Last week, in preparation for the workshop, we met with Martha and Ximena at el Hogar. Martha is the teacher we will be working with and after our meeting she invited us to meet the students and see their neighborhood. Martha works with high risk students who are referred specifically to her program. The class is made up of 17 students ages nine to sixteen. They all attend a nearby public school in the morning and then come to el Hogar for the afternoon.

When we arrived at the school, the students were very enthusiastic. We were all struck with how welcoming they were. They made us feel like we were a part of the group and Martha included us in their game, called Tingo Tingo Tango. Soon we were all singing,  dancing and telling jokes in front of each other. Martha is a really incredible teacher. At first, we didn’t understand the purpose of a game that seemed to force kids to do embarrassing things in front of each other. After everyone had participated, Martha explained how important it is to laugh at ourselves and to feel comfortable doing so with our peers. This was a perfect opening to our workshop about self-expression.

After the game, we went with Martha and her husband to walk the students home. They live in a barrio called el bosque calderón on the eastern slopes of northern Bogotá. The students were proud to show us their neighborhood and excited for the prospect to photograph it themselves during the workshop. We were amazed at how interested they were in showing us their neighborhood considering we had just met them.

The students were curious about our opinions of their neighborhood, and one student asked if neighborhoods in the U.S. look like this. El bosque is very poor, especially compared to nearby neighborhoods, but we were all struck with how many social resources the students seem to have in spite of the barrio’s apparent lack of money. We were even more surprised with the students’ behavior after Martha told us that most of them are referred after struggling severely in school, both academically and behaviorally.

After we left it was clear that the three of us, the kids and Martha are all very excited to start the workshop on Monday.