indicates the number of the round he is in. Then you can see the name of the other player, which country they are from and of course the ranking of the player after they have been playing 8 rounds.

The last number is whether or not Nahuel won the game against the player, which he has done 3 times. Plus the half point he got for playing a tie. So he is doing a nice job!
As you see he has won the latest match, so I am sure he is going to do a good job in the 10th round, which was played today (by the time of posting this story the results were not out yet).

Besides he has still got two more rounds to go, so I am sure we haven’t seen the last of him yet.

I also received an e-mail from Nahuel’s father, Ivan. He wrote that Nahuel was having a really nice time in Turkey, and that he was enjoying the time in Kemer. Ivan also told me that they went on a boat trip this weekend with some friends from Peru, Ecuador and Argentina that Nahuel has made.

That's all for now, but I am looking forward to tell you more about how Nahuel is doing and hopefully so are you.

Also we are still 600USD short in paying all the expences, so if you want to help us out, send me an e-mail!

All the stories about Nahuel are available here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Learning the Shakira moves

It seems sadly ironic to ask a handful of Europeans and Americans to teach Argentine children to dance. We are, after all, not particularly known for our sense of rhythm or amazing dance movies, reports our volunteer Jenn who is participating in dance classes inside Ciudad Oculta.

Luckily for us, the kids at Maria Rosa don´t seem to mind. They even limit their giggling when we start to move, which I find very kind of them. Marjon leads the class in a warm-up, which involves exercises like marching in place, boxing the air and sweeping our arms down to our toes.

The kids, even the smallest ones, follow suit, the air peppered with our Spanish instructions: "Izquierda! Derecha!" There are about a dozen kids at Maria Rosa for the class, from toddlers to teenagers, and at the beginning at least, all seem enthusiastic to follow our every move.

Marjon, who has worked with the dance class before, has brought along CDs with the Electric Slide and several other dances with instructions in English ("Great!" I think, "We´re practically incorporating an English lesson in with our dance class!") We hop, we slide, we criss-cross our feet. The kids seem fairly well-versed in the moves and are enjoying themselves, giggling and glancing side-ways at us to make sure they´re doing it correctly.

They grow even more excited when Marjon allows them to put on one of their own CDs, an Argentine pop song of which they know every single word. They launch into a complicated dance routine, which involves a lot of shimmying and hip-swiveling. We watch, awed, and then try to mirror their moves.

The older girls are keen to instruct us, patiently pairing up with one of us to show us the routine´s moves. We try to copy them, and I think we do an OK job, although the lesson pretty much ends in a collapse of laughter on both ends. They continue with the dance, and we just move side to side, clapping and smiling, while the little ones quickly grow impatient and ask to be picked up and swung around by the arms (a favorite game, I come to learn).

I can´t wait to return next week to continue my Shakira-like moves.

Help Nahuel!

Conviven’s very own chess genius Nahuel Rojas (10) is now in Turkey, competing on World Youth Chess Championships. We are all crossing our fingers for him and are very excited how he will do.

Although we managed to find funds to send him to Turkey, we are still a little short in money! Conviven borrowed some funds to pay for Nahuel’s accommodation, but that money needs to be paid back.

So if you are able to make a donation, please send money for Nahuel to HelpArgentina, with a clarification that the money is for Nahuel. We need to make 600 more euros (890 USD) to pay back the loan we took to get Nahuel playing. Any amount helps!

You can also just make your donation directly, by contacting Benjamin (

Thursday, November 15, 2007

We did it!

As far as I know Nahuel flew out for Rome last night and he should be getting on a plane to Istanbul just in a few hours. We still do not have all the money we need, but at least we did not have to pay for the flight from Buenos Aires to Rome.

This all was possible because of Laura, Benjamin, Valmir and all the people that donated money for the cause. Thank you all so much!

Longer and more detailed report is coming up in a few days. Please keep your fingers crossed for little Nahuel!

For those who do not know: Nahuel is a 10 year old boy who comes to learn English at Conviven and is a chess genius who had the opportunity to compete on the World Championships in Turkey. During the last month we have been trying to find money to get him there. Links are also coming up in a few days as I am writing this post from a hostel far away from Buenos Aires.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Conviven clean-up

Just last week our volunteers gathered at Conviven to clean up the centre and reorganise some things. In other words we had a massive spring clean and now we have a new cupboard to use for all the teaching materials and whatever stuff we need.

The most enthusiastic ones of us started at 11am and kept going until the evening, others joined up when they could. We had a houseful of people wearing yellow rubber gloves, scrubbing the walls, floors, windows and cupboards.

As a result our working space looks a little better now and even the mould from kindergarten room came off the walls.

Despite all the people we had in the house, we still need to have a massive kitchen clean-up and a lot of walls need to be repainted. So if you want to come and help us paint, leave a comment!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A fun day in the park

Last Saturday our volunteers took the kids who come to learn English at Conviven to a park to get out of the serious teaching environment to have some fun. Our volunteer Fiona shares how it went.

When I read the e-mail asking for volunteers to take the children to the park I thought ‘That will be fun!’ After some initial problems we were on the bus to Parque Sarmiento with 30 children and 9 volunteers.

We had an elaborate timetable of games like a wheelbarrow race, an egg and spoon race, a relay race, a 3 legged race and rounders. We also had coloured ribbon to tie around the children’s wrists to determine what colour team they were in and prizes for the winning team.

We arrived at the park and it was fantastic. Lots of green areas, football pitches, tennis courts and of course, two huge play parks. Immediately, we had a group of children wanting to go to the play park so some of us took them to the smaller of the two and some volunteers stayed and began a game of football with the others.

At the play park, I became aware of this amazing ability children have: to enjoy going down the same slide the twentieth time as much as they did the first time! We spent a good deal of time in the play park before we returned to where the others were and had a pretty unsuccessful egg and spoon race- they all cheated.

One little boy found a cracked egg in the box and asked if he could eat it- since they were all hard boiled I said yes. The next thing I knew all the kids were walking around eating hard boiled eggs when we had a huge bag of sandwiches, fruit and biscuits. Some of them even came up and asked for salt.

The elaborate plan never really took place but at 5pm we were rounding up 30 happy and tired children. They had spent most of the day playing football, running round and playing in the park. Personally, if I get the chance I would definitely do it again. If only to limit the time playing in the park and use up the ribbon and the hard boiled eggs for their initial purpose! The picnic in the park did not exactly go to plan but that didn’t matter because the most important thing worked – the children had fun.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Our second theatre class in the neighbourhood

It was a nice and sunny Friday afternoon. Five volunteers from Conviven entered the villa at 2pm, accompanied by a helper.

It is a ten minutes walk until the little community hall in which we hold our class. On the way I see pools of dirty water and open garbage bags on the dusty road, as well as handfuls of children wandering about, or playing with the town's many stray dogs. In front of our classroom door there are some children playing with mud and pieces of bricks and other construction materials.

Minutes after we announce the beginning of the class, children come bustling in. We all stand hand in hand and form a big circle, encouraging everyone to join. They are mostly young boys and girls.

Some of the girls carry their toddler siblings in their arms. Our circle is so big that it almost spills outside of the classroom. An excellent start! As a warm-up before the class, we introduced our names and named a country we would like to visit the most.

When our volunteers expressed their wish to visit more exotic places like Tibet and China, our students shared a good round of laugh. Most of them would rather visit the United States.

Our volunteers split the class into two groups according to the age. Benjamin and Maria were in charge of the toddlers and young children under 10 years old. Janna and Eugenie took the older group.

We began the class with the “name game”. The game is designed to make the students, as well as us teachers, to introduce and familiarise ourselves with each other, as we constantly have different faces each week. It is also a fast-paced and energetic game that helps our children shake off their initial shyness.

As the children’s sounds grew gradually louder, eventually to excited screams, it was finally time for us to begin with our second game, “Luz rojo”. It is a classic kid’s game. We volunteers typically act as umpires, picking out those who don’t manage to completely “freeze” and driving them back to the starting spot.

The finale of the class was an exhilarating game of tag. Everybody big and little ran and chased each other in the open space outside the classroom. Here is our volunteer Benjamin, just having been tagged by those two little ruthless star players.

Our objective was to take a step toward establishing a regular theatre class within the villa for children. In this second class we learnt more about our new and existing students, the environment of teaching and the neighbourhood.

We discovered that the ages of our students vary greatly and that most of them are not used to a form of discipline and supervision. We also discovered that they are all full of healthy energy and curiosity, and that there exists a great bond among the children toward one another.

It will be a long, challenging journey until we get to see our students on stage, in the premiere of their first theatre work - but we have no doubt it will be one filled with excitements and new discoveries. At least, no matter what, everyone will get to have fun.

(Thanks to our volunteer Nicole for her photos.)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Class B improvements in English

With the arrival of several more volunteers at Conviven over the past month, we have been able to split Class B into 2 smaller groups. This has allowed us to give the children more individual attention, focusing on their specific needs, shares our volunteer Laura.

We quickly discovered that Class B are english experts when it comes to numbers, colours, clothing and the human body, so over the past few weeks we have introduced several new subjects.

Incorporating the verbs "to be" and "to have" we have worked on a range of topics from general greetings, personal information and the family tree, to "free time", "the classroom" and animals. We help the kids learn using pictures, worksheets and games, where hangman seems to be a particular favourite.

The kids fill in a "today board" on the wall each class that summarises the day, the month, the weather and the time via pictures and cards. This gives them an opportunity to practise these topics in an interactive way.

We had a special class for Halloween where not only did the kids learn the english words for bat, witch and pumpkin, but the kids taught the teachers the spanish words too!