Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Week Two in Calderon: More Babies!

Message of the Day - Rita Lakmann
Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. (Mother Teresa)

Buenos Días! We entered Guardería de Nuestra Señora del Carmen #1 and the children shouted this familiar greeting. After working with about 35 children and 6 tias last week in Day Care Center #2, we were anxious to meet the new tías and nearly 50 children in Center #1. We helped the tías serve a somewhat chaotic breakfast, and then eased into our placements. Today was Tía Mariela and Tía Jenny's first day on the job, so our extra hands were much needed.

Highlights from the morning....Edwardo and Tía Mariela spent several hours with the 12 babies in the Rincón de Bebés. Ed had the rare privilege of witnessing one boy's first steps. Julie and Tía Gakz played games indoors with the 2 year olds, and Claudia patiently drew apples for Tía Paty and the children in the Rinion de Construccion. It is difficult to catch Claudia and Julie without a child in their arms! Pamela and Tía Jenny worked with a very active group of 3 year olds, and helped them glue foam pieces onto pictures. Rita, Tía Olga and Tía Germania made sure all children ate a delicious breakfast, lunch and refrigerio. Olga and Germania ensured that Rita thoroughly washed and rinsed the dishes. The women in the kitchen enjoyed music while they cooked! Jennie and Tía Ruth helped another class of 3 year olds sting pieces of straws onto yarn and tied the bracelets onto the children's tiny wrists.

Off to lunch at Mi Quinta restaurant. Jennie was happy to have Blanca as our waitress. Blanca's children go to Day Care Center #2, and Elle and Jennie enjoyed sweeping the 2nd floor with her last week. As we walked back to Day Care Center #1, Cecilia ran out of her marzapan shop to greet us. How wonderful to see familiar, friendly faces as we ate lunch and walked the streets of Calderón. A sure sign we are much more than tourists in this town, The afternoon passed quickly as we held children and traced snails, trees and hearts. The new environment was overwhelming, but after decompressing, we all agreed that we're striving for and achieving our goals: To help FUNDAC and to serve the children. And we're having fun doing it. We laughed about our adventures and mishaps over dinner, and are excited to hug the children again tomorrow.
-Jennie Taylor

Message for Wednesday, January 27 - Pamela Ward
A volunteer is a person that is a light to others, giving witness in a mixed up age, doing well and willingly the tasks at hand - namely being aware of another's needs and doing something about it.

We boarded the bus on this warm and sunny morning to begin our second day at Day Care Center #1. We step through the food market and enter the door to the Center. The children are seated at their round tables drinking warm milk and eating a biscuit. Their smiles beckon us to come and share breakfast with them. There are more children to look after here and coupled with the recent turnover in two out of five tías, our assignments are more challenging. But we are able to apply what we learned last week effectively.

Rita worked with the 4-year-olds, cutting foam pieces, glueing designs and decorating cupcakes with colored paper. Jennie and Ed headed to the local hardware store to purchase items Ed needed for his handyman chores. When not helping Ed get set up, Jennie spent time with one group of 3-year-olds, teaching them the vowel "u". Julie carried out a lot of art projects, played games, sang songs and went to the small outdoor playground with her charges. Claudia was on kitchen duty swaying to the beat of salsa and the Macarena. She had brown fingers from peeling green bananas to show for her effort. Ed was Mr. Handyman. He rebuilt a crib, put up a coat rack in the babies room, rebuilt two highchairs and fixed the third faucet in the children's bathroom. As for myself, I spent most of the day with the second set of 3 year olds, pasting and glueing red foam onto tracings of hearts and apples. The color of the week is "rojo" and the wall was ablaze with Rojo when we finished hanging up the children's creations. The morning flew by as we were continuously active with our assignments, cleaning up, chasing stray niños, washing dirty hands and comforting those who cry.

