Welcome 2011!

As we gear up for a new year of Abriendo Mentes classes in 2011, I wanted to take some time to recap the end of 2010. November and December came and went quickly, but these months were packed full of events, activities and wonderful volunteers.

The end of November closed with a farewell to volunteer Bonnie and her two sons, Adam and Ian. The three had been volunteering with Abriendo Mentes for three months, since the end of August, and were very much a part of the Abriendo Mentes family by the end of their stay. Together, we all experienced rainy season, classroom and class changes, a backpack drive courtesy of Bonnie and the boys, a trip to try to see the turtles in Ostional, and much more. Thank you to Bonnie, Adam and Ian for all they contributed to Abriendo Mentes. To read Bonnie’s testimonial, follow this link.

Donald and Estiven model their new backpacks. Bonnie, Adam and Ian donated 22 backpacks to the AM students.

One farewell brought in a new introduction, when Brett arrived to help for the last three weeks of classes. Brett was enthusiastic, adventurous and caring. She was only here for a short time but was able to help us with our end of the year pool party, hosted by friend Elizabeth Cole at Cabinas Estival. Fifty Abriendo Mentes kids came together to celebrate another successful year of Abriendo Mentes classes. I have never seen kids so happy, they could have played in the pool all day long, which they did until dark. We were able to drag them out for food (side dishes made by all the moms and the largest pot of arroz con pollo made by wonderful Margarita), a pinata, water balloons and three legged races.

Cinthya and Brett rush to the finish line in the three legged race!

Prizes were contributed by two more dedicated volunteers, Steve and Jenn, who were with us for one month. Straight from Toronto, they brought loads of Canadian gear – t shirts, teddy bears, baseballs and more. Steve was a huge help in successfully getting us started on our grant research and proposal writing, which we will pursue further this year.

Jenn with Cinthya and her prize for winning, a Canada shirt, very cool.

We were also able to squeeze in one last local field trip to Hotel Sugar Beach – a huge and continued supporter of Abriendo Mentes. Abriendo Mentes is one of three local organizations that is supported by Sugar Beach who donates 1% of their monthly profit towards worthy local causes. We packed into 3 cars and Jose Pablo, manager and friend, met us at the entrance of the hotel. He gave us the grand tour, explaining along the way the different positions available in the hotel and why knowledge of the English language is important in these different jobs. We ended the day by playing on the beautiful Sugar Beach.

The group on Sugar Beach

Classes officially ended on December 7th, but Abriendo Mentes volunteer Charlotte, along with new friends and volunteers, Tom and Katie, kept the adult classes running throughout the holiday break. We are very lucky to have such dedicated volunteers! Charlotte has been with us since September, and will be starting the new year with us, focusing on planning extra-curricular events, workshops, guest speakers and field trips as our community coordinator.

Charlotte with a few Abriendo Mentes students, during her surprise, Halloween themed birthday bash.

Abriendo Mentes classes start again on Monday, January 17th. We are very excited about this year. We will welcome new volunteers Jan, Emily, Johnny and Ericka in the next three weeks. Sara Littlefield, who did a Story Literacy Project with Abriendo Mentes last Spring, will be back in February to do a second workshop with the same adult students one year later. We will also welcome Terry and his family from Canada, who have generously donated us our official Abriendo Mentes office space and private classroom. And I am personally very excited to have the Kenan-Flagler Business School Fraternity from my alma mater, UNC Chapel Hill, visit us for a week during their Spring Break at the beginning of March! It is shaping up to be a great first session!

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