Being a slacker
This is an article (testimonial?) that I wrote for Friends of The Orphans, a U.S. organization that supports Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos. Maybe I am just being a slacker or maybe you all want to read it . . .
I never thought I could I could do what I am doing. Leave my family, my friends, and everyday comforts to live in a different, less-comfortable country for 13 months? Yeah, right. But something changed in me one night as I was reading an email sent by a friend who was volunteering for Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos Honduras. Her email made me want to learn more about N.P.H and so I visited their website that same evening. It was that late June night, reading the testimonials of other volunteers, that I realized for the first time I could do something like this and, more importantly, I wanted to do something. A month later, I accepted a volunteer position as a Resource Teacher at N.P.H. Honduras.
I arrived here in the surprisingly cool air of January. I remember my first moments well, stepping off a packed public bus and walking up the gravel, pine-tree-lined road. It was a long walk and I was burdened not only by my backpack, but by the inevitable doubts and fears that come with change. How was I going to become a part of the lives of these kids? How was I going to spend over a year away from home? How was I going to teach my students using a language that I myself was only learning? What if I couldn’t do it? What if they didn’t like me? What if I might fail?
“What if I might fail?” seems a funny question to me now. Of course I have failed! I’ve said the wrong things, messed up explaining long division in Spanish, had moments (okay, days) of frustration and general crabbiness, gotten lost, misunderstood, and lost my patience. I am an expert in these small failures. But I see now that these failures are necessary—through them I am learning what I need to know. Learning to fail—and to learn from my failures—has been one of the greatest lessons of my time here.
I try to share this lesson with my students. As a Resource Teacher, or Aula de Recurso teacher, I work one on one with children who need additional attention outside of the regular classroom. Some of my students show signs of learning disorders and all of them have low self-confidence. My job is to provide reinforcement of the concepts being taught in the regular classroom. As we learn and practice, I try to provide a space in which they can make mistakes and learn from them, and challenge them not to give in to the fear of failure, but to be brave and risk being wrong in order to learn.
My days, as a volunteer, are long, sometimes approaching 12 hours. My job is not easy. The kids can be difficult. Some days, I am homesick or my Spanish doesn’t work or I feel invisible. So, why am I here? I am here to tuck in Armando and to see Glenda understand her homework. I am here because I am called “Auntie” and because of kids I don’t even know who run up to me and walk with me. I am here because Yefry tells me he loves me. I am here because of Ruth's sticky hands that reach up to hold mine. I am here because there are tears to be tickled away and stories that need to be told.
I am here because there is no place I would rather be. I am doing something I never thought I could do and being happier than I ever thought I would be. I am meeting amazing children and being let into their lives, having the privilege of loving them and being loved back. I don’t get a big pay check, my life is far from glamorous, but I couldn’t ask for more. It’s not easy to be a volunteer, but it is worth it. Let me tell you, it’s really worth it.