Two quotes to start this off,
“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” —Nikola Tesla
“You get to choose how you perceive your reality. So why, when it comes to perceiving yourself, would choose to see anything other than a super huge rockstar of a creature?” -Jen Sincero
I chose these two quotes because they relate to my work in Spain, the work I intend on continuing, and the mentality I choose to bestow upon myself and others.
I’m emotionally driven and connected to my work as an agent of social change. I’m attune to the needs of others, I observe the work of other humanitarians, and I take moments to observe myself. These three actions are crucial to anyone working as a humanitarian. Why? Because I believe that in order to serve others, we must be willing to serve ourselves. I cannot empower others if I have yet to love and empower myself. The two can be done simultaneously. It takes time, as all good things do.
My three-month journey in Spain allowed me to discern my role as a humanitarian. I entered Spain with little to no expectation other than to be both a student and a teacher of life. I acted, observed, and listened. My heart and mind were in-sync. As a result, I watched my life’s purpose manifest itself in the relationships I built with the teachers and children at Gaspar Gil Polo (the school I worked at). I realized that I belong in a career that actively engages in interpersonal interactions. This reaffirmed my passions as a mental health therapist.
See, I am keenly interested in effective strategies and exercises that help build mental health awareness for children and adolescents, as well as empower them. That’s why I specifically chose to work in childcare and social welfare. I knew I would be surrounded by kids who needed guidance, love, and support; work that I feel is taken for granted more often than not. Although this work could be down anywhere, my curiosity led me to Spain. It was a culture similar, yet different, to my own. It was a place where I could work on improving my Spanish, travel, and still immerse myself in a project that impassioned me.
When I began working at Gaspar Gil Polo, I made it a priority to help empower these children emotionally, mentally, and academically. My ambitions stemmed from personal experiences. Over the years I have become more aware of various limitations that have been created by our own kind. Thus, I believe in empowering others and providing youth, with at least the basic tools to help them navigate through life; no matter the circumstances. But this work looks differently depending on the community I work with.
In order to properly serve these children, I had to observe for quite some time. This was their home, not mine. All of the children shared one thing in common – lower income families. However, their home and family circumstances ranged. It was not my job to be intrusive and ask personal questions to the kids. My main priority was to ensure the children that I was not going to be a visitor, but a member of the school.
I allowed the teachers to teach and guide me through their everyday routines, as well as the rules that needed to be enforced. The first two weeks were crucial in developing a trusting relationship with the kids. I was the teacher’s assistant and served as the English tutor for my classes. It seems like a very small job, but in the long run, those few acts served as a bridge between the children and myself. By the third week, I was helping the students with English, Spanish, Math, and other subjects. This meant a great deal to me because it let me know that I was gaining both the teacher’s and student’s trust. As a result, I gained responsibilities such as guiding their classes and helping develop learning activities.
As the months went on, I found myself serving as a confidant for a handful of children. This was a role that I took seriously because I knew it could either build or break a child’s spirit. It was my job to instill confidence in my children and ensure them that their voice and opinions were being taken seriously. I worked with mainly four, five, six, and seven year-olds. Although they were too young to truly understand what it meant to have a voice, they were at the perfect age to learn by example.
That’s the thing about working with children. They are a mirror image of our adult actions in society. They observe, absorb, and react to what they see, hear, feel, smell, and touch. Yes, that is something we all do as humans. However, a six year-old relies on the guidance of their elders and knows no better than to mimic the actions of their role models. Therefore, it is extremely important to not only set good examples, but to be consistent in doing so.
Consistency and perspective, that is what I could offer these children. Mental health is all about consistency. It is the way we interact with ourselves and others. It is the way we perceive and react to our personal and social worlds. It is the way our social worlds perceive and react to us. Call me redundant but IT MATTERS! Thus, I believe it is important to empower children, especially those of marginalized groups. They deserve to believe that they are worthy of respect, love, and all good that the world has to offer. It is important to provide them a safe space to think critically, ask questions, and receive feedback that is both realistic yet empowering. That’s the crux of empowering our youth; ensuring them that their voice and opinions matter and will be viewed as equally important as any one else’s.
I let my volunteer trip unravel my purpose as time went on. I let the experience speak to me. In turn, it helped me align with my truest-self. I’m a humanitarian who best serves this world through interpersonal communication and empowerment. My ability to serve as a guide and mentor to children is what impassions me the most. I am here to set a better example and change the script following mental health. But here is the best lesson of all:
Who are you doing it for?
That is the question that this trip led me to asking. Who are you doing IT for? By it, I mean life, living, my life’s work, my life’s purpose… The first part of that answer is “For me,” and it will always be based off the premise that in order to serve others, I must be willing to serve and honor myself.
I look forward in continuing my engagement with Save the Children in Valencia. I am thankful and honored that the teachers want to stay in contact. Most of all, I am thrilled that I get to stay connected with my children. It may not be in person but at least I can let them know I’m still around.
Now, I’m off to new adventures.
Thank you for this journey,