AN ENRICHING TRIP
“I decided to do this volunteering in another country, in order to live a different experience, and what I did not know was the impact that a 3 weeks volunteering was going to do in my life”.
When I was traveling I did it at the “tourist” style, with expensive guides, excursions to the most typical places, hotels in the center of each city and other comforts and tourist traveling topics. I did not know another way to travel nor did I think there was one. However, whenever I returned from my trips I had the same feeling; a bittersweet feeling of happiness for the known but a strange emptiness for what remained for me to know.
So after my last trip in summer 2016, I promised myself that my next experience abroad would be focused on immersing myself in local life and interacting with the locals, making sure I know my destiny better and become aware of other realities. I wanted to be a deep traveler and I also wanted to help children, which have always been my weakness. After thinking about it, I thought that volunteering was part of that type of trip, so I contacted Adventure Volunteer. Who offered me to work with children with special needs.
PLANNING MY TRIP
Planning the trip took me several weeks. I wanted to be sure that I had everything I needed with me to be able to help and to live in a country with conditions very different from the ones I was used to. I informed myself and packed what I thought was necessary to survive 3 weeks of Panamanian adventure.
Chame, the town where I volunteer, is very nice, simple and quiet. The neighbors are lovely and they greet you with a smile every time they meet you, even though they saw you 5 minutes ago. In school, children go out of their way to steal you 5 minutes just to play with them. The houses where I gave private lessons, they were so happy to share with me everything they have so I can stay a little longer.
It is simply insurmountable on a human, spiritual and even material level, it is liberating. It is true that they are children with more or less important delays, especially at an academic level, nevertheless they are happy little people, keen to share with you what they have without blinking. I have learned that in them there is no ego, nor envy, nor judgment. They help each other and flatter each other constantly, always trying to make the other feel good.
I focus my classes, with games, dynamics, jokes and lots of conversation. That allows them to feel comfortable and it helps me understand which emotional lack I needed to reinforce with them so that they recover their self-esteem.
Lastly, I finish with a sentence of my princess Dianeysi. She’s 14 years old and with syndrome of Down.
“I am happy when I am with you because I see that I can”. And with these words she filled my heart.
Monica Ribas – Children with special needs program