Saturday, April 29, 2006

el día del niño

This past week the Institute of Latin Progress / Instituto del Progreso Latino celebrated The day of the Child / El Día del Niño. Based in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, this organization offers educational and professional resources to Latino immigrants and their families from ESL classes to citizenship workshops. Even though I haven't been volunteering at the center for long, I feel very welcome in the colorfully painted halls and I enjoy the friendly and open atmosphere of the community.

Most recently I've been spending time with the 4 and 5 year-olds while their parents are in class. While it's typical to spend time singing songs, practicing our ability to share with others, and fine tuning our skill with markers and scissors, this Thursday the kids were rallied outside in the play area for a very special treat: piñatas. We watched as the bolder, older kids jumped and laughed as they chased the prize with a bat, and we cheered supportively when the more courageous younger kids cautiously stepped up for the challenge. Some may have preferred the pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, but everyone flew into a scramble when the candy started falling.

As I assist the teacher in herding the children from outside to inside, and as I encourage them to build their house of blocks even larger or reassure them that their spilled orange juice is really not that big of a deal, I find myself trying to remember to use the correct form of the verb so that I'm not juse offering my words to one of them, but to all of them. I find myself wondering how many times I'll accidentally say "frases" instead of "fresas" (because who would want "sentences" kept off their cake when it's "strawberries" they don't like) and feeling thankful that these most honest and uninhibited 5 year-olds have no problem correcting me every time.

Meanwhile preparations for the summer and fall continue to move forward. This week marks the purchase of my ticket, a phone call that momentarily prompted a few minutes of unexpected light-headedness, as well as the acceptance by a Chicago school to host a digital camera in the name of Voluntarios de la Esperanza (VE). The intertia is beginning to work, I just need to maintain it carrying us in a positive direction: I have every intention of keeping it so.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

plans begin to take form

Plane tickets, travel logistics, and fundraising ideas have been taking over any free time I might have had these days. Chicago is in full spring mode now, and the streets are full of people milling about at practically any time of day. All outdoor seating has been reinstated along the sidewalks, a sure sign that warm weather is here to stay -- I just hope it's true. I have realized that my timing for the switch from North to South America could not have been better: I will trade in winter for summer, which will earn me essentially three summers in a row.

I have learned that Voluntarios de la Esperanza will be having a fundraiser in New York on May 18th; details will follow. In addition to having many past participants present, presenting stories from their times in Santiago, there will be photographs and children's art displayed. The festivities will be at a children's art gallery in Manhattan, and we are hoping for a large turnout.

Meanwhile I have, with the friendly guidance of my fundraising captain, constructed a fundraising webpage where anybody can donate any amount to Voluntarios de la Esperanza. I have decided that my goal, from now until the day I come back from Chile, will be to raise $5,000 for the organization. In addition, because I would like to be very involved with installing a photography program wherever I am placed, I am determined to collect at least 40 point-and-shoot digital cameras. It's about four months to departure... let's see what we can make happen.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

and so it begins

Spring has landed in Chicago. It happened rather suddenly for me as I was out of town this past weekend, which is precisely when it arrived. Now it's here, and with it the energy that we've been missing all winter.

I received word on Sunday night that I've been accepted into Voluntarios de la Esperanza, a volunteer organization that serves youth in Santiago, Chile. I responded immediately, accepting my acceptance. And so it begins.