In this journal entry from her third day in service, Ecuador volunteer Ann Hite reflects on what the young children at an early childhood development center on the outskirts of Quito have taught her while she has played with and taken care of them. Ann served at a center that feeds and educates 60 children from very disadvantaged backgrounds. Here she describes playing with the children, and experiencing how for them, everything is an awesome learning opportunity. Ann describes what the little ones taught her about being in the present and getting attached at the heart.
By Ann Hite
Today was our third day at the Centro Infantil (Early Childhood Development Center), so we decided to rotate into different classrooms. This change added some layers to my experience. I became very aware of how tightly tiny humans attach themselves to your heart and your leg. When Logan saw me with Teacher Cinthya’s class, he wrapped himself around my leg and would not let go until his teacher noticed and said something to him. I missed my group from the past two days but also quickly connected with these littler ones who made Teacher Diana’s group seem like sort of big kids!
“I became very aware of how tightly tiny humans attach themselves to your heart and your leg.”– Ann Hite
So many things are amazing to me about working with small children. They are SO OPEN! Every thing and person they encounter is an awesome learning opportunity. A small ball of play dough could be a flower, a cup, a heart or a snake, and every new object was as interesting and exciting as the last. They observe and explore without self-imposed barriers. Julieta quietly tried every combination of legos without frustration for 30 minutes with total concentration. They are in the moment! David worked hard to collect as many of the magnetic tiles as he could for the sophisticated structure he was creating, but as soon as his mom came to pick him up he couldn’t wait to pass all the tiles back to the other kids. They move easily, if emotionally, from one situation to the next. Paulette was NOT having the melon for morning snack, but when it was soup for lunch she slurped it up and proudly announced “¡Como!” “I’m eating!” They are resilient and look to their leaders for cues. When Samuel landed on the floor by accident, he gave me a worried look, and when he saw my encouraging smile, he bounced off to play.
So, truly, if self-awareness is about honesty and non-judgment, and if I can get there by losing myself in service to others, then I choose the little ones for my teachers! In three days they have reminded me to be open to new learning, to observe without fear, to be patient and present in the moment, to feel my feelings and move on, and to take cues from those who know. And, also to get attached at the heart through play and stories and humor.
“So, truly, if self-awareness is about honesty and non-judgment, and if I can get there by losing myself in service to others, then I choose the little ones for my teachers!”– Ann Hite