My Volunteering Experience at the Montessori School
My year at NPH Guatemala.
July 11, 2017 - Guatemala
The first transition to NPH was hard. I had taken years of Spanish throughout high school and college but when I was dropped in a classroom expected to teach 20 wide-eyed kids for 40 minutes at a time in Spanish, I realized that I probably should have taken the classes more seriously. When you can’t fully communicate the way you want to, it makes you feel like you’ve lost a piece of your identity and you struggle to make up for it in other ways.
The language was something I had to work at every day to improve. I would write myself scripts for my classes and try to memorize them the night before. I even found myself practicing jokes in Spanish, hoping that the next day the kids would laugh with me instead of at me for a change. In the first few months, it was all I could do to keep the kids sitting in their seats throughout the entire class. The classroom was chaotic and I didn’t really have the means to improve on that until my language skills strengthened.
This whole year has been a process of growth, development, and learning. I came down here with the idea that I was going to do some good for these kids who have already been through so much in their lives. What you don’t realize when you embark on an experience like this is how much you’re going to learn and take away from it. I have learned far more from these kids than I could ever teach them. They have taught me the importance of gratitude, resilience, and faith. They have so little, but what they lack in material possessions they make up for in strength of character and values.
The section of boys I have been assigned to this year is between the ages of 12 and 17. One story that will stick with me forever took place during one of the kids' birthdays. His best friend in the section, who works in the bakery, had made him a cake earlier that day. The cake was not that big and at most should have fed five to seven people. The first thing he did when he received the cake was cut it into 18 pieces so every boy in the section, including me, could have a piece. This act of generosity came without thought; it was almost like this value was engrained in his system.
This year has brought so much to my life; I have learned a new language, learned how to teach and command a classroom, and formed relationships that I will cherish forever. NPH has made a lasting impact on my life, and I will carry the memories I have made here in my heart forever.