I finally have some time and a decent internet connection to tell you about our time last week at Casa Guatemala. It's an orphanage to about 120 kids as well as a school to about an additional 130 kids from the local community. They range in age from about 3 to 14 years old and the school is preschool to 6th grade.
We stayed at Hotel Backpackers whose profits go toward helping Casa Guatemala, the orphanage. We took a 20 minute boat ride every morning at 7:30am to the orphanage and returned in the afternoon around 4:30pm. However, our first three days there we were terribly sick. Worse than in Mexico City. Auston didn't go to the orphanage at all the first day and I had to leave early. It lasted quite a while, but we managed to feel better midweek.
While at Casa Guatemala, we were in charge of the biblioteca (library) for the week. Truly, we had no idea what we were doing. By the end of the first day, the kids had destroyed the place. Desks knocked over. Books strewn about. They climbed the shelves, tables, and I think some of them may have had spiderman like abilities to climb the ceiling. It was chaos. And we had zero control.
So the next day we decided to have a plan of action. We had come up with book centers where they could read about particular topics and had games planned as a back up, like “Simon Says” and Pictionary. We also spent another day having the students read short stories aloud and then we quizzed them on the aspects of the story. So by the end of the week, we had figured it out a little and regained some control of the chaos.
It was actually a lot of fun (though very exhausting). I have to give credit to the long term volunteers (who are there any time from 3 months to 1+ year) who live there with the kids. They take care of them during the night, wake up with them every morning (as early as 5:30am), get them ready for the day and then get them to bed every night around 7pm. Their free time is during the day while the kids are in class with the teachers. Short term volunteers like Auston and myself help out during the day while the long term volunteers are resting and taking a break. Then we stay at Hotel Backpackers at night (thankfully away from the kids).
It was an incredible experience. The kids grow on you so fast. Part of me wanted to stay longer. But I just don't think I have that kind of patience. And I know Auston doesn't. It really takes a special person to be able to work there long term. It was definitely a pleasure to meet the other volunteers and listen to their experiences. They love what they're doing and are having fun amid all their hard work.
Oh yea, it was also sooooo hot there! The humidity is just nuts. Upon arriving in Belize last Sunday after leaving Guatemala, we immediately found a hotel with air conditioning. It was an absolute must. I like to think we were enjoying it on behalf of all the other volunteers!
Here's a video with some clips of our time at Casa Guatemala.