Having been here for just one week, I think it’s a shame that many people have and never will do something like this. I’m not talking about it in the polarised selfish way that volunteering often gets tainted with. I’m not talking about paying thousands to be placed in a relatively comfortable environment just so you can say ‘you’ve done your bit’.
What I am talking about is being engulfed in a environment where you can’t help but be humbled every time you step outside. A place where humility is the norm and a place where you have the unquestioned knowledge that people have more enjoyment in helping others than themselves. Just reflecting on this and the past 7 days here, it’s frustrating and painfully clear how weak and fallible I am in this regard. I want to be better. Pride is killer and I hate it.
I spent each of the first 5 days here doing something different and learning about all the various projects and work the organisation does. This meant I did mixture of community work (such as teaching in local schools) and construction work. I think I will continue to do both but stick to only a few projects.
My favourite project is probably the building of a park in the district of Vista Alegre. It will take a few months to fully complete but we already have a modular building to work as a community centre and the requisite swings and sea saw to form the start of the park. Ed and I went down to the park after finishing our construction project for the day and it was amazing to see close to 30 kids playing on the 4 swings and 2 see saws. They were probably between the ages of 3 and 10 and they were each fully equipped with a big smile and plenty of laughter. Before they had what we would call a small shed to be their house and a big dusty space to occupy themselves. And now for barely any cost they have a park to come and play in with their friends and also an area for them to come together as a community. Happiness doesn’t come in different qualities. It is the same in every country.