Arriving in Guanajuato put us one step closer to meeting Katie, our volunteer coordinator from the Muskoka Foundation http://www.dogoodasyougo.org/ We’d been talking with her for a while prior to getting to Mexico, but we didn’t know what to expect in terms of our volunteer time. She had some projects lined up that would also involve other Overlanders participating in the Maya Rally 2012 who would be here at the same time.
We arrived at Katie’s house for the kick off meeting over a delish dinner of Pozole Verde. We met the group of awesome folks and compassionate hearts we’d be working with during the week and learned we’d be working at the Albergue Infantil home for boys in Irapuato. Katie briefed us on the boy’s situations, condition of the facility’s playground and dorms and tossed out a few ideas of what we could do with limited resource and funds. We brainstormed ideas and were stoked to begin our work!
We met the next a.m. and caravanned about a 1.5 away to Irapuato. When the big blue metal doors of the facility opened, 12 enthusiastic and anxious boys ran with excitement to meet us, sit on the motorcycles, check out the overland vehicles, ask questions and play. What a wonderful feeling to see their faces and be there.
Surrounded by a bunch of sweet boys gushing questions and sentences in really fast Spanish, we did our best to try to communicate. Although we couldn’t carry on full conversations with them, smiles, hugs and playing games broke the language barrier and thus began our week long friendship.
After spending some time just playing together, we assessed the playground, which was a wreck. The equipment was old, bent, rusted with rippled with sharp unsafe edges. The teeter totter didn’t work, only one swing remained, the slide was like cheese grater, and the climbing toys were ankle breakers. We walked the area and came up with ideas of what we could do with short time and limited funds. We sat with a few of boys on the lawn to take their input on what was important in their playground. Climbing; caves; tree houses. We couldn’t really build a tree house or cave, but we could design them and leave that to other volunteers – but we could make a climbing structure and so the tire wall idea hatched.
We broke up in to teams at the work began: Guys would work on playground, Jen and I would paint dorms, and Beth and Monica would sew new bedding – as well as all of us interacting with the boys, letting them participate in the repairs and also finding time to still have fun and play.
Unleashing a bunch of rambunctious boys into a dorm room with paint was challenging to stay the least. In a matter of minutes painting became cleanup on Isle 2… as paint was dripping from their brushes and rollers, on their clothes/faces, and in their hair without any particular care on their part. All the teams had challenges finding the balance between letting the boys help (which sometimes creating more work) and being productive, but also making sure they had the opportunity to contribute to the projects and have some ownership in it.
We worked hard for 5 long days, each day having lunch with the boys in the simple kitchen/cafeteria. The kitchen consisted of a gas burner, refrigerator, no shelves or cabinets, a kitchen faucet with no hot water and barely a trickle of cold.
We ate what they ate which was some meat, rice, beans and tortillas. We were working hard and had built up hefty appetites so lunch was very appreciated. At the end of each day were all exhausted. By day 4 things were really taking shape and we could see the fruits of our efforts. Looking out the 2nd floor dorm window, seeing the boys on the teeter totter and swinging in the tire swing – I was flooded with tears of joy knowing these boys have a better place to be a kid.
Friday night after working the boys were super stoked as we all decided to stay overnight and have a campout. We played games, watched “Transformers” (in spanish)then ended the night relaxing by a campefire and toasting up S’mores.
We feel very appreciative for the opportunity to help make a difference in these boys’ lives. Materialistically speaking they have a world less than most kids we know, and while we know they we’re excited about the changes at their facility, both Tad and I feel what was likely more important to them was the love, friendship and compassion a few ‘gringos’ from the US showed them in our short time there. Katie will keep us informed on their progress, and also share our websites and facebook pages with them so they can have some fun following us along our journeys. We have certainly been enriched by this experience and hope to do more ‘Good as we Go” . Thanks Muskoka Foundation for your coordination and getting us connected to these wonderful beings!