Over the week, I have interviewed and observed the acidH organization. This organization strives to serve those who have mental intellectual disabilities. The acidH is a Catalan organization put in Barcelona for the integration of those with and without disabilities. The woman I spoke and interviewed was named Lorena Iguash. Ms. Iguash is the leader for this organization, which has services in the late afternoon up until the evening. The mission of acidH is to improve the quality of life for people with limited intelligence through a comprehensive care, regardless of their etiology and whether there are some other disorders. acidH has different branches of the organization that purposefully helps those with limited intelligence, or mental disabilities, from their private and personal life. AcidH was founded 25 years ago with the intent of serving Barcelona`s community for those with intelligence disabilities. Lorena explained that before the program the families of those with IL (intellectual disabilities) did not know how to properly care for them. They mostly roamed around Barcelona often homeless and ignored by the greater society. Yet acidH started with their “área d’habitage” sector. This branch gave people with IL a place to stay when they were not at work or did not have a place to go. They would have an attendant from 3:00pm- 9:00pm assisting them with cooking, activities, and other basic living survival needs. Afterwards, acidH opened its “área psicosocial”, psychology area, to help families with those with IL and a safe haven. The specific branch I visited in acidH was” EL Club Divertiment acidH”. Lorena explained that the club was a type of “after school” program that gave people activities, academic lessons, and other skills to adapt to their society easier.
The Club follows an orderly schedule for both its morning and afternoon sessions. In the morning the club opens up around9:30am to start with any news or stories anyone would like to share. This can range from what they did yesterday to a story they remember from when they were younger. Then afterwards, there is a breakfast for everyone which usually goes over an hour and a half. Lessons will proceed including basic language and grammar, and mathematics. The club also teaches computer skills and hotel service training so that they may have some jobs and take care of themselves. The schedule is never restricted to certain times , as Lorena explains because the attention spans of people with IL are child-like and can be distracted very easily. I learned that they are people who are just below the average IQ of national standards so lessons and activities need to be at a slower pace so that everyone can follow.
When I got the chance to observe and volunteer with Lorena I learned hands -on about the cultural values of Spain. Even those with IL still come together as close friends and companions to form their own community. A community is not defined by its geographical location or the amount of people it has, it defined by the values, interests, and backgrounds that people share. The leaders of the acidH, Lorena, Julian, and Pepa, all used their education to help people that need extra attention. Lorena, therefore, serves her community by being a protector of the human rights of people with IL. She serves as an advocate of their basic rights by educating them to know that they are entitled to the same quality of life that people without IL have. She shows them that they are not lesser, but they are just as equal and the club gives them a space to feel belonged and included. It is here, the club serves as an important community because the participants have a sense of feeling of unity and cohesion with individuals who truly care about them. This community gives the participants the rites of passage of learning lessons, how to effectively interact, and occupational skills that help them excel in the broader community of Barcelona.
The community service experience made me realize several points that I don`t think I could have learned elsewhere. The most important learning lesson I received was that individuals have the power to make a change. Even though Lorena studied education of people with special abilities, she is a volunteer who contributes to the welfare of many others. Lorena and Julina selflessly give up their time for others, and even though it may only be 30 participants, they manage to touch the lives of others. I also learned that any social or political impact can impact a community. When I asked Lorena if the government ever threatened the existence of the club she said yes. Ms. Iguash explained that the government has shut down some other organizations guided to the welfare of people with disabilities. However, the donations of many huge institutions and organizations have contributed to maintaining their organization to keep running. It was during volunteering I realized that although people does not necessarily have to do community service every day, service to the people help keeps the sense of pride in the community. If people did not do community service or volunteering then a lot of problems would still exist. We should deeply care about our community because we are the ones who make it up. If I only cared about my own community I would not have been so cultured about societal issues of Spanish communities and let alone study abroad. Our innate interest and curiosity of other cultures and societies have always guided us to be very involved with global issues.
Richard Slimbach in “Becoming World Wise” even explains that younger people are using their study abroad experience to volunteer and make a difference. In Chapter 1,”Wise of the World” he talks about students going into third world countries to go volunteer learn about the societal struggles other cultures face. Yet in Chapter 2, “The Story We Need”, he goes on to talk about why people tend to dramatize and romanticize the problems of the world. We tend to change and alternate the truth because it seems to be less harsh to think about. However, this only further puts this into our imagination and does not make us realize that “Global learning can contribute to earth healing, but only as it sets our imaginations free to see and experience the world differently. International field experiences that interrupt and upset the “habitual human ways” that we have come to accept as “normal” and even aware of how those habitual behaviors are tied not only to our psychological desires but also to the institutions that are energized by those habits and desires, and to the global ecosphere that suffers as a result” Therefore, the global learning we do hands on or through service can inform us more than just learning about it on our own because the media or our imagination can limit us from really considering the global connection we all share.
Below I have a picture that shows Lorena teaching a group of people with IL about the grammatical errors in sentences. Even though this may seem primitive to us, it is a bond between some of the participants to really feel like somebody. To a person with IL, Lorena and the other volunteers are a big deal to their lives personally. As Dr. Martin King Luther would say, “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” We all can make a great change by practicing abnegation and relating back to smaller communities. I am changed by this experience, and I take back the knowledge that service helps the world grow more connected. Since I was observing, there was not much hands-on activities for me because the volunteers are professionally certified to work with people with IL.
Slimbach, Richard (2012-03-12). Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning (Kindle Locations 1318-1320). Stylus Publishing. Kindle Edition.