MPH Panama Practicum 2013: Going with the flow

Elaine Lai

July 13, 2013

The original plan for Friday was to have an interactive nutrition presentation for the children of Altos de Cabuya. Lots of time and energy was spent to ensure that the content and power point would be appropriate and fun for the children but once we entered the school gates we found out that the principal had something else in mind. Instead of giving a nutrition presentation we were asked to teach physical activity to a third grade class and a fifth grade class. Each class had about 25-30 students and would be under our care for 40 minutes. We were racing to put together some fun games for the kids but barely got a chance to discuss when suddenly the children came rushing out to the physical activity area.

Luckily we were able to pull through and entertain the children with some fun games. We played soccer, duck-duck-goose, relay race, and basketball. The children were divided up so that each member of my group had 4-5 kids watch over. At first it was difficult not being able to communicate with the children during the game time because I really wanted to cheer them on and get to know them. Fortunately I was able to somewhat overcome the language barrier with the simple Spanish vocabulary I had and LOTS of hand gestures.

My 5th grade kids showing off their muscle!

There was one little boy in particular in the 5th grade class that I was drawn to during the game time. He sat off to the side by himself while all the other children participated in the group activities. Members from my group would try and encourage him to come out and play with the rest of the children but he would politely decline so we let him be. A little while later I noticed that the little boy got up from where he was sitting and was bouncing a basketball in the corner. Helen gestured for him to pass the ball to her. I wasn?t sure he would but after bouncing the ball a few times he pass it to her. And then Helen would bounce the ball a few times and then pass it back to him.

The sweet little boy passing the ball to Helen

I quickly jumped in, asking him to pass the ball to me too. We started playing keep away and I remember the huge smile and sweet laugh that came from the little boy whenever he successfully received the ball. We were having such a blast that children that were playing soccer came over asking to play. I?m glad to share that the little boy was willing to play with the other children and had such a fun time chasing each other around trying to play keep away.

Playing with the shy little boy and seeing him share with others was such a joy. Being surrounding by these exceeding sweet and polite children and made the rescheduling of the nutrition presentation well worth it.

About the MPH Panama Practicum

A group of University of Southern California graduate students are researching public health in Panama City, Panama, for a two-week international practicum, organized by the USC Master of Public Health (MPH) program. This post was excerpted from panama.usc.eduView all posts in this series »