Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Day in Peru - Breaking Barriers

After lunch comes the dishes. It is here the barriers begin to be broken. Smiles, laughs and tricks like splashing in the water begin to bring us together. This continues as recess follows our lunchtime. As I observe the boys I cannot help but smile and laugh as they are. Then little by little the boys run over, give me a hug and quickly run off to continue their game of soccer. The warmth I feel from the sunshine doesn´t compare to the new warmth I feel of the heart.

I realize…
I cannot speak to them, but I can give them a smile.
I cannot understand their questions, but I can give them a hug, and
I cannot help them with their studies but I can laugh with them as they all joke with each other.

The day ends with reflection and our excitement for tomorrow.

A tomorrow where I will continue to learn it´s not about what I cannot do, it's about what I can.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27th, 2010

Entered by Patty

Kathleen and I awoke to a knock on our door at 7am as we had overslept. We felt like teenagers being awoken by our mother but liked the alternative Esther came up with which was ‘sleeping beauties’. We dressed quickly, ate breakfast, and were at the construction site by 8am, only to be disappointed by the fact that the construction supplies had not arrived so there was no work to be done.

We quickly regrouped and headed off to the clinic to help out in any way that we could. Kathleen helped in the prenatal area watching expectant mothers coming in for their check up; many were excited at the prospect of being there for their first visit and some were nervous at the site of the needle for their tetanus shot.

Rob helped in the general patient examination room and his most memorable moment was when a young boy needed some meds and his grandmother could not pay for the medication. Rob happened to have a few cedis with him and was happy to make a contribution to cover these meds so the young boy could get better.

I helped at the registration desk and learned that anyone entering the clinic must pay three cedis if they don’t have insurance. The government insurance is only 14 cedis for the year so it’s a shame for them to have to pay 3 cedis for 1 visit. We also took their blood pressure, weight, and temperature, if necessary.

After our morning in the clinic, we went back to the Guest House and prepared for our afternoon computer lessons for the kids. Our plan was to review the previous day’s material and then give them all an opportunity to use the typing tutor software. I think they enjoyed the ‘hands-on’. We had about 20 kids which was a nice size group to work with. Rob also showed them the encyclopedia software and they loved looking up facts about Ghana.

After tutorials we stopped at the roadside café for a drink and Rob ran into a student from his grade 7 class last year. Dinner was potatoes with a chicken and gravy sauce which was followed by a lively discussion about American politics, debates on the merits of Facebook and favorite books.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April 26th, 2010

Prepared by Kathleen

Woke up bright and early and had breakfast at 7 a.m. - fried egg, porridge and white toast with pineapple jam. We headed to the school at 8 a.m. for our first morning of teaching computer basics. Patty wowed the students with all her technology… projector and laptops!! About 40 children (over age 10) showed up along with 6 or 7 teachers!! They were keen to learn more about something they have all heard about but have not used. Funnily, they have a computer component that they have to know for their high school entrance exam but have only learned about the hardware and software through texts.

The children crowded 2 to 3 to a desk, the older ones sitting in the back of the class. Very few volunteered to answer questions with the exception of a few keen and confident ones who always raised their hand. Each child had a chance to type on the computer and we learned that we need to hand out numbers so they can each take their turn in a more orderly fashion! The children are keen to return tomorrow to continue with their computer training and perhaps some creative writing or geography lessons.

In the afternoon we went to a fascinating local market… crowded, noisy and vibrant. Everything could be found there, from Kleenex and dried fish to dress makers and live chickens. A very different, hot and earthy world. Patty and I are having a dressmaker make some outfits for us for an incredibly reasonable cost. Our market visit was followed by a trek to the Volta Hotel for a glass of wine.

The real excitement happened just before dinner when Patty spied a HUGE spider on our bedroom ceiling. We (calmly) had to call in Philip to dispose of it so that we could sleep in peace.

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for a kindness.” Marcus Annaeus Seneca

April 25, 2010

Prepared by Kathleen

Patty arrived in Ghana safely Sunday morning and met Robb and me for breakfast at 8 a.m. at the hotel. We started our journey to Senchi Ferry at 9 – Esther, her son Yaw, niece Sarah, Patty, Robb, the driver and me.

