Through high school and college I worked each summer at a local community center teaching kids sports, crafts and local history on weekly field trips. I adored it because I’ve always liked kids. Plus the job was from 8:30 until noon each day so I could work the 12:30 to 9 shift at Sears during those crazy retail days before internet shopping, when folks actually went to malls. My free time was spent manning my brother’s, the clown’s
, hot dog stand. I haven’t had a hot dog since.
Recently I got to go back to my community center days helping at an after-school program in the dusty ranch area called Don Diego, just beyond Los Frailes, along the lake. Don Diego shares similarities with the neighboring Pantoja; both villages were moved when the dam and the Presa flooded their original location and both make bricks. Don Diego has the advantage of being a short walk to household jobs in Los Frailes and caddie positions in Malanquin, also being on the bus route into town.
Don Diego also has the distinction of volunteers building the largest new church in San Miguel, a testament to the growth of the area. The church is magnificent with a splendid panoramic view of the lake.
About ten years ago ex-pats noticed an absence of after-school programs for children to learn English, fine tune their Spanish and become computer literate; all handy job skills for local employment. Today children in grades five through eight can do just that through Rural Ed’s non-profit three days a week. The program is voluntary for students and attracts the children that truly enjoy learning.
The teachers are interns from around the world that volunteer for a variety of reasons. Several are future teachers seeking experience. Another, Chicago-based Emily whom I met that day, is a future vet who wanted to improve her Spanish and vet skills by volunteering with local animal doctors on her days off.
At one point when organized chaos was going on in the class I quizzed Emily if this made her want to or not want to have future children. Without missing a beat she responded it makes her not want to be a teacher. Pity, as she’s so good with the kids, even beyond making hand turkeys to explain Thanksgiving and teach appreciation.
The other teacher that day was a substitute teacher and Rural Ed’s Director of Programs, Carlos. Being young, male and Mexican he is the trifecta of being the perfect gentleman to hold the attention of all the students.
Classes are held in sparkling a new community center complete with internet access, computers and a bilingual library. In addition, the community center offers adult classes in art, English, dance and exercise. Another community center in which Rural Ed hosts after-school programs is in La Palma area by Los Labradores.
If you’ve an interest in giving rural kids a boost up in skills and opportunities, please contact Carlos at Rural Ed, 415-124-1357, Facebook
. The lad knows how, where and why to donate your time, energies and money where they’ll help San Miguel’s children the most. In addition, Rural Ed has a unique plan among local charities
of planned obsolescence. Rural Ed turns over their efforts to the locals to run versus having them remaining for decades as foreigner-run by a non-government organization