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On my second day in Coban (co-BAHN), three other volunteers were due to present to an association three charlas (presentations). This experience reminded us of how flexible we need to be. The charlas were to be done in Spanish, but none of the women who we presented to spoke it -- the language Ca'qui'kel (ka-CHI-kel). We had a translator. This part we knew about before hand. However, we were planning on presenting to about 10 or 15 people in an association. Instead, we presented to roughly 40 women and about a dozen children who were nursing, playing with sticks, or dancing through much of the presentation. In addition, the charlas were given on a long narrow porch of the house of one of the women. We realized about halfway through the second presentation that the back 1/3 of the women had simply been too polite (or shy) to mention that they couldn't hear a thing anyone was saying. So we moved the chairs and continued. We presented on customer service, leadership in committees, and cooperation -- more or less.
All the presentations are abstracted and made as entertaining as possible. Considering that few of the women were accustomed to classroom learning, and many had never been in a classroom in their life, lectures are out. We pretty much have carved out a template of Introduction, Icebreaker Game, Explanation of Subject, Game, Review of Explanation. The games obviously have to be as closely linked as possible. A game may be a ridiculous role-play, a name game, or physical cooperative games. I heard a good story of a game once where a male volunteer hoped to convince these little old ladies in conservative traditional mayan skirts to make a human pyramid. It didn't work.
The goal is usually to get at half of the people to remember one thing from the presentation. If you get that far, your ahead of the game. The goal is to provide one idea that may make them alter how they currently do things. That may mean a nicer label on a package, to ask their neighbors how much they sell their chickens for, or even remind people that you don't always have to like the people you work with. If you can get some of them to remember one thing out of an hour presentation, you're ahead of most teachers, professors and pastors in the world.
23 October 2006
Back to Coban.