By Carlos Topete, Co-founder and Executive Director of Fundación En Vía
In 2007, two amigos, Ron Mader editor of planeta.com (https://planeta.com/oaxaca-amigos-2008/) and Gerhard Buttner, ran a workshop of English Classes for Community Guides and Rural Artisans, which was enough to inspire Fundación En Vía to create our own English Classes Program.
Like Ron and Gerhard, our initial goal was to provide English Classes for artisans in Teotitlán del Valle. We thought that there would be interest from the artisans to learn the essential English needed to market their products, but to our surprise 90% of our students are children.
As a first step, we approached Teotitlán del Valle’s municipal cabinet to formalize with them our program and requested a place for the English classes. They allowed us to use the corridor of the library, but it was not the ideal place to have children around because it was next to where the Municipio parked the garbage trucks, and that happened during our English classes. So we requested a different place, and then we had an upgrade to the “salón de usos multiples,” and for many years we provided free English classes for everyone in Teotitlán. Today we teach English at the new Centro Cultural Comunitario.
In 2011, Fundación En Vía’s Microfinance Program started in San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya, and we did it just like in Teotitlán. Since then, we have been teaching English in the corridor of the Municipality. Two interesting points about Tlacochahuaya is that we no longer have our Microfinance Program there, but we continue to run our English program because it has been very popular among children not only from Tlacochahuaya but also children from communities nearby commute every Monday and Wednesday to attend English classes.
For more than eight years our English Program has been an example of goodwill, faith, and hope. Goodwill, because without expecting anything in return, hundreds of volunteers, municipal authorities, and our staff have put in their share and given the children of Oaxaca the opportunity to learn a second or sometimes third language, a tool that they will be able to use their entire life. Faith, because we believe in those children and hope; because there is nothing better than giving the world more prepared children.
Volunteers from all over the world have participated in our English Program, from college students to baby boomers. We have had volunteers from Australia, and from Oaxaca as well, children of immigrants to the United States who have come to share their knowledge with children from the community to which they have always belonged. It is indeed a fantastic program with a dual goal – to give children access to English, and to give long-term visitors a different perspective of Mexico.
One of the things I am proudest of in Fundación En Vía is the English Program. It is self-sufficient, it has an impact on the community by providing children a unique opportunity to learn English, and for volunteers, it is a simple way to contribute to a better future and have fun while having a meaningful experience in Oaxaca.
We have decided to take the English Program one step further and make it even stronger. As a next step to strengthen our English Program, we have launched a campaign to provide more consistency and organization to our programming, further improving the quality of our English classes, along with creating the structure for long-term sustainability.