Native Future launched English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for Wounaan bird guides in June. Three members of the Puerto Lara bird group, the Oropendolas Negras (Black oropendolas), Jairo Cheucarama, Ernesto Piraza, and Rolando Cheucarama, and a member of the all-women’s bird group, the Tangaras Azules (Blue-gray tanagers), Fabelicia Ismare, began meeting online with ESL Instructor, Devonna McCarthy. Virtual English classes were a first for all of us, except Devonna, who has been teaching English online for 1.5 years. It took a couple of tries to get everyone connected and using Google Meet on their phones, and phone data had to be topped off periodically to keep them connected, but with improved Wi-fi connections in Puerto Lara, Jairo was convinced, “virtual English classes are a magnificent idea!”.
With support from Wounaan Bird Count volunteers Janice Jorgensen, Patrick Yoon, and Robert
Mesta, Devonna developed a series of 12 classes that taught the students how to describe the birds they see in their community and corresponding basic vocabulary and grammar. They met on Google Meet twice a week and shared course materials and homework through the WhatsApp's messaging platform. By the end of the six-week pilot period, all students were eager to continue. A new series of classes began Sunday, September 12th, and this time the students are paired with a volunteer to practice talking during the week. (Thank you, Charles Cummings, Joanne Mills, Robert Mesta, and Sherry Barrett!)
English classes are one of the activities of the recently launched project, Digital Transformation of Indigenous-Led Ecotourism and Conservation, which will prepare Wounaan ecotourism providers to meet a post-Covid-19 market. And, because of our partnerships with others, your donations to the Wounaan Bird Count are matched 2:1; for every dollar you donate, we receive two more! Thank you for your support!