Well, I have my first few weeks of volunteering under my belt and I can honestly say that it has turned out to be very rewarding. A lot of people probably read that and slap their foreheads and say, duh!, but for me it really was a big question mark as to whether or not I would enjoy myself. Volunteer work has always seemed strange to me. To work and not get paid just seemed like doing things backwards. Intellectually, I could always understand the need for it and the beautiful gesture that it was to give of yourself to those less fortunate than yourself, but in practice a lot of the people I have met that volunteer have seemed to me to act far too morally superior for my taste. It seemed like a lot of people used it as a means to elevate themselves above other people and that always annoyed me. Plus, it always seemed to me that you could work, help people but still be compensated for your time and energy.
One of my best friends back home is really involved with volunteer work and non proffit organizations and he is one of the most down to earth, nice people I have ever met (looking at you Tony!). Being friends with him made me realize that not everyone who volunteered was annoying and that in fact the majority of people that did it were most likely great people that didn´t advertise to the world what they were doing and just went about getting good things done.
At any rate, after jumping in and getting my hands dirty I really felt good about myself and what I was doing. The kids I work with are super cool. They took a while to warm up to me but I love kids and I tend to buddy up to them pretty fast. The more I learn about their culture and lives the more I am blown away by it. The Bri Bri live out in the wild jungle. They have to walk down jumgle trails for hours just to get to what we would consider to be civilization. The kids as young as 4 and 5 years old can navigate through the jungle without even thinking tiwce about it. Tamarah, my fellow voluntter and a great person, went on a four hour hike with a few kids, accompanied by a young boy of 12 and a little girl that was 4! What family back home would let there children that age stomp around through the jungle like that with nothing more than a machette for protection? Its just normal life for them.
They have not changed their lifestyles or belifes much in the last 5,000 years, which is how long they are believed to have lived in the area. The program I work with helps to get kids into school (you will see them wearing their school uniforms in the pictures) and to give the parents small loans to start buisnesses or buy basics like food, etc. This really helps to give them a leg out of poverty and to provide oppertunities for the kids that the parents don´t have. We also provide soup to anyone in need and its fun to see the older Bri Bri women come in to help make the soup and gossip while chopping up the veggies. Also, the teenage Bri Bri girls always want to use the telephone! Hah! Just goes to show, that teenage girls the world around are pretty similar!
On the negative side unfortunately, is the abuse that we have been trying to fight against. It is tough for me to try and get my head around some of the things that go on, but it is culturally acceptable for a Bri Bri father to beat his wife and children, have sex with any of his daughters even having children by them, or to kill any of his children that are born with a handicap.
Its shocking for me as a westerner to hear this, but for them it is perfectly acceptable. When confronted about his behaivor, a Bri Bri father will listen, nod and give a yeah so? look. To them it is not even somethign to bat an eye at.
Needless to say, it is tough hearing these kinds of things and we try to help as much as possible. Not all of the men act this way either, there are plenty of good families out there that have healthy internal relationships, but the bad apples always tend to stick out.
I will report more as it comes, but for now I can say that volunteer work is a great way to help out and to allow yourself to feel like you can make a difference in the world. I plan on doing it again in other parts of the world as it also enables me to meet locals, to really get involved in their culture and it makes me feel good about myself, so in my eyes its a win win.
Me building a new chicken coop for the center. It actually is coming out really well which is a pleasant surprise! Ha, just kidding, I am pretty handy with some tools after all my time doing slave labor for my Mom and Dad (just kidding, I am glad now for all those jobs I did with you guys)! And working with my grandparents on their farm taught me a lot about building and fixing things.
I forgot how gratifying it is to build something with your hands. I was really enjoying myself.
From left to right we have, Willie, Reynaldo (who is the hardest working little kid I have ever met), Alejandro covering his face, and a girl who I am kicking myself because I can´t remember he rname even though I talk to her every day (I´ll add it to the next update, I am so bad with names) and then myself.
The guys helping me out with the job.
They were really interested in helping me out and watching my build the chicken coop which was fun. Working in the heat and humidity, not so fun!
And this is to show all my friends back home that I am still me and having fun! Work hard, play hard, words to grown on!