Our comings and goings to the Pumamarca school are both exciting and bittersweet. When we arrive in our combi van, there are already children at the gate awaiting our arrival and welcoming us with hugs, kisses, and a resounding chorus of “hola amigos!” It feels wonderful to be welcomed this way and to know that we volunteers are a source of joy in the children´s lives. When we leave, there is obvious disappointment in their faces and some run after the van as we depart, despite the fact that they know we will return.
Today we spent the morning at the school working our different assignments. My assignment was to assist with the English class for the 5th and 6th graders. I was relieved that I was only assisting since it was my first English class and I didn´t quite know what to expect. We covered English basics such as greetings and farewells, as well as directions (forward, backward, etc.). It was all easy enough, but the most challenging part was holding the kids´ attention, which—as with most children—is fairly short-lived. After class, many of us helped with the Physical Education class as the children had loads of fun with potato-sack races, tug of war, and balloon races. Then, we finished up our afternoon with the routine snack time, washing and drying of hands, and the application of face and hand cream—an activity I´ve come to really enjoy. It is a chance to say hello to a child, learn their name, and give them special care and attention for that moment. It´s also a little sad, however. Some of the children have hands so worn and aged from hard work and improper care that they look like the hands of an adult. It´s all very sobering.