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SLU-Madrid Makes Elementary Schoolers' Wishes Come True Through Outreach

by Isaiah Voss on 04/17/2024


On Friday, April 12, 12 SLU-Madrid students volunteered at a school in Puertollano, Castilla-La Mancha.

Alongside Hamish Binns, modern languages and ESL director, students took a bus to Puertollano’s elementary school CEIP Cda. Mireia Belmonte, 150 miles (243 kilometers) south of Madrid.

The visit to Puertollano was not just a great way to give back; it was also an academic experience that formed part of the Saint Louis University Undergraduate Core.

"This is one of the SLU-Madrid Reflection-in-Action experiences, partially funded by the University," said Binns. "And only recommended to those that have a lot of energy, don't mind getting dirty, and like working with kids."

Once on the ground, the group helped in classrooms and repainted the playground walls with the elementary schoolers. The school offers K-6 education to children from socio-economically challenged backgrounds, and for some students, the school lunchroom offers the only hot meal of the day.

A SLU student sits talks to a group of four elementary students, seen from behind, sitting at desks in a classroom.

Student De'Von France sits with elementary schoolers during a classroom visit. Photo by Hamish Binns.

"We organized language activities for the classes followed by a huge scavenger hunt with challenges, and after lunch we prepared the new 'alphabet wall' and a background scene to the playground based on drawings that the children had given us," said Binns. He later mentioned that students and their families came on Saturday to give color to the murals.

In 2015, María Gracia Ramos Gil became the school's principal. She had a vision to give a voice to the community, so she had students decorate a paper apple tree in the school entrance where students, families and teachers wrote their wishes for the school on paper leaves. And once they become true, the leaves are replaced with apples.

Binns said that one wish was to visit the beach and "other wishes were to speak English with native speakers and to have a more colorful school and that is how SLU-Madrid got involved." 

In fall 2018, the first SLU volunteers organized workshops at the school. SLU-Madrid returned in spring 2019 to paint a mural. Since then, except for 2020 due to the pandemic, SLU-Madrid students have returned every year, contributing their time and effort to help make the school community’s wishes come true.

"The apple tree had to be moved last year because it was bearing too much fruit," Binns said.