Let the Volunteering Begin

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August 29th 2011
Published: September 14th 2011
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I apologize again for my incredibly long lapse in blog entries. I will try to catch up, so get ready for another slew of updates!

August 29th
Since it was our first morning Maria Jesus (the overall coordinator and owner of Aurora Andina) picked us up from our house and walked with us downtown to the Aurora Andina Spanish School where I will be having my spanish lessons. It is about a 20-30 minute walk so in the mornings I can either walk or take a bus. The school is cute and fairly small, but I like it. We met Joao there (the volunteer coordinator) and he introduced us to our project. I was signed up for the ´standard´program where I would visit and work with the same girl´s orphanage every day to tutor and play with the girls. In that program I could build a relationship with the girls and actually see a change in them but I was also given another interesting option. The other volunteer was signed up for the ´diverse´program where we would visit a different place every day and then the same places every week. In that program it is possible to affect more kids in need and to see many different orphanages and schools. Both are good for their own reasons and it was hard to choose, but I will try the diverse program for 2 weeks and when see if I want to keep doing that or if I want to switch to the standard program for the rest of my time. When that was all sorted out the three of us (Joao, Vivi (the other volunteer), and I) went on a small tour of the historical district of the city. We went to a huge indoor mall which is actually just a building full of ton of small individual stands selling everything you can imagine so I will have to visit it again to explore and possibly buy some things. By the time we got home we were hungry and tired and we hadn´t even begun our work.

After lunch Joao met us again to take us to our first volunteer place for the week, San Judas Chico, the girl´s orphanage that I would visit in the standard program where we will go every Monday. Today was a holiday celebrating one of their many saints so the girls didn´t have school in the morning and so didn´t have homework to do this afternoon. Instead we just played with them. The girls loved having us there and especially loved taking pictures with Vivi and my cameras and seeing them afterwards. The playground at the orphanage is very small and has hardly anything in it to play on but the girls were good at amusing themselves with hardly anything. They were so adorable and cute by the time we left I was thinking I might have to rethink my project choice. I was excited for volunteering before we went there and now I am even more excited for my weeks to come! Back at our house it had been a long day, so it was straight to bed!

August 30th
My first day of spanish classes! I had no clue what to expect. When I first got here I had to take a test to see what level I am at and what I need to work on. Turns out I fail miserably at irregular verbs, surprise... So for the rest of the class today we pretty much just focused on those. I had learned them all before in school, it is just a matter of memorizing them and remember them when I am in the middle of a conversation. I think these classes will be very helpful, at minimum just for the time I have to talk only in spanish with someone who can correct my mistakes and answer my questions, the only part that is kind of a bummer is that I have homework. Here I am taking a year off from school, and I STILL have to do work!

Today for volunteering we went to a shelter for trafficked and abused girls. By the time we left there I had again fallen in love with the girls and might have to rethink my placement AGAIN. The girls were so talkative and happy to see us, it was very heartwarming. If I hadn´t been told beforehand that they had been abused, I never would have guessed. We started off with some stretching and physical exercise since the girls are not allowed to leave the shelter and are stuck in there all day, not doing much.There were only 7 girls, aged about 14-18, and they were very sweet. We did a bit of meditation and then Joao led a discussion about responsibility and dicipline where each girl had to give an example of each and then we talked about each example. When we are there it is important to motivate the girls and teach them the importance of taking care of themselves so they don´t just go back to their old life when they leave the shelter. Then it was dinner time! We helped the girls make spaghetti with bacon and hamburger (a special treat, they usually just eat bread and tea for dinner). While we cooked Vivi and I asked the girls about their goals for the future and it was very good to hear that they all had one! One wanted to be a professor, a few others wanted to cook and work in restaurants, and all of them wanted to learn English! Starting next week or the week after Vivi and I can come up with some activities of our own that we want to do with the kids at each place we visit. I can´t wait to see the girls again next week! When we got home we went straight to bed again. I felt pretty lame, it was only 9 but our days have been so tiring and its only the second day!


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