Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Jack's Experience at Tulio Herrera Leon School

In some parts of Peruvian society there is sometimes a certain level of stigma attached to having a child or relative with special needs and therefore many families tend not to send their children to school or ask for help with their upbringing. Tulio Herrera Leon is a school for blind and autistic people which was set up to help these people who may otherwise be left to look out for themselves. It is very well equipped with all the tools necessary to help the students with all manner of needs and different levels of disabilities. It also has a great team of caring and skilled teachers. In order to try and combat the prejudice in certain areas of society the school runs an out-reach program that goes out into workplaces and schools to try and get in contact with parents and also to help employers incorporate workers with vision impairment, autism and other special needs into their businesses. Many of the teachers also spend their spare time going to churches and hospitals to try and reach more parents and families that could benefit from the school.

Students of all ages are welcomed at Tulio Herrera Leon, with classes varying from full time students learning to read and write brail, to one on one “extra help” sessions for students who are currently studying in other schools and universities around Trujillo. It is a great school run by fantastic people and offering an extremely important service to its pupils and society as a whole as it is the only state funded school of its kind in the whole of Northern Peru. Despite this there is still room for many more students here. The school is free for all students, however if the parents of a student earn over a certain amount each month a small contribution may be asked for.

I have been volunteering at the school for a month now, working alongside the music teacher to help the students channel their creativity. When I first arrived at the school I was amazed at how well equipped the music room was but also recognized that the music teacher was struggling due to the amount of time each student requires. This meant that the children, some of whom have attention disorders, quite often lost concentration. Over this past month we have successfully managed to bring more direction into the music classes and help the students to be more constructive. The main way in which I have done this is through getting the whole class to play percussion together. This has proved a great way to teach the kids about rhythm as well as the importance of listening and playing alongside other people. This brings with it a greater sense of kinship and group awareness, and as a musician myself I can vouch for the sense of achievement that comes through playing together in a group of people.

I have one more month left at Tulio Herrera Leon and I am as excited about it as I was about the first month. Now that we have developed a good group work ethos in the classes through playing percussion together, I would like to use the skills of certain pupils in order to bring other instruments into the classes. There are several budding pianists in the school and I have been teaching a couple of people, including the music teacher, how to play the guitar. Whilst there are some students who struggle with basic drumming, when playing as a group they find it much easier to stay in time and so I am aiming to get the whole class playing a song with guitars, keyboards, percussion and possibly some singing as well. This is going to be a challenge for both me and the students but one which I’m sure we will overcome and enjoy.

The students and teachers make Tulio Herrera an amazing project to be involved in and I would recommend anyone who is interested in working here to give it go, as the school serves a part of society who really need their help.

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