By: CAITLIN SALVINO
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Today we were supposed to go visit a summer camp in Llullin (pronouced Ju-jin). I was really looking forward to it, not only to spend time with the children but because Rebecca and I had a special connection to that community. Llulin was the community where a school was being built, funded by our Impact Club. We were extremely excited to see exactly where and who our club had spent two years raising money for. Unfortunately, there was a change in plans and we ended up going back to Shuid to spend the day with the children in the community there. Once we got there, I vividly remember all of the children waiting for us to get up to the school, waving and yelling, excited to see us!
We met some of the children yesterday before beginning to build. It was there that I first began to interact with them. At first they were very very shy so I would lower myself to their level (either by sitting or crouching) and say “Hola” while sticking out my hand for a high five or to shake their hand. At first they were shy and looked away, but slowly they’d come up and shake my hand. Using my broken Spanish I had learned the night before, I introduced myself, told them my name, asked them for their name, and then would ask random questions such as, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?” or “Do you like school?”
Then when I ran out of Spanish words to use I would move on to non-verbal communication. I would let them try on my equipment (my work gloves in particular). I would play the high five game where, as they were trying to high five me, I’d pull my hand back. They absolutely loved that game. When I met Maria Ignes she had the most beautiful braids. I spent several minutes at pointing to her braids and then back at my hair until she finally understood that I was asking her to braid mine. She began giving me pigtails.
One of the first phrases I taught myself in Spanish was “Do you like soccer?” and then “I’m better than you at soccer.” I used this quite a lot today while playing soccer on the main court with the older boys. They were really shocked at how good a player I was, mostly because I was a girl and in their community girls don’t ever play sports with them.
A little while after that I met the three girls who I bonded the most with: Angelika, Sylvia, and Cicilia. I first saw them hiding in the bathroom looking at me and giggling. I got them to come over and I introduced myself. They liked to call me Catalina. They were quite shy and to make them feel more comfortable I took out my camera and let them take pictures of us. They had never really seen a camera before and were shocked, waving their hands in front of it and seeing it turn up on the screen. I taught them how to take pictures and by the end of our 10 days there, they were professionals.
Many of the other volunteers and even our facilitators were shocked at how well I interacted with the children, seeing that I didn’t speak a word of Spanish. They commented on it and even asked me to give them some advice on interacting with the kids. I explained that the reason I worked so well with them is because at home I work with kids around the same age, and even halfway around the world there are some games and tricks (like lowering down to their level to make them more comfortable) that all kids love. When working with the kids I barely even noticed the language barrier because we worked around it so easily.
After lunch almost all of the kids had left and our group was waiting to begin building. While waiting, I was sitting with Maria and her sister Paula. I was asking them questions about their home when they pulled out their lunch: a single orange. I was talking to them as they unpeeled it and split it in half. They then offered the bigger half to me. I was absolutely shocked. I quickly said “No thank you” several times and told them I wanted them to have it. I could not believe the selflessness that they had; despite having so little they still tried to give me more than half of what they had. This moment made me rethink how our society back in Canada is run and made me think of some of the things I should be doing for others.
That afternoon I worked on painting the roof tiles. We had three stations where someone would clean the dirt off the tiles with steel wool. Then someone would dust off remaining dirt on the tiles with regular wool and then someone was painting. Luckily I had the help of little Milton, who was five years old and loved using the regular wool to dust off the tiles.
I went to bed that night exhausted but a little bit more grateful for my warm sleeping bag. One of my last thoughts before drifting off to sleep was about Angelika, one of the girls I had met I wondered if she was already asleep by now, if she was warm, and lastly if she remembered me.