Along the way we saw many beautifully dressed Ghanaians on their way home from church.

The highlight for me was seeing some baboons trying to cross the road.

We arrived at the St. James Guest House and quickly turned on ALL the fans and air conditioners, unpacked our clothes, and met with Esther to over our goals and commitment to working together as a great team!!

In the afternoon we attended a welcoming ceremony at the Palace hosted by the Queen Mother and a number of village elders. There was an oral telling of the village history and Scnapps were poured at the feet of the elders as a traditional gesture of welcome and prayer of thanks to the ancestral host for our safe journey. This was done with intriguingly loud chanting or “noise” in Twi. We concluded the ceremony with sodas and then ventured over to the new library. I think this was particularly exciting for Patty and Robb, who had worked on it in the early stages a year ago. Incredible to see the progress and BOXES & BOXES of books!!!

Had spaghetti and meatballs for dinner with Amo (Esther’s assistant) and finished the evening with a glass of wine and a game of Sequence. I triumphed with unquestionable skill and just a little luck. (-;

Saturday, April 24, 2010

April 24th, 2010

Prepared by Robb

Despite worries of volcanic ash causing flight disruptions, it was a thunderstorm in Denver which causes delays and a missed flight. Still made the flight to Accra which was key, but Kathleen and I missed each other on the Accra flight. Esther was waiting proudly with the Global Volunteers sign and gave me a big warm hug and Akwaaaba. It was nice to be welcomed so warmly. Kathleen, who was on the same flight, arrived shortly thereafter. Esther again dispensed her warm hug and Akwaaba. Then we were off for the Airport View Hotel.

Kathleen and I then headed off for the western shopping mall of Accra. Young adults filled the place just looking and hanging out. The crowds did not deter us from our mission of wine and snacks. Filled with a cart of wine, we fled the mobs, negotiated for a taxi and then headed back to the Airport View Hotel for dinner with Esther, Yaw, and Sarah. The company was great, the food was decent, and the lighting was brutally bright. The day of entry into Ghana was smooth and easy. Spending time with Esther and Kathleen and knowing we would be leaving for Senchi Ferry the next day, made me forget the volcanic ash and the thunderstorms as I was back in Ghana.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

As the gate to SEAM Children's Home opened, I watched as ebullient children ran up to us, eager to meet the new team of three. Stephen, our team leader and host, introduced us to the children.

The children had seen countless Global Volunteers pass through the gates of the home; even so, they ran to us, beaming with smiles. I pulled out my camera and watched as the children's attention rapidly shifted toward the device. They began to rattle off sentences in the local language of Tamil, an unfamiliar one to me.

I was 14 and spending a month of my summer before sophomore year in India. The previous day, my dad and I had left the comforts of my grandparents' home in Bangalore, India, for a father-daughter bonding experience we had never had before. My dad had wanted me to realize that not everyone is alike with respect to economic background.

I spent the weekdays in two locations. In the mornings I worked at Assisi Illam, a day care and orphanage, teaching the alphabet and basic numbers to children between the ages of two and five. Fortunately, the language barrier between the nuns in charge of the school and me did not prove much of a problem, although hand gestures came in handy most of the time.

The afternoons, on the other hand, greatly tested my confidence as I was assigned to teach English grammar to four nuns-in-training. Ironically, the women addressed me as "maam" even though they were five to six years older than me. Although daunting at first, I gradually began to enjoy the role of a teacher as I organized lesson plans for my students every night.

As a result of my experience in Chennai, I had the desire to revisit the following summer. Yet less than two months later, the demands of high school again became my topmost priority and center of focus. I remember my dad occasionally bringing up the country of Ecuador as the idea of summer vacation loomed overhead. Neither of us had been to South America before and my dad's final decision for us to volunteer there proved to be a second remarkable experience.

Our experience in Ecuador, also with Global Volunteers, was quite different from that in India as our team consisted of 14 eclectic people. Spending two weeks in a day care center for young children, I rediscovered my passion for working with children. Like the kids in India, children came from impoverished families. I was also given a chance to experience Spanish culture at its best and immediately fell in love with the music, traditions and food.

My most vivid memory is of Emilio, a three-year-old boy who rarely took the time to smile or even talk. After two weeks of joking and playing around with him, I noticed that he began to let out a few giggles towards the end of the two weeks.

