Travel Log 12: Service

I volunteered for a day at an English immersion program for children. I learned a few things working with the kids, mostly that 4-6 year olds are lighter than you can even imagine but also as an American or a new entity I am something that is looked at in a different way. I am realizing more and more that as an American my life is so drastically different than that of most others on the planet. Our way of life is so separate from so many other places that at least to some degree share a kind of history or strife. As an American none of my family dealt directly with either of the World Wars or any of the other turmoil that has helped shape modern Europe. Of course, this pain and suffering was not evident in 4-6 year old children but through seeing how they interact vs. American children and then comparing that to adults it is interesting to see that an American cannot truly fit in in Europe or somewhere else. They can live and integrate but they will simply not have the same kind of makeup of history and culture as they were not brought up and socialized there.

In general, I would guess that most of the children I worked with were of an upper class. They clearly lived in Barcelona which already puts them above most people within Spain but they also lived in the younger trendy area of Gracia where the center was located. I’m sure some were from other places but there are many of these after-school programs around the city so it can be assumed most of the kids were local and would be walked from school to the program and then later picked up by parents or grandparents.

It makes a lot of sense to volunteer when in a foreign country as it is the easiest way to see a part of the community. You do not need an excuse to talk to someone or strike up a conversation since you are there to help. “Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve,” (King). Helping other people is very important to me. I feel fulfilled when I am helping people and that is what I want to do with my life. The issue is I don’t know how to help people on the scale that I want to. I want to defeat racism. I want to defeat sexism. I want to make the world a more equal place. I don’t know how one person can affect change on such a massive scale as I would like to and I don’t think that it has been done before. Of course, you can only do as much as one person can since I am only one person but this is a hard thing to accept when you have much larger goals. It can be frustrating to thing about. It can feel as if no matter what you do the change you want to see cannot be accomplished. This makes me think hard about how I could be doing things differently than people who have created large change before. It is hard because when I can’t come up with anything, it, like before, is frustrating. Working with kids helps me be more positive about the future because they aren’t already imbued with the negative things I see in the world. Kids aren’t inherently racist, sexist or unequal they learn these things. Kids think almost solely about themselves but at the same time they are kind and just want what they want which in their minds will make them happy. They play with their friends, they draw and paint where teachers tell them not to or they crawl under tables and refuse to leave until they are given a bulsa de iguanas as one of the kids did.

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