It took 10 people to lift it. A job we had all pondered over for a few days had come and gone in a matter of minutes. 10 people, some dads, uncles and a brother or two. The giant steel cross at the corner of the school, so much a part of the scenery of the grounds for so many years, had been lifted from its foundations and brought across the field to its new future home, a soon-to-be-constructed church. Sure it’s covered in rust and won’t be standing upright again for a few years yet, but for all intents and purposes it won’t be moved again.
The monumental task of uplifting this cross represents the changes happening these days at SMBS. Before, it had stood proudly at the corner of the grounds, to be seen over the walls and around the colonia. A symbol of the work our partners the Hermanas Augustinas were doing in the community. However because of the construction of the new Library and Computer Lab, you could barely see it. Time had come to shift things around a little bit.
SMBS is growing, and fast.
This year we have seen the library find a permanent home, with over 3000 books and counting. Teachers from our partner schools have begun to borrow from us for the very first time. We currently find ourselves thinking big, continuously improving. Library cushions for kids to sit and read on have just been made and are waiting to be delivered (Thanks to Ms. Leah’s mom and friends!). We are soon to start installing a new electronic check-out system. The Library rules are on the wall, long enough that they might need a quick dusting. Prepa kids are creeping into the room for the very first time (“Quiet! the other books are asleep…”). Now when we visit established libraries in other schools we no longer sigh and lament the differences but proudly wonder when, and not if, our library will look the same.
Next door is our new Computer Lab. There is a computer for every student, shared with every grade. At the time of writing we have just set up our first permanent projector in the room, waiting for the day soon when internet will add an infinite amount of resources to the programs we already have installed. 3 grades already have permanent hours a week for Computer classes, most who have never clicked a mouse in their lives. Now each of them has a user name and a computer of their own. At lunch, they huddle around the window to the lab telling their parents in excited tones “Mira ve la d3 es la mia!”.
All the while, the number of students grows. 118 this year, 153 the next. Recess is noisier, Lunch is more chaotic, but as much as this brings its own new problems to overcome, you cannot shed the sense that the school is growing up.
The sight of 10 families straining to hold that cross is not a unique sight. These weeks, we are undertaking a massive project to join the school sewage system to the town’s main lines. It’s a messy job, and well overdue. One dad is directing the project, working for points as well as a modest sum provided by our partners. However, upwards from 20 families have been arriving for two weeks to work on the project, entirely for points. Other families who work and are unable to collaborate themselves in the project have found help for us, paid them out of their own pocket, and asked only to be reimbursed appropriately in points. Their reason: seeing so many people working together on a project so important, collaborating for the future development of the school, they feel they have to help.
This is the 2nd year of the tiered points system in the school. A massive undertaking over the past few years by two intrepid volunteer teams , it continues to help involve about 60% of the families directly in the maintenance of the school. A further 40% contribute, as importantly, by paying their points and thus providing an essential income to the school. As the school grows, so the need to tweek and evolve this unique system increases. However, it is clear that the ‘ganas’ for the system, and the collaborative spirit it enriches, have never been higher.
SMBS continues to grow ,and so does the enthusiasm and involvement of the community it serves.

Author profile
BECA Alumni

Andrew Scanlan graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a degree in European Studies and a minor in French. Andrew hails from Dublin where he has lived all his life except for a brief 3 month stint in Berkely, CA in the summer of 2010. In September 2010 Andrew studied abroad in Spain at the Universidad de Oviedo where he worked as a teaching assistant in a primary school for 8 months, working with children aged 6- 12 to improve their English skills. It was during this year that Andrew discovered a passion for education, using his experience to help children improve their language skills as a tool for fully reaching their potential. Andrew is very excited to be staying a 2nd year with BECA as Program Administrator at SMBS, after working as a 2nd Grade teacher there in 2012/13. He hopes to continue a career in international development with regard to education in regions which need it the most.