From Homework Help to Dusting Books: Volunteering Abroad

The last four weeks of my semester here are devoted to an internship at a non-profit organization. Within the group, there are about 8 of us doing internships in various fields. I’m volunteering along with Kaja and Micah, two other PLU students, at an organization called Centro de Esperanza Infantil, which gives assistance to kids who (or whose parents) work on the street, selling sweets, playing music, or asking for money. Assistance comes in all forms, and the main goal of the center is helping kids be able to attend school, even if they come from really extreme poverty. They help out with school uniforms and supplies, and the center provides the kids with a safe place to go before or after school.

I’d love to give a general idea of “A day in the life” while volunteering at CEI, but that’s the thing about this job: every day is something different. Some days, we help with homework- anything from classifying animals to psychology essays to algebra. Other days, we play games with the kids: go fish, memory, cards, chess. Sometimes we have activities in music or art. The center has some guitars that we brought out one day, which the kids really enjoyed. Some just wanted to touch the strings and hear the sounds they make, while others showed a genuine interest in learning, and others already knew some chords and wanted to show us.

Other days aren’t as exciting. I might sit in front of a computer all day putting in data, or we sometimes help with administrative work, alphabetizing and sorting. We clean and run errands and help in whatever way we can, even if it’s not nearly as exciting as playing with the kids or getting ready for Christmas. Not every day can be piñata day!

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Photo Credit: Centro de Esperanza Infantil

For me, It’s a privilege to be able to volunteer with this organization and see the work that they do, even if it is a short time to be volunteering. Having a place to go before or after class, a uniform, and school supplies makes a big impact on these kids’ ability to continue going to school, and it allows them a space to just be kids, even if they normally have younger siblings to look after or other jobs when they are at home. It means that they can come in each day and know that they can get help with their homework, or spend some time playing or learning a new skill.

The work we do as volunteers isn’t major, it isn’t glamorous, it isn’t going to save the world (whatever that means, anyway). But it’s work that allows this organization to keep doing what it’s doing, whether that means seeing kids graduate from college, or capturing their sheer excitement over the chance to break a piñata.  And that, for right now, is enough.

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