Centro de Esperanza Infantil in Oaxaca

I am in Oaxaca, on my way to Guatemala. It is the last place I am going to visit in Mexico. Exciting!

I wasn’t looking forward to another set of churches and pretty buildings so I decided to skip that altogether and volunteer in a children’s center instead. So, this morning I did a bit of research and headed to the centre that’s only a short walk from the hostel.

I read about it in the Lonely Planet guide book, and then came across a lady’s blog describing her experiences with the centre.

I went there and asked if I could help with something and that I had two days. They immediately told me they needed help in the kitchen. So, I spent most of the day with Juanita (the cook) washing/drying dishes, serving lunch, helping out with the cooking. Juanita showed me how to make agua de jamaica.

Then later that day I was joined by an Australian girl and a New Zealand lady. They left after lunch but I stayed and got to talk to the children a bit. That’s when I also met a couple of Dutch people.

I spent most of the time talking to a teenager called Marco, who was rather cheeky, not to say rude at times. Anyhow, it was an experience. The reality of doing good is not nearly as glamorous as we think. I willbe spending another day with them tomorrow, helping in the kitchen and later anging out with the kids, making Christmas cards.

A bit more about the project. It was founded by Jodi Bauman in 1985 and it’s aim is to help the Triquis – the poorest indigenous people in the Oaxaca region.

The center operates through sponsosr, mainly from Western countries, who take care of a child’s school expenses. The center also looks for volunteers and donations. Another part of the expenses is covered by a German NGO.

The center has a dining area, which is visited by roughly 70 kids per day; a clinic, operated by a volunteer; and a nursery for the younger siblings of the ponsored children.

One has the opportunity to sponsor a child throughout school which only costs bout $150 per year.

To be continued…

I left the center at 4pm, got some food and thought I could have a look around. As expected churches, gardens, pretty buildings, bustling artesanias markets, intresting indigenous people. Charming pedestrian streets, full of life.

The highlight of tonight’s walk is Templo de Santo Domingo. One of the most beautiful churches I have seen. If not the most beautiful one. It looked more like a palace on the inside than a church. Rich gold carvings and scultures covering the walls and the ceiling. I overheard a guide saying that it is one of the most beautiful curches on the continent. I am glad I took tat walk, even if it’s just to see the church.

I walked through a market street that was so low, even I couldn’t walk through without bending. The women wore beautifully hand-woven red robes dotted with yellow, orange and green. The artesanias are goregeous. There’s everything from little wooden turtles that move their heads to luxurious, expensive jewelery. I would buy so much if I could carry it with me. For now I’m ony buying little dolls dressed like the indigenous from te different regions.

I wanted to see a traditional dance performance but it didn’t happen so I ended up going to a free cinema to see a very weird movie.

Day 2 at the center
Another day at the center. I got there at 11am just in time to help Juanita prepare the lunch. I got to prepare the drinks again but this time it was more fun as we were making agua de tamarindo.
At first I didn´t quite understand what we were doing as Juanita asked my to mash this mushroom thing (brown). So I mashed and I mashed, until it turned into a pulp. This we mixed with water and sugar and voila! Agua de tamarindo. We put the pulp in a cif but the water wasn´t draining properly the way I did it. So Juanita, helped out and made a huge mess.
Then we made tortas with frijoles, cheese and letuce. Juanita kept telling me that I was using too much letuce nd it wouldn´t be enough for all the bread. I did have great difficulty putting less letuce as I wasn´t using much to begin with (at least that´s what I thought). I was trying to make sure it covered the bread.
Anyhow, it was lunch time and the kids came. A busy one, all of us running around.
Each kid could have not more than 3 pieces (a bun and a half). One of the older girl had two to begin with and came back to ask for a third one as she was still hungry. Although there were more, Juanita refused to give her one saying that it´s not the way they worked.
Then there was a boy, who felt uncomfortable asking for 3 pieces despite the fact I asked him if he wanted 3.
While working I told Philippa (a girl from New Zealand) about my troubles with the teenage boy from the previous day. She said I should report him to the principal and I was wondering whether I should do it or not. I didn´t want to tell him off as he was just your average teenager (despite the things he said). At the end I didn´t say anything. But I didn´t talk to him all day, and I think he got the message.
I hope he doesn´t carry on like that as his sponsor would be very dissappointed knowing they are wasting their money. A kid like that could put you off from sponsoring as it nearly did in my case.
Anyhow, after lunch I got to play a bit with a few kids in the backyard (including twin brothers). They were very cute, full of energy, constantly laughing, running around. They went mad with the cameras, both mine and a an Italian couple´s one. Some of the photos they took were pretty cool.
Before I left I spoke to the principal and asked her for more information regarding sponsoring, volunteering and donations. The process is very straight forward: you pick a child (a girl or a boy, younger or older) and make sure you send them the money every year until they graduate. All is done online with minimum fuss.
Some kids go all the way through university and graduate with medical, engineering or business degrees. Other finish high school and either start working (as money seems to make more sense than school at the time) or get married (girls).
Those kids deserve it and I am glad I got to help and be a part of en extremely close community.

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