After saying my final goodbyes to Emilio and the rest of the children, Edith, our team leader, told me a heart breaking story about Emilio. Edith said his shyness was a result of a car crash his parents were involved in. His mother had rarely spoken to or smiled since his father had died in the crash. Upon hearing this, I felt so much better about my time spent with Emilio as it proved to be rewarding for both of us.

Many people think of volunteering abroad as a life-changing experience. In my case, I realize that I have returned to my regular life. Yet there is no doubt that my two experiences abroad gave me personal insight that has made me more aware of my lifestyle as a blessed one. As a result, I discovered my passion for teaching and enjoyment of Latin American and Indian cultures.

I realized that across the world we all hold common goals. Between the novices and the Ecuadorian children, I understood that though we differ in economic background, we all strive for a good lifestyle and education. Volunteering opened my eyes to this, and I hope to continue helping others while opening my eyes to the reality we miss each day at home in Palo Alto.
- Sonali Sastry, grateful Global Volunteer

Monday, April 05, 2010

"I would like to thank the babies of Tutova. We've talked about how sad and difficult their lives are (and this is true) but in many ways, they've already done more to impact the world than many people ever will. These babies unite strangers from all over the world with different life experiences, religions, political views. The babies have opened our hearts to love more, understand more and to do more. So thank you to all the babies of Tutova- past and present. The world is a better place because you exist."

-Laura, Romania Volunteer April 2010

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Partners in Development: A Message from Global Volunteers' CEO Bud Philbrook

Global Volunteers facilitates human and economic development at the community level and engages volunteers to do much of the work. But as is stated in Global Volunteers "Philosophy of Service -- Strategy for Development," only local people actually do development. An organization like Global Volunteers can help facilitate development and volunteers can help catalyze development, but only local people do it. With that said, facilitating and catalyzing are vital activities in the development process.

Development professionals have known for decades that merely providing financial resources, even in the form of education and medical supplies, is insufficient. USAID, the World Bank, and other government development agencies have spent literally billions of dollars over the past 50 years with varying degrees of success. More often than not, where only financial or other material resources have been offered, little or no development improvements can be measured. The most successful efforts have been at the local community level where local leaders are in charge and outsiders provide appropriate catalytic assistance. That is what Global Volunteers strives to do. We offer volunteers to work under the direction of local leaders on community-based projects that the community determines are important to its long-term human and economic development.

How can anyone, therefore, individually make a significant difference in three weeks? Most people can't. However, Global Volunteers sends multiple teams of volunteers to each community every year, year after year. Every volunteer becomes a vital link in a long chain of volunteers. For the local children, each volunteer makes a world of difference because without all the volunteers who came before and after, their lives would be very different. We know this is the case because we've been working in some communities for more than 25 years and adults with whom we taught 10 or 15 years ago tell us that this case.

Some say "Passing along knowledge and training would make a better mission for Global Volunteers than just stepping into the places of community members." I could not agree more, and that is always our objective. However, human development is a generational process -- it takes a very long time. That is why we focus on children. It is our experience that children we teach will learn things they otherwise would not and be motivated to do constructive things with their life that they otherwise might not have even imagined. That in fact, is the principal way in which we facilitate development.

Others suggest it might be better to provide financial resources rather than volunteers so the local people could be paid to do local construction work. We would agree provided the only objectives are to construct or repair a building and increase local income. But Global Volunteers is about waging peace and promoting justice. We attempt to achieve this goal by working hand-in-hand with local people on community development projects that community leaders deem important. Our objective is to create an environment where local people and volunteers work together on a common project such that in the process of working together they become friends. Friendship is very important to what we do because friendship is foundational to peace and justice in our world. When there is a dispute among friends, friends will generally resolve their dispute nonviolently.

When people have a friend against whom an injustice is being perpetrated, they generally want to do something to right the injustice. Consequently, the more friends there are in the world, the more nonviolent dispute resolution there will be. The more friends there are the world, the more people there will be working for justice. For Global Volunteers, the work project is the vehicle to establish friendships. In addition, we do provide financial resources so that local laborers are paid.

Sean Penn recently said about his work in Haiti, "The first person served by service is the server." We agree fully.