I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been keeping busy and I wanted to tell you about what Ive been up to. I’ve recently started doing some volunteer work with children. Let me start from the beginning… I was introduced to this organization that helps children, specifically Indigenous children here in our community. I had never heard anything about this place until a Panamanian friend of mine went with me and introduced me to the director and to the teachers!
I was a bit concerned about the fact that I didn’t see any other gringos there doing any volunteer work. Was there some reason that I didn’t know about that was keeping the expat community from getting involved in this organization? I decided to just dive in and see where it took me.
Well, given my limited ability to communicate with the director and the teachers I decided I would just start going there and try to slowly understand how this place works and what I could do to help. I wasn’t sure what they needed and if they even wanted me there at first. The first few times I went I learned that there’s really no direction whatsoever in terms of what I should do. The teachers and students all seemed really glad to have me there but no one really asked me to do anything and I found myself just sorta trying to sit and talk with the kids and I did some coloring with them and just began to be a presence. The kids were always so happy to see me and the teachers seemed glad to have another adult around, so, shrug, I decided I’d just see what happened…
Slowly I began to see a possible reason that the expat community isn’t hugely involved in this school. For one thing, the school and the teachers are pretty unorganized and if you don’t speak Spanish it makes it a challenge to do much. My Spanish is good enough to make myself understood (sorta!) and to understand ‘mostly’ what is being said, but certainly I’m a bit limited in terms of really having an informative conversation with the people in charge. But, I will admit that one of the many things that attracted me to this particular opportunity was that I would get to really immerse myself in Spanish. I know this will be the best way for me to learn! I mean, Its sink or swim! hah!
Since no one at the school would really give me any direction. No one would tell me what they wanted me to do. When I asked what I could do, they just sorta shrugged and said, “Whatever you want”. I must admit I was at a bit of a loss and was really hoping to learn what they actually needed. I decided to try to go one day a week and just show up and roll with it. But, I was beginning to see why they really don’t have a lot of volunteers working there. They are extremely ill-prepared to have volunteers working with the kids.
After about a month of just sorta hanging out with the kids I came up with a plan. I would ask Lucy, one of the teachers I had begun to get to know ,if I could do a craft project with her kids on the following Tuesday. She was very happy about this idea so I went home and started to brainstorm about what I would do! I will admit that I was pretty nervous about this, Im not a teacher and the idea of trying to lead a group of 20 or so kids to do a project had my stomach in knots! Gulp…
I had a few ideas of projects I could do but was unsure about where to start. Then…I discovered Pinterist! Gasp! I know, as usual Im late to the party! I had heard of this resource and had never really understood what the draw was. But, Now I get it! Hah! Its a crazy resource for anyone looking to become obsessed with just about anything! I mean sheesh! The ideas for kids craft projects is literally endless! Seriously, there is no end to ideas for fun and creative things to do with kids! Oh my gosh!
Then began the shopping frenzy! I mean, I would need so many things! I had learned one lesson about buying the kids things. I had already bought a bunch of things for the classes, coloring books, pens, pencils, paper things like that. And, after I gave it all to the teacher I never saw any of it again. I have no idea what happened to it. So, First lesson, I would need to bring my own materials. So began my collection of craft supplies! And let me tell you, with Pat’s help, its growing rapidly! Paints, paint brushes, glue, glitter, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, construction paper, hot glue guns…you see where this is going! We’ve scoured every source we can find to locate goodies for projects!!
I’m having a blast! But, wait! Another really awesome thing about this wonderful new experience is that Pat (mother in law extraordinaire!), has joined in on the fun! We’ve really gotten so much joy in spending time with the kids. She is so happy and the two of us have a really great project to do together that has made us both feel so fulfilled in so many ways. Every week, when we’ve prepped for a project, gone to the school, completed the craft, get into the car to go home…we both are totally exhausted and smiling from ear to ear! Every single week we can’t stop saying how fun it was and how much we adore the kids! And….how utterly EXHAUSTED we were! haha!
Yes! I think I’ve found a way to connect with my community in a way that makes me feel so good. It’s a double dose of happiness having Pat enjoying it with me. Kids are just so loving and so fun to spend time with. Not only is this a fantastic opportunity for me and Pat but also for so many of my friends who have come along with us from time to time. Unlike some volunteer opportunities this one is one that requires no big commitment and we are all rewarded in the sweetest happiest smiles and hugs!