Last week, (as a Support Team Coordinator) I had the honor of hosting the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Schenectady Support Team. Their arrival coincided with our second annual Premiacion competition so the team worked with the 2 special classes that won.
This competition promotes good behavior and positive values by awarding points to the classes that display Collaboration, Respect, Participation, Honesty and Responsibility. The winning classes are chosen based on their post-class evaluations from our extra curricular classes (Art, Sports, English and Health). The evaluations are used to measure the classes respect, responsibility, cooperation, participation and honesty from the class that day. After about 3 months of these evaluations, the points of each class were added up and based on these numbers, we were able to chose one winner from both our morning session (older kids) and our afternoon session (younger kids). Our Primero Basico A class won the mornings’ Premiacion and Tercera Primaria A in the afternoon.
Winning the competition meant that the classes would work with the Schenectady Team. Each of our Support Teams brings down a project to work on with the children of specific classrooms during the week and then, over the weekend they take the children on an excursion. It is an exciting and fun time for both the children and the Team.
The Schenectady Team brought down a super creative activity that allowed the kids to do some self-reflection. The name of the activity was “Me-Book” and it allowed each child to personalize a book based on themselves. To decorate the cover of the books, the Team brought down shaving cream and food dye. After making colorful swirls in the shaving cream, the kids placed the front and back covers of the book in the color of their choice and the colorful swirls transferred from the shaving cream to their book.
Once they had decorated the covers, they added stickers and used markers to complete the inside the book as they desired. The Team also brought down a digital camera and a photo printer. This allowed each student to take a picture of themself to include in their book, and after becoming more comfortable with the Team this quickly evolved into a hilarious photo shoot. Access to photos is something foreign to our children here- they were amazed to be able to have the opportunity to print a photo right there in front of their own eyes, only minutes after taking the picture. Personally, it is moments like these that bring me back down to Earth and strike home the reality of the situation in which these children live. In these moments everything becomes clear and I think we are all given a new sense of motivation and passion to do all we can to help these children better their lives and futures.
After a fun week of working on the “Me-Books” with the children, we met them in Guatemala City on Saturday morning to take them to a waterpark. The excursion is usually an equally amazing experience for both the Team and the children. For the Team, it is both a unique experience to travel on a ‘chicken’ bus (although privately rented out for the day) as well as a fantastic experience to spend the day outside of the Safe Passage walls with the children. For the children, leaving their community is something they are rarely able to do and they always spend the 45 minute bus journey with their heads stuck out the window taking in the sights, smells and noises of the new territory. Once we arrived at the waterpark it was such a privilege to see the childrens’ eyes open and mouths drop. From the wave pool to the kiddie pool to the water slides to the clean and safe public space, this was a completely new experience for each child. They may have seen something similar in a movie or read about a similar place in a book, but the thrill to actually be there themselves was so visible in their ear-to-ear smiles. The ensuing hours were full of so much laughter and joy. It was the perfect way to cap off a week for both the Team and kids.
At the end of the excursion day the Team and kids say their last goodbyes; there are always hugs and many times, even tears. Although sad, this to me, is what makes what I do worthwhile. To know that these children have made a tear inducing bond with a group of people that were complete strangers to them just days earlier, and vice-versa, is truly phenomenal. While the children and Team are caught up in tears and goodbyes, I have the ability to stand back and smile. Just one of the many heart warming moments during a Support Team week.
Support Team Coordinator