On a previous post, Mari described how volunteering with adult children can enhance the service experience. Here she talks about the highlights of volunteering as a family in Cuba – Mari, her sons Sy and Kole, and girlfriend Mary.
As only the second group to volunteer in Havana, the structure for our work developed over the weeks. We relied on our creativity for senior center activities and a curriculum for English conversation with the various church-affiliated students seeking to improve their language skills. How would the kids do with an improvised road map?
At first, we wondered how well we’d be able to work with the residents at the the senior center, and if it was the “right” project because of the language barrier. But, we soon realized there were enough of us in our large Global Volunteers group with sufficient Spanish to facilitate effective communication. And the kids learned quickly enough that the language “barrier” really wasn’t a barrier after all!
Calling bingo, singing songs, chatting with assistance from others, taking photos, cleaning, painting and warm embraces were all things they could and did provide to the seniors. As for the English students, they each developed their own approaches by tailoring class to the level and interest of the students. For my youngest son and his advanced student, they stumbled into identifying and teaching idioms as a way to guide conversation and focus their studies. My older son and his girlfriend, together with their beginner students, focused on basic conversation and vocabulary, with slang sprinkled in at the request of their young adult students. Words seem inadequate to describe this experience, and as amazing as my son’s girlfriend’s photos are, they don’t capture the fullness of our experience volunteering as a family in Cuba: the challenges; questions and answers; bumps in the road; connections; reflections; triumphs; and the small, quiet moments of just being together.
In two short weeks, the kids (and we) bonded with those with whom we worked, the couple who housed us and with fellow volunteers. They were able to get to know a small sliver of the beauties of Cuba and the Cuban people. Processing it all and sharing that experience with them feels like a wonderful gift.
“Words seem inadequate to describe this experience, and as amazing as my son’s girlfriend’s photos are, they don’t capture the fullness of our experience volunteering as a family in Cuba: the challenges; questions and answers; bumps in the road; connections; reflections; triumphs; and the small, quiet moments of just being together.”
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