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Esther Reilly: Fundación Margarita Tejada

Guatemala City, Guatemala: June 2019

Eszti completed her capstone project in Guatemala City, Guatemala with Fundación Margarita Tejada. During her time in Guatemala, she also worked with the Los Patojos located in Antigua, Guatemala. Read Eszti’s blog below to get a full picture of her adventures.

May 12, 2019

Hello Family, Friends, and Strangers!

I have arrived in Antigua, Guatemala! I am staying in the volunteer house of Los Patojos, an arts school dedicated to keeping students in school and out of gangs. I have visited both campuses, one still under construction, and the other busy and thriving with kids of all ages eager to learn!

Today I began working with two girls, ages 12-14, on a dance to perform for television crews coming to the school on Wednesday. Although I had a different idea in mind, the girls were very passionate about doing something “strong and fast,” so I did a last minute change in choreography and we have a great dance going! Tomorrow my goal is to do part of my original idea for choreography and have two short, different dances prepared to perform. I think this will be a great challenge for the girls, to have choreography that they are maybe less comfortable with.

I also get to teach my first full class of little ones tomorrow! If you know me, the babies are my favorite. I am excited to get them moving and learning new things! My goals at Los Patojos are to create a class that they are interested in taking while also challenging them and encouraging them to try things that may be very new to them!

I am spending the week at this amazing school before relocating to Guatemala City and starting classes at Fundacion Margarita Tejada. I have so much to look forward to as my project continues!



May 23, 2019

After teaching a week of dance classes at Los Patojos and taking a week of Spanish classes, I have moved on from Antigua to Guatemala City.

I arrived at Fundacion Margarita Tejada, a school for people with Down Syndrome, Monday morning for my first day. I sat in on and helped classes that day and Tuesday to be introduced to my students before I started teaching dance classes on Wednesday.

Fundacion Margarita Tejada is unlike any school I have ever been in. The teachers and staff there are dedicated to creating the perfect learning environment for all of the students there.

My teaching schedule is three days a week, I am teaching dance classes Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and I am in classrooms on Tuesday and Friday. I have only been teaching my students for two days and I am already falling in love with all of their different personalities! I have classes of people from 6 years old to 50 years old. Planning for such classes is definitely a learning experience, the youngest and oldest age groups being the most tricky to plan for. I am so excited to have the opportunity to learn and grow with my students, as this is a learning experience for me too!



June 21, 2019

Just like that 5 weeks at Fundacion Margarita Tejada are finished! To say my time here has been incredibly special and full of smiles, hugs, and love would be an understatement. Getting to know each and every student has been one of my favorite parts about being at this school. Every student is unique and they all hold a very special place in my heart.

Something I have been reflecting on is how I have reached my goals. My goals at FMT were to build social, physical, and cognitive function through dance and to be able to put on a final performance in front of the school. I observed the most prevalent skill to have improved upon to be memory. We spent a lot of time practicing the dances for our final performance and although not every student memorized it, many did. I have two standout moments regarding this. In my 10-12 year old class we were practicing the dance without me to get ready for the performance. One of my students, Kathy, who can sometimes be a little distracted in class, was doing the dance with just verbal queues! It was a really big accomplishment for her and I felt emotional knowing that my goals and intentions for being there were, in fact, being met! My second standout moment was after the final performance was over I was spending time in the classroom of my 23-35 year old age group before dismissal from school. As I was standing there, unprovoked, my student Fatima began to do the entire dance but deconstructed (which I find even more impressive than doing it in the learned order). It was amazing to watch her create something new from what I had taught her.

I am going to miss all of my students so much. I feel so lucky to have been able to spend this time with them. I learned so much from my students and I could never thank them enough for everything they did for me!

Below are some pictures from after our final performance.