I spent some time feeding the babies today and gladly obliged as their little mouths opened wide for the next spoonful and the next. After lunch, the children were sound asleep in their two rooms. But soon, one child would emerge and another and another, each groggily wiping the sleep from their eyes, letting out a yawn or two and walking over to us to be held.

In this moment, you realize they don't ask for much at all, they just want a hug, soft words, love and affection. They just want to feel safe..like any child in any part of the world.
- Pamela Ward

Friday, January 23, 2009

Our First Week in Calderon, Ecuador

Message of the Day - Pamela Ward
"Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." (Margaret Mead)

We have all gotten to know each other pretty well and realize that we have so much. By floating from room to room I was able to observe my global volunteer colleagues an "paying it forward" or giving to the children and expecting nothing in return. On the other hand we get much in return and it is hard not to become teary eyed when we are greeted each day; with beautiful smiles and "Hola."

Elle, by the way, wields a mean pickaxe. She had the grass that was growing into the front wall removed in no time flat. Her next task was to supervise two volunteer mothers pulling weeds while at the same time mowing the playground grass. No wonder that by 1 p.m. she took a much needed rest - but it was no ordinary rest. She was on the swing with 3 month old Leonardo cradled in her arms. Latter we learned she loves to eat beetles - if properly prepared. Julie never ceases to amaze us - after just one day of slaving in the kitchen, the staff claims she now speaks Spanish. She has also become rather adept at peeling apples and get out of her way when she is scrubbing.

They cleaned everything - walls. cabinets, doors, and floor. As a post script, the kids ate almost everything today, without too much coaxing. I guess there was some extra love in those pots of food!!

I still hear bells. Around 11 a.m. I was putting tools in the shed and saw Claudia playing soccer with the older ones, "all of four years old." The kids were laughing and shaking the bells on their wrists that Claudia tied on. It was quite a sight. Later we were all glad to have some quiet time. While the little ones napped, I spotted Claudia holding a sobbing Adam. Poor Aidem and his brother Abel are always so sad. Each day with hugging, holding and soothing - English of all things - they seem to be responding.

Paty says Pamela's the "princess" of arts and crafts, lego building and puzzles. She speaks to the little ones with such kindness and warmth they feel loved and comfortable and want to participate and cooperate. The floater also noticed she had the clean plate table at lunch - they ate it all. It must have been that extra love in the food pot and the kindness in the voice.
Rita spent the day with the inquisitive two year olds. What a handful they are but they are calmed by Rita's infectious smile and her calming demeanor. Just peak into the "Home Room" and watch them serve a meal to Rita.

The two-year-old niños seem to be the best at high fives - I saw Rita coaching them along too. PS. She likes to hold Leonardo too!!

Last but not least - where was Jennie most of the afternoon? Just think, we were allowed to walk back from lunch unsupervised and we even got on the bus by ourselves. It seems that Jennie and Mari spent several hours with FUNDAC officers planning the coming years activities and construction schedule. It will be difficult this year for FUNDAC since the number of volunteer are way down. Please convince anyone you can to "pay it forward" and consider helping the neediest children of Calderón.
-Ed Collins

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Working on the Millennium Development Goals

As with every Global Volunteers team, our projects in Calderon are geared toward meeting our commitment to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Our Calderon Development Partnership addresses two of those goals: To Reduce Child Mortality Rates; and To Provide Complete Primary Schooling for Boys and Girls. In this regard, the FUNDAC childcare program works in a manner similar to the Head Start program in the U.S. to provide a firm health and education footing for preschoolers so they are ready for primary school.

Every volunteers works eight hours a day in project preparations and on-site work. We're committed to full-time assistance to the work project. Either in child care, assisting meal preparations, or helping to construct the new Center, our efforts are focused on improving and expanding our assistance to FUNDAC.

