“Go with the flow”

The day started off with a hearty breakfast, as usual. With the arrival of Laura from Lexington, MA, our motley 13-member volunteer team was complete!

Edith, our ebullient host, briefed us on the protocols to follow on our first day at the children’s center: no photos until later in the week, willingness to be deployed to any chore at any time, and splitting the donations between the two centers.

After breakfast, we boarded our bus. With the bus’s sliding windows, rattling window panes, its jerky movements during gear shifts, and its thick diesel fumes, I was reminded so much of India. Actually there are so many facets of this lovely country that remind me so much of India that in spite of having been here only for 2 days, I feel right at home here!

We arrived at a fruit market right in the heart of Calderon. After a few steps through the market, we got into guardería #1, with that childish excitement of meeting the children at the center. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by a loud chorus of ¡Hola! It is really amazing how universal some things are, when it comes to children’s behavior! After a quick “lottery”, Edith split the team into two, one for each center. All of us walked to the second center, and on the way, we got a glimpse of the neighborhood. It is a poor neighborhood, but all the people we met were so warm and welcoming. Gosh, I already love this country! We toured center #2, and inspected the ongoing construction work. Michelle, a returning volunteer, commented on how much progress had been made since she had last been here, a year ago.

The people assigned to center #1 walked back to their center and we assumed our respectively assigned duties. I was in Rincon Ciencia, with Tiá Elisabeth. The initial half hour was a little challenging, as I was trying to recall some of the Spanish words I had learned from the guidebook. One of the kids quickly picked up “OK” – I assume I had used it so much without thinking about it, that she caught on to its meaning! I helped Elisabeth with some tracing work, and then helped the kids with some drawings. Thank God I knew the words for cloud, sun, sky and rain!

We helped the tiá’s serve the kids’ lunch, and after the kids were all settled in, we walked down the street to a neighborhood restaurant for lunch. In the afternoon, we helped cut out some patterns that were going to be used to make hats for a park outing later in the week.

At the end of the day, I was exhausted (the 9300 ft. elevation didn’t help.) But the fact that the tiá’s worked so hard day in and day out gave me the strength to continue. Come to think of it, I will be back in Palo Alto in 2 weeks’ time, and these women will still be working in this challenging environment. In a lot of ways, all the women in this center really inspire me to work hard every day of my life; in a funny way, they are helping me, rather than the other way around.

Written by Arun
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