Sep 2 2008

Math Olympiad

Today’s post is written by Jose Merida, a data analyst, lay preacher and volunteer. He’s a member of the Church of the Nazarene, supports the ministry of Semillitas de Fe Student Center and reads our blog on a regular basis. Jose lives in Guatemala City where he’s constantly dreaming up ways to change the world for the Lord.


Last month the leadership from our student center, Semillitas de Fe Student Center (GU-950) in Guatemala City, invited me to come up with a program to encourage our sponsored kids in their academic achievement.

A couple of years ago, I taught many of the kids from this student center, and I was excited to be back, even if it was for a little while. So I asked the Lord for His guidance in prayer.

I used to coordinate the spiritual development program at GU-950 and shared lots of time, through lessons, camps and vacation bible study programs, with these kids. I knew them well enough to know that when I ask them for their favorite subject, they say math, over half the time, but also that they often get bored and discouraged with monotonous homework.

Knowing this and having a degree in math and physics myself, I proposed conducting a Math Olympiad for them on August 15, a local holiday, and right in the middle of the Summer Olympics. I wanted to get the kids excited about math and academics in general.

The local leadership liked the idea and approved it right away.

I had a great time preparing all the workbooks and problems, diplomas, medals, arranging for the food, inviting the teachers to come and help, and on the morning of August 15 we were ready to serve the 46 kids that showed up to participate (16 boys, 30 girls, ages 7-15).

I also invited a local doctor to encourage and challenge the kids to study a lot. It was amazing to see these little brothers and sisters of mine, all of whom are sponsored through Compassion, showing up courageously to participate in this event armed with their pencils and erasers and a big smile.

We actually conducted two different contests, one for elementary and another for middle school students. The contest itself lasted around 30 minutes, but the kids stayed for a couple more hours to have some pizza, playtime, and participate in the award ceremony.

math-olympiad-participants-in-action

We started the day in prayer and reminded them that this was just a contest, as we tried to help ease any nervousness among them. After the contest, every child was recognized with a certificate of participation. And during the award ceremony, they all also got a chance to hear from this young doctor who grew up in the community and at this church. He encouraged them to dream big and put their dreams in the Lord’s hands.

Finally, the top 12 scorers were called to the front to receive their medals and diplomas. The Olympic champion’s fanfare played in the background, as their names were announced. Their peers cheered them, and Olympiad’s best marched to the front to receive their awards. Then we sung the national anthem.

bronze-medal-winners

It was a moving time for the teachers. We congratulated all the kids and once again encouraged them to study their math and give their best at their schools.

We closed with our theme verse for the event, which was also printed in the diplomas and certificates – Mark 12:30 (NIV).

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Then in prayer we thanked the Lord for the experiences of the day and for all the sponsors who funded this event, and asked Him for His blessing upon all of us.

Since the Olympiad we have heard testimonies of parents in disbelief when their kids showed up at home with a medal. Now the parents feel very encouraged to support their kids more.

We have also heard testimonies from some of the kids who never thought they could do well at math or have a talent for this or any other subject, and now they embrace the challenge to put more focus on their academics.

Even the teachers got excited and tried to solve the problems themselves, and although they didn’t score as good as the kids ; ) , they felt encouraged to organize more events like this one for other subjects in the upcoming months.

And many of the kids are already asking for another Math Olympiad next year.

Praise be to the Lord!

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  1. Sarah
    Sep 2, 2008
    at 1:31 pm

    That’s awesome! I hope that there can be programs like this at all the projects! :)

  2. Sep 2, 2008
    at 1:46 pm

    Kids love games, challenges and being recognized, don’t they? So glad you arranged this and encouraged everyone in their studies. I love hearing about work and fun in the projects. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Sep 2, 2008
    at 1:48 pm

    Jose q lindo q siempre estas cambiando muchas vidas todos los dias. dios te bendiga mucho!

  4. Sep 2, 2008
    at 2:42 pm

    ¡Jose bien hecho – parece a una medalla de oro para usted!

    God bless you and these kids!

  5. Sep 2, 2008
    at 3:13 pm

    I am a missionary who lives in Guatemala City and have ministered with José Mérida for the past five years. His church and this program he is talking baout is located in waht many experts say is the most dangerous neighborhood in all of Central America. I am proud of what José is doing and thank Compassion for investing in the lives of these kids, many of whom come from broken homes.

  6. Sep 2, 2008
    at 4:27 pm

    What a big small I got from this post! I wish the sort of thing were available to each of my sponsored girls; I certainly would encourage them to participate!

    I’m a little surprised that so many more girls than boys participated. Was that because more boys had to work?

  7. Sep 2, 2008
    at 6:53 pm

    I always think it’s great when the teachers don’t score as well as the kids! Thanks — what a great story — love to see the smiles on their faces!

  8. Sara Benson
    Sep 2, 2008
    at 7:41 pm

    Thank you for cordinating this opportunity for the kids. It sounds like all had fun and were encouraged to keep their dreams high and work hard. I would love to see something of this sort at many more projects.
    Dios te bendiga

  9. Sarah
    Sep 2, 2008
    at 7:59 pm

    What a wonderful and cool way to get the kids involved in math. I love to hear about kids learning and having fun!

  10. Sep 2, 2008
    at 10:13 pm

    I usually spell quite well, but apparently, I slipped a cog, this morning. My response to the post was a big *smile*–not a “small,” which I can’t define.

  11. Sep 3, 2008
    at 5:59 am

    I must admit I had to chuckle when I saw the first picture posted…I can see myself (well, me about 15 years ago…)in the little girl who is sitting in the back row with her hand on her forehead trying to concentrate so hard. Just amazing to see them working so hard – what an awesome story! Praise God!

  12. Heather
    Sep 4, 2008
    at 12:53 am

    What a great story! I LOVE reading stories like this because it brings such hope and fun to the children! Im so glad that more girls were there! Girls doing well in math is quite an achievement. Via con Dios Jose!

  13. Sep 4, 2008
    at 5:20 pm

    What a great event for these kids! As a teacher I think it’s so important to make learning fun for kids.

  14. Oct 27, 2008
    at 3:00 am

    An excellent way to nurture greater self confidence in the students.

  15. Debbi Akers
    Jan 29, 2009
    at 12:13 pm

    Dear Jose,
    I was so excited to come across your blog post. My sweet little gal that I sponsor, Velveth, attends the Semillitas de Fe Student Center (GU-950). I was so thrilled to see such a beautiful program for her to benefit from, not to mention, knowing that there are people like yourself pouring your lives out for the Glory of God all around her!

    I would love to talk with you more about the center if at all possible. You are welcome to contact me via e-mail (akersfamilyof5@gmail.com). I will be traveling to Guatamala on an advocates tour this June. I pray that we get to come by this particular center.

    May God continue to bless all that you do for His Glory.
    Debbi

  16. Mike Stephens
    Mar 28, 2009
    at 5:42 pm

    Quine Vive???…Christo!!!

    That is AWESOME!!! We did “mad minutes” for multiplication in 3rd grade and I was the only one to get 100% on all and since I did I got to go out to Pizza Hut with my teacher!!! I still remember eating all that Pepperoni Pizza!!! man was it good!!! I need work to have some more amazing successes than that!!! That was back in 3rd grade!!! I need to get moving so I can have some current ones!!!

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