Today, Claudia returned to her children after a day in the kitchen and they were thrilled to have her back. The little ones grabbed her legs and she sat herself down in the child size plastic chairs to play and interact. Rita spent time with her group of youngsters and with what little downtime she had, cradled baby Leonardo. Julie returned to her babies and used her teaching skills to help three older children of the mothers with their English. They were attentive students and it was captivating to hear them count to twenty and learn the English names of animals.
Ed, Elle and Jennie did the dirty work. Ed worked with Walter, the father of one of the children, to finish repairing the fence. Ed and Walter then moved 80 cement blocks to the courtyard to help with the goal of cleaning out the second floor so it can be skim coated. Elle and Jennie swept up and carried buckets and buckets of sand and dirt from the second floor to the courtyard and their dust covered faces and hair were the lasting evidence of this hardship duty. Two primary labor goals were now completed. Living up to the philosophy of Global Volunteers, the labor projects were accomplished with the willing hands of several parents of the children in this daycare.
I spent the day in the kitchen with Elisa and Isabelle. Warm and cheerful women they are, who talked a blue streak, thinking I knew more Spanish than I do. It is times like this that I wish I could better communicate as there are many questions to ask and stories to share. I am glad I had the opportunity to spend time with these two and see how much effort goes into preparing just one day's worth of meals for 40 children.

While in the kitchen, I could be an observer. Hour after hour there was the happy sound of 40 energetic children learning about the color azul, playing in the courtyard and eating chocolate covered bananas. I watched as they merrily chased bubbles in the sunlit courtyard and played soccer with the four balls we purchased the day before. And I observed just how dedicated, enthusiastic and special my teammates were.

After lunch, we made cut outs of fruit which will be assembled into several mobiles. This gave us time to spend with Christina and some of the staff. These women work so hard and have infinite patience. Christina was asked if she was tired at the end of the day. She replied, "Yes. but I take home the smiles of the children."

Hopefully we will leave a positive imprint on these little ones, hopefully we will teach them something. But these children are teaching us more than they will ever know.
-Pamela Ward

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Initiating Our 10th Year in Calderon

Message of the Day - Julie Barner
"No one has ever become poor by giving of themselves."

They know us now. Forty little voices greeting us in unison as we entered the daycare center. "Buenos Dias" with the boldest among them rushing to be lifted and embraced.

It was another productive day, leaving our team tired but exhilarated at the same time, and appreciative of this opportunity to give our time and talents to these beautiful children and the mothers of Calderón.
Elle earned the biggest gold star of the day for resurrecting an old lawnmower to replace the grass cutting steak knife. With it she worked her magic in the garden.
By mid-morning Ed got his wish: nails - new ones, to replace the recycled rusty ones. By the end of the day he had rebuilt much of the quaint, colorful fence along the garden giving new life to the exterior of the building. A number of the children have taken to calling him Tio and they look forward to seeing him when he leaves the garden to come in and play.
Julie spent her second day with the Bebés, There isn't a moment of rest in this room - diapers to change, mouths to be filled, faces to be washed and little teeth to be brushed. She loves every minute of it.

The two- and three-year-olds at the Center adore both Pam and Rita, and each child wants to sit next to them at their little tables when meals and snacks are served. The children love getting their special attention and Rita and Pam have plenty to give.
You peel "muchas papas in catorce años". That's what Claudia learned Tuesday from Señora Elisa, the Center's chief in the kitchen. Claudia spent the day washing little bowls and cups, peeling potatoes, washing little bowls and cups, chopped onions, cilantro and cabbage, and did I mention washing little bowls and cups?
Our fearless leader Jennie would step in and interpret for each of us and for the second day led us safely through the back streets of Calderón to have our lunch, and to stop along the way to purchase new soccer balls for our ninos.
Returning to the hotel on Tuesday evening we watched our new American President's inauguration. For his Inaugural address, President Obama reminded us that all people deserve peace, justice and dignity.. sentiments that reflect the goals and intentions of each of us serving as Global Volunteers in Ecuador.
- Claudia Danovic