Carlos & the Best Job in the World
Of course one of the most important aspects of Spark’s Partnership Trips is the time that we spend with the children served by the programs. In the case of Las Tias, there are two centers that are run on weekdays: one for adolescents and one for children in primary school. We spent the most time at the projecto por los ninos pequeños – the Younger Children’s Project. The children here either come for about five hours in the morning before they go to school in the afternoon, or they arrive around lunchtime and have already attended school in the morning. Las Tias is a safe and nurturing place where they receive food, educational support, cultural lessons and emotional, psychological and healthcare support.
The staff indicated that one of the most useful things that our group could do would be to work with some of the children on their English. So Lucy created a conversational English lesson and each trip participant was paired with one or two of the students. Together we learned how to introduce ourselves, ask one another’s age and several other common phrases. “Me llamo Ricardo,” I would say…and the little guy I was working would reply, “Mi nombre es Carlos.” The children were eager to learn and quickly mastered the phrases. So then we moved on to flashcards with various words and numbers.
While the time spent with these types of activities is relatively brief, the impact is significant. It gives them a jump on their English studies and reinforces the importance of language skills in order for them to succeed in school and future work life. The children and educators alike are both so appreciative that we would take the time to visit, learn about their lives and support them in this small way.
From the English lessons, we moved on to crafts, games and the all-important meal program. Our trip participants helped to wash hands, serve the meal, and distribute tooth brushes and toothpaste. The meal program at Las Tias is high quality and very organized. Each child begins by washing their hands with soap and water, and then gets in line for the meal. As they enter the kitchen they are asked what size portion they would like and they know they are required to eat whatever they take. The meals are good portions and include a variety of vegetables, carbohydrates and protein. After they are finished eating, they go and pick up their assigned toothbrush and brush their teeth.
Just as I finished up helping to wash all of the kids’ hands for the meal, my English lesson partner Carlos came running up to me and presented me with a bead necklace. As I knelt down so he could put it around my neck I thought, I have the best job in the world.