As I sit here, writing this in Quito, Ecuador, listening to the kids playing outside during my afternoon off, I can’t help but feel incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to be here, to be part of something as special as Centro del Muchacho Trabajador, and to feel for the first time in a while I’m exactly where I’m suppose to be, doing the work I should be doing.
I arrived almost a month ago, on September 1st, spent the first two weeks getting to know the Center, the directors, and my community members and getting acclimated to the altitude and the pace of life. Last week was our first full week, and by the time the weekend came, all I wanted to do was relax, read, and watch movies. I still haven’t ventured out too much into Quito, but I hope to get to know downtown a little more this coming weekend.
My mornings (8-11:30) are spent working with a special education student, who this year has been separated from his group in order to work individually with me. We are trying to help him to become more independent and to challenge him academically. Because of his physical disabilities and special needs, he has not been expected to follow the curriculum that other kids his age do. It’s my job to motivate him and to see how much we can accomplish together this year. He’s been responding well so far, and I am optimistic. In the afternoon, I teach English classes and will begin to tutor students who are too old for their grades this week. Because the Center focuses on working boys and their families, some boys are not received at the CMT until they are 13,14, or 15 years old and are behind in school because they’ve been in the streets shining shoes and earning money. In the evenings when I am not teaching English, I also will be watching over the children of the parents who are in the adult education program. We trickle back to the house, according to our varying responsibilities, and sit down as a community to eat dinner at 8:40.
I never thought I would enjoy teaching (especially teaching English) as much as do. (Now, granted, I still am only in my second week, so I’ll probably have some other things to say once the ‘honeymoon phase’ is over) I think I appreciate most being able to support the mission of the CMT/WBC and helping families overcome poverty, if only in a small way. During orientation, I came to realize that I really am now a part of this “Family of Families”. The Padre (Jesuit, Fr. John Halligan) and the Madres (BVM Sisters, Madre Miguel and Madre Cindy), the guiding forces of the Center, have this great vision of what it is we are doing at the CMT. I had to jot down some quotes during their first talk with us, because I felt like I was a part of living history, and I wanted to remember all I could. The Center revolves around the belief that poverty does not have to do so much with a lack of material wealth, but rather that it is a spiritual problem. The poor must be agents of change in their own lives. They are told that God wants them to be prosperous and that it’s within their reach. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to create a better life but God has given them the gifts they need to transform their lives. Besides just teaching English, Gym, Special Ed, Health, Religion, and Adult Ed, we, the volunteers, are supposed to be teaching self-esteem, confidence, self-worth, and discipline. It’s pretty incredible to be part of something that we are not just hoping will make a difference, but has already proved itself effective among the 5,000 families it has served over its 42-year history.