Most of you know that there are 7 other Lilly employees here with me. Scott Monk lives in Indiana at corporate. He is a research scientist and we have been placed at the same education center to volunteer. He did such an awesome job of describing our placement, so I asked him if I could post it on my blog. Writing is definitly not my talent, but I wanted you all to get a more vivid picture of what I have been doing and where I have been the last two weeks. Scott and I are in rooms right next to each other. He has three year olds, I have two year olds.
"My placement for 2 weeks here in Salvador is assisting at Santa Teresa De Lisieux, which is a child care and education facility in one of the favelas (shanty towns). They provide child care and education for some of the poorest families in the area. My placement is assisting in a class with 3 year olds. As in any class in the US, 18 three-year olds with only 1 teacher is overwhelming. However, layered on top of that is the fact that most of the children are living in severe poverty and do not receive sufficient nutrition or attention at home. It is now late fall in Salvador, which is the rainy season. (It is still quite hot and humid.) When it rains, it creates many problems in the favelas - the streets become difficult to navigate, the steep sidewalks become slippery enough to be very dangerous, and in many areas sewage may wash down the street. Therefore, the teachers never know how many kids will actually make it to the center on days that it rains. Many remain at home, with or without supervision.
Our assignments are for 3-4 hours every morning. My job is to help the teacher in any way I can to keep order in the room while at the same time trying to incorporate some educational time. No one at the center speaks English, which makes the whole endevor much more challanging, to say the least.
I have managed to muddle my way through a few games in which I didn't understand a word that was said, but the kids seem quite entertained just to have another adult in the room that will give them any attention. The kids call the volunteers tia or tio, for aunt or uncle. The minute I tell one child the picture they are coloring is "bom" or"lindo", the cries of "Tio! Tio! Tio!!!!" fill the room with all the pictures waving in the air. "Lindo?!!! Lindo?!!!". In our interactions with the kids, it is clear they many are starved for attention, and only get it when they are at the center.
In addition to playing and some type of education time (practicing letters,usually), the kids also get a shower and meal; for some of them, the center is the only place they will receive either that day. All the kids get rice, and the rest of the lunch is doled out sparingly. Black beans everyday, but some days some of the kids end up with not much more than the juice because there is not enough to go around. There is also some type of meat everyday, but it gets distributed like small pieces of gold by one of the teachers. It does not appear that every child gets meat, but I'm not sure if this is determined based on what the teachers think the child may get to eat at home or if they try to spread it out so that each child gets some meat a couple of times a week. They also receive fortified milk as a "snack" during the day. The problems with nutrition and hygiene that these kids face is very evident, as several of them already have very severe tooth decay, and they are only 3 years old.
I'm not sure I will ever be able to sufficiently describe how amazing this experience has been from day one. It is very intense, exhausting, terrifying, and HOT. It is extremely frustrating at times trying to manage my way through everyday but knowing little Portuguese. But it is also absolutely incredible and I am having the time of my life."
Scott and I have very different teachers. His is very calm and if he asks for something she says the words slowly in Portuguese. I feel as though my teacher (I also have one and 18 two year olds) seems to get somewhat overwhelmed, yet she still tries her best and shows them love as much as possible. Each day I try to bring in something a little different for the kids to do. The one constant is that I bring a different picture to color. Today was a turtle! I also brought in stickers; once the kids went through the rainbow and where able to identify the colors, they got a sticker! (Of course no-one walked away empty handed!) They loved it! Each day I walk in and they are so excited that I returned, they shout "Tia Tia!" I think seeing someone come back and remember who they are makes them feel so loved. At the end of the day that's all that anybody really wants.
Tchau for now!
P.S. I asked Mari (my teacher) if I could bring my camera tomorrow. So hopefully I will be able to post some pics of kiddos soon!