Volunteer: Nemesia & Jo Lynch
Location: La Serena Chile
Project: Orphanage Support
Our favorite memories...
Nemesia: There is many to choose from but my favorite memory from working at the home was our last day when we gave the Tias we had been working with cards that we had translated what we wanted to say into Spanish. The Tia I worked with actually cried as I was finally able to tell her I admired her and that she made me proud of my Chilean heritage.
My favorite part of staying in our accommodation was being escorted by the two dogs that lived down the road every morning to the bus stop. Everywhere we went in La Serena, including the shopping centres, we had a dog follow or escort us there! It was great company.
Jo: I became very close to one particular baby girl who I was told, was very unsettled around men before I came. We bought her a little present when we left and despite being sick she was still really excited when we handed it to her, waving her arms around and squealing.
We were surprised that:
Nemesia: Before we came to La Serena we were in Cusco Perú which has a huge tourism industry and it's not to hard to find someone who speaks English there. I was surprised that almost no one spoke English in La Serena. It was actually very helpful because it forced me to work harder on my Spanish.
Jo: I was surprised that the home was as well organized and clean as it was; despite the little funding they receive.
The most difficult thing we experienced was:
Nemesia: It can be very hard working with children and not getting emotionally attached to them and wishing you could do more for them. I just had to keep reminding myself of the fantastic work the Tias do and that they genuinely love and care for each and every child with the little they have.
Jo: Language barrier!
Our best received lessons:
Nemesia: Each day I would learn a little more about taking care of children from 10 days to 18 months old from watching the Tias; from changing nappies to feeding and burping. I am definitely a pro now at getting babies to sleep! (which I am sure will help in the future)
I also learnt a lot of Chilean slang by just listening to the conversations around me which put a lot of words that my Chilean family say into context for me which was a really fun experience. The Tias have such great senses of humour; they made learning Spanish funny.
Jo: Feeding a one year old without making a mess! Very challenging!
Tips for future volunteers:
Nemesia: Be prepared to get sick! The children are constantly battling the flu as they no sooner get better and get it from another child in the home; so be prepared to get the flu for a couple days. There is a juice stand on the way to the orphanage, we tried to drink as much orange juice as we could to combat the flu.
Chilean people are very polite. Make sure you use the word "permiso" when you walking uninvited into a room, pass people on the bus or need to walk in front of people browsing the aisles at the shops.
The older children at the orphanage have heard VERY LITTLE English and love to hear you speak it, so don't be afraid to engage with them in English!
Jo: If you are from fast paced Western society, it can be very hard to adjust to the speed of South America. Working with the children can be very slow and if you don't speak Spanish well it can get very exhausting. After 2 weeks of caring for the children, we took some initiative and asked if we could do some painting and this kