Currently the majority of my time in Chile is spent working in the administration of VEGlobal, but I make a point to visit Mi Club Domingo Savio once a week. Every Thursday afternoon I make the hour and fifteen minute commute from the city center down to the little house on Tupungato Street where I lived last year, and where Steve lived 25 years ago.
Although my activities while at Domingo Savio can range from giving the youngest kids piggy-back rides to providing the 45 children with a modest once (a Chilean snacktime tradition that bears a strong resemblance to British tea-time), one constant factor of my experience is the struggle to implement a series of camping workshops that I lead with the children. For the last several months I have been implementing the workshops by myself, and while some days I am amazed at how well the kids behave themselves, other days leave me feeling as though I spent all my time stopping fights and did not actually manage to teach anything to anybody.
The workshop that I had planned for this past Thursday was the “bonfire workshop,” and I was eagerly looking forward to it. Given that the workshop not only allows the children to build a fire (in a controlled environment, of course), but also because it culminates in a marshmallow roasting session, this workshop is always a favorite with the kids and hence the group is usually much more manageable. I also knew that this Thursday I would have the help of Elliot Rosenberg, one of the current full-time volunteers, which further strengthened my confidence that the workshop would run smoothly (and safely).
As has become a common theme in my volunteer experience, things did not exactly go as planned. The group of 5 children was unusually rambunctious and even getting them to sit down together in our designated area took about 15 minutes longer than expected. I began to wonder if I had put too much sugar in the milk for once. For an entire hour the kids were goofing off and a constant vigilance was required in order to prevent some of the children from removing flaming sticks from the fire and waving them dangerously at each other. Exasperated, Elliot and I eventually managed to pass out the marshmallows, which did effectively calm things down a bit — at least for the 2-3 minutes that it took for each marshmallow to be roasted.
This was the final workshop of the series, and as we were all sitting around the fire licking our sticky fingers I began to ask the children which workshops they liked the most and what they had learned. Naturally, everyone’s favorite was the “marshmallow workshop,” but it was really interesting to hear some of the kids mention as secondary choices a few of the other, less exciting sessions. A little boy told me that he was going to teach his mom how to fry bananas just like we did in the cooking workshop, and one of the other girls remembered that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, which we had gone over during an orienteering workshop a month earlier. As frustrated as I was at the moment, a smile slowly began to creep onto my face. These are the types of small steps by which I measure success, and after a long day of frustration, I had experienced once again the type of moment which urges me to continue taking steps forward.