Friday, March 20, 2009

Best Day Ever

Today, I filled out an application for volunteer work at a local kids' shelter, got 2 passport-sized photos, and marched down there with paper in hand. And they let me start right away. This is one of two local organizations recommended to my by the state office of family development. It's a residential home for abused kids. About 40 are in (temporary) residence, from infants to age 13. I was amazed at how little (none) training was required. Nor background check. In the U.S., it would be a mountain of paperwork and procedures. Not here. But the first question the lady asked me was, "Are you Catholic?" This, at a government-run agency. Separation of church and state...not so much. Especially in Queretaro, which is known for being ultra-religious and conservative. Crosses and pictures of Jesus throughout the building. Three other lady volunteers were there to teach the kids catechism. And this WAS NOT a church-run organization.

So... just like back in third grade, I started out on the playground, where I played ball with some of the kids, taught them a few English words, and translated their names into English (José = Joe). Then, one of the workers led me upstairs with a bunch and we did classroom work, completing math worksheets, etc. I tutored one kid who was having a devil of a time with addition. He actually counted on his fingers!

And then, a 2PM, we all went down to the cafeteria for lunch. The kids are seated, say a prayer, and then we volunteers serve them. I thought, "Rod....once a waiter, always a waiter." And I finished by spoon-feeding a handicapped boy. He seemed to think it was pretty OK, so I decided to not get all emotional. One of the workers told me, "we're not here to have pity on them. We're here to help them become strong kids." That's easier said than done. One boy, 11, was telling me why he was there--his stepfather beat him. You could see the scar on his mouth where he's had stitches.

But I'll be back tomorrow. And every day while I'm here for the next week. The kids were amazing. I can't believe their resilience. If I can help, I want to. It was the best day ever.