Did everyone wonder where I went for the past couple of weeks? No worries, I am back and better than ever! I had the opportunity to go to Camp Abilities Costa Rica. Thank you everyone who supported that effort. It was one of the best things I have ever done both professionally and personally.
I honestly sit here and don't know where to exactly start. I love working with children with vision impairments anywhere but part of my heart now belongs to Costa Rica and to the students that I met there. I was reminded that culture is no barrier when it comes to loving teaching.
If you think I am going to sit here and tell you some sad story about a child who had nothing, you are reading the wrong blog! What I will blog about are the amazing student athletes I had the honor of teaching, the colleagues I learned from and the university physical education teachers I could serve with. Pura Vida!
Here's something that did blow me away: teaching soccer to children with vision impairments. I have never thought of teaching this sport before as I (mistakenly) believed it was a visual sport. In fact, as my Costa Rican university students were teaching me about it, I sat back skeptical. I am so happy to admit that I was wrong!! So, if you a soccer loving family that doesn't know how to integrate soccer into your child with a vision impairment's life, we need to talk!!
They did soccer for two days with small group rotations. Several of the students did have one-on-one teachers but they were all taught each skill of traditional soccer. They were taught to dribble, pass, hit with their heads and knees and shoot to score a goal. They even had a soccer game! I learned so much from this soccer experience that I am teaching soccer at my Camp Abilities in Connecticut this summer!!
*Another thing that made their soccer instruction more effective than mine in the states was the soccer ball they used. I have ordered traditional jingle bell soccer balls which are very hard to hear. They used a soccer ball that was made from a lightweight aluminum-type material with beans inside. The material was then covered by a traditional soccer ball covering. It made so much noise! I am getting the resource so I can order them. I will definitely share once I get it!!
The students who attended this program were so beautiful inside and out. I made several of them and the university physical education teachers pinky promise to keep in touch with me. There is something about a program like Camp Abilities that just binds people (even when you can barely speak the language--despite studying for months! My Spanish was....mostly understandable). I am so thankful to have spent the time I did in Costa Rica.
Now I will be honest about one thing that did make me feel a bit sad. There were a few things that made me sit back and think of how grateful we are in the States (not every State but at least mine) when it came to resources. One of the students who was almost 5'10 in height was using a ski pole for a cane. Several of the students didn't have roller ball tips at the ends of their canes (which makes sweeping a broken surface like just about every street in Costa Rica almost impossible). I learned that most of them had JAWS but never heard of a Braille note or other notetaker device. I learned that most of them are using a slate and stylus to take all of their notes. They have to purchase all of their equipment from the States. That made me sad especially when my students here in CT have so much.
So here's what I decided (no dwelling on the sad, let's make a solution!): I am collecting resources and in good condition technology and materials for my dear friends in Costa Rica. If you want to be part of this, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
This blog post doesn't do my love for Costa Rica any justice. I can't really articulate how much I loved being part of Camp Abilities Costa Rica.