After-School Program Description

After-School Kids Program, Jaco, Costa Rica

Jaco Ministry Center

In the community of Jaco many children are living outside of God’s intentions for them, intentions for a future and a hope. God creates every human as a vulnerable child. He expects children to develop through play, creativity and exploration in a safe and nurturing environment.  We want to cooperate with God’s intentions and with families by creating space for children to build relationships with adults who care about them and model the love of Jesus to them.

Developmental Needs and Prevention

We highlight 3 of the missing pieces for many children in Jaco, education, lack of creative opportunities and the lack of opportunity to see the gospel lived out. With the challenges these children face, many important aspects of their childhood are missing or have been destroyed.  Our hope is to bring back and restore some of what has been lost. As we are providing a place to be creative and play we are hoping to bring some of those essential components back into the children’s lives, all with the hope that we can prevent these children from heading down the dangerous slippery slope into drugs, prostitution, etc. that is so prevalent in Jaco. Prevention is the idea behind this program. How they grow and develop today as kids is shaping who they will become in the future. If we can help meet some of those developmental needs we will be so happy and know that we are bringing a smile to God’s face. Because He loves these kids way more than we ever could.

Structure

Ideas we are putting into practice are to create play areas for children to freely choose what activities they will engage in.  Each day at the Jaco Ministry Center will be different, but different learning opportunities will include a space for reading and for stories to be read aloud, a free play area with toys or blocks, a space for art or other creative activities, a garden space, games, science activities, and whatever new ideas we see that will help the children find their God given strengths and interests.   The weather, use of park space and number of children will also determine what we are able to do. We usually set up three tables under the rancho with different activities at each table

Guidelines for Volunteers:

We want to find long term volunteers who will build lasting relationships with the children.  Long-term volunteers give children the opportunity to interact, observe and participate in a committed relationship with an adult.  Someone who will encourage and nurture their gifts.  All volunteers will complete an application and commit to one hour a week of training – Mondays at 1 p.m. We also ask that volunteers come at 1:30 on other days to help prep and pray before we welcome the children into the property.

Some Challenges Children in Jaco Face

Educational Challenges –

“Only two of every three enrolled students in first grade complete sixth grade, and only one in every three students complete secondary education. These enrollment percentages drop with declining family incomes in all age groups.”[1]

“Teachers rely on rote learning methods. Generally, teachers write on blackboards and students copy from the board or from a textbook. Textbooks are limited, so children generally work in groups, with one child reading from the text while others copy from it. Books are scarce, and school libraries are either non-existent or filled with very old books. Few extra materials are available and books are never taken home for study. Additionally, most schools do not have paper for children to use, and teachers must buy their own chalk and other teaching tools.”[2]

Other challenges include poverty, broken families, small, crowded living spaces, and a lack of positive role models.

These children are at high-risk because they are living in a town filled with drugs and prostitution.

Creativity

One important aspect that seems to be lacking in the lives of these children is creativity.  If we can provide opportunities for creativity this will help supplement the school experience, and for kids who have dropped out, maybe help spark a love of learning, not to mention help cultivate a deep love relationship with their Creator God, who is Himself Creative!

What we mean by “creativity” and why is it important?

 “Some may say creativity doesn’t really matter. Who cares if a kid can paint a picture as long as he can read, right? Well, creativity is more than the ability to wield a paintbrush. Creativity is what gives all the math and reading skills application, and therefore, meaning.

Creativity certainly is the source of inspiration for great works of visual art, literary novels, music pieces, and productions of stage and screen. But creativity is also the wellspring of problem-solving and inquiry. Creativity is the ability to think outside of the box, to be curious and resourceful.

Children who are creative are better prepared to be successful and thrive as children and as adults. Creativity aids in navigating social relationships and is the true source of all great professional accomplishments. Divergent thinkers not only become the painters and authors of the future, but they are the coaches who create game-winning plays, the entrepreneurs who find new ways to meet their customers’ needs, and the medical professionals who develop cures for our toughest diseases.

The world is creating plenty of space for ingenuity. How will we address problems like the nation’s debt? What can be done about pervasive poverty or world hunger? Who will find a better way of dealing with our mountains of garbage or with my own mountain of laundry? For those who believe in better tomorrows, all the answers lie in creative thinking. As certain as we are that our future generations need to be adept at math and reading, we can be equally sure that they will have problems to solve and will need the innovative capacity to tackle tough challenges in new ways.

 When we view education as an information in – information out process, that’s all we can hope for our children to gain: information. If we want information, we can go to Google. If I want innovation, we need human creativity. Until we introduce an element of ingenuity, inspiration, and application, we’ve done little more than create a generation of encyclopedias.

With so much emphasis on standardized, rote transmission of facts too many teachers and parents are feeling the pressure to leave out the creative aspects of education and simply check off tasks from the curriculum list. They’re eager to be sure that students know how to fill in the right bubble on their multiple-choice tests, because that is what the powers that be will look at. But in the process they may fail to light the fire of innovation and creative problem solving.

One of my favorite developmental theorists, Jean Piaget, said, “The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done- men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.”[3]

The Gospel

We hope to share the gospel with children who come to this place.  The gospel of Jesus is a relationship.  Children’s primary way of learning is through modeling.  As adults model the love of Christ through relationship, we will open a door to share this life changing story in a way that can truly transform lives.  People come to know Christ primarily through an experience and through relationship.  This is what we hope to cultivate here, so the message of Jesus can go forward and take root deeply in the lives of children.  We cannot emphasize enough that this is a relational ministry and the focus of all volunteers is to build relationships with the children. We also invite and bring children with us to the local churches so they can plug in to the body of Christ in Jaco.


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