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oil vs common sense

I'm on a mission: I have to bring some countryside kids into terms with a big fat oil company. Easy, coz there's money. Hard, coz the kids understand much more than the oil company thinks they do.

I'm stuck in the oil company's camp, unable to work or walk about, because there is a problem with my inssurance. They didn't tell us, we didn't know. Nobody's fault.

Introduction to the camp and safety rules: we sit, about 30 workers and I, 2 women in all, cramped in the warm TV room while docs hand out medical forms for us to fill. Good, I'm not the only one who doesn't have all insurance info up to date. Most of them wouldn't even know they are entitled to special work inssurance, if it's not for a pretty lady, the only other woman there, who takes it upon herself to teach these men about their legal working rights and duties. The man besides me, about 60 by the look of his wrinkeled face, can't even read the form. But he won't say anything, he'll just wait till he can address the doc privately. Bad, for about 10 of the workers, who have come form far and wide, won't be able to get to work. Maybe they'll even get sent back. My turn, blank not filled out, I'm kicked out of the office without safety instructions. I call my office and there's no easy solution. I'll have to wait.

I was lucky yesterday. Someone forgot to check our papers and we got out of the camp to go to the little rural school about 10 mins away. 29 kids, aged 5 to 13, take english class in a tiny room. "My name is ______" was on the board, and they all dutyfully copied it down. When I asked them their names in english I relized they only knew how to write it, not say it. Nor could they say "eyes", or "blue", but eh-jess, and bloo-eh, as one would read the words in Spanish. I ask them all to write down their name, grade and age. Erika, aged 13, is barely making 1st grade. She has trouble writing, an obvious dislexia. William, the teacher, does his best with her, but even numbers seem impossible for her. Liseth, barely aged 6, helps her by spelling out the letters. They all have a middle name, most of which sound foreign but with Spanish spelling.

I pull out my old G3 Canon to take their pictures and they are all impressed with it. Huge and heavy, it brings out all their smiles.
"There's a chance 5 of you will go to Barú, by the ocean, in December" we tell them, to get them excited into joining our Ecoclub. Rather a stupid strategy, since they were all excited from the moment we walked into their small classroom, and cruel, since none of them have seen the sea and they all want to go. This small group has been working on their own orchard, waste recycling for the whole community, and planting trees. Profe William's efforts are outstanding even when compared to schools in Bogotá, most of which have budget, space and internet!

"You'll see those kids are different. They have nothing" were my mom's wise words when I told her what I was going to do in the country, in comparisson to what I had done with fancy school kids from Bogotà. And she was right, they are. But they have more than many kids back home, they have someone who cares for them and is willing to work for a better community, a brilliant and dedicated teacher. A guy with a vision and motivation. A true role model. And in the few hours I spent with them yesterday, I could see they know his worth. These are lucky children, and I hope they'll return the favour someday.

Comments

jadefrank's picture

Part One

Hi Juana,

I hope that this is just a part 1 of what's more to come! I am hooked into your story and wish to continue reading about these rural school children, their brilliant teacher William, and you!

Thanks for sharing this!

Cheers,
Jade

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