Being a volunteer is hard. When you show up to an organization that’s running perfectly fine without you and say “Hi! I’m here! What can I do?” Often times, even under the best leadership, the answers are vague. Or not what you signed up for.
When Eric and I first arrived at Monte Cristo our days were spent studying Spanish and our new surroundings. The occasional tasks we had were helping with proper pronunciation in English class, helping chop vegetables in the kitchen, or just general “extra set of hands” stuff.
This week has been a reminder of how far we’ve come. How much Monte Cristo has accepted us and invited us into their organization, how much the children have actually begun to rely on us as leaders and mentors, and how the community has openly included us in their daily lives.
On Monday, to take a break from my daily jogging circles around the basketball court, Eric and I took a jog to the neighboring village, Pacoc, where many of our students live. On the way there we ran into a group of some of our girls from the eighth grade who were headed home. I started talking and joking with them and in the conversation they told me how much they enjoy having English class with us, how it was always so confusing for them in the past but now they really want to learn more and more. They also begged me not to leave in September and made me promise that I would try to come back for their ninth grade year.
Once we made it to Pacoc, I was shocked at all the people we knew in the village. Our students’ mothers were stopping me in the street asking how we were doing and what brought us to their town. Kids I’d never seen before were screaming “Hillarlly!! Erikk!!” just like the little ones in Monte Cristo do. It was a really neat experience to accidently walk home with some of our favorite students and sneak a peek into their real lives.
Also, this week we had our fancy Mother’s Day celebration. I’ve been working hard doing voice lessons with one of our students from ninth grade. She won the talent show competition in March, so now she’s presenting another song in front of everyone for Mother’s Day. She was super nervous and I had to convince her on Thursday to even go through with the performance.
We also taught choreography to some of our youngest students to the song “Happy.” I initially thought the steps would be really easy for them to pick up, but it was more of a challenge for them than I expected. The rhythm was tricky for them, but they did a great job!
Another big moment for me this week was participating in my first athletic event since the 12th grade... I played on the “teachers” basketball team and had a total blast. I even made a basket!
It’s been a tiring week with lots of extra-curricular commitments, but those are the moments when I feel I get to know my students and co-workers the best. It’s so reassuring to hear that your work is actually making a difference in people’s lives. After eight long months of Guatemalan life, it finally feels like I’m starting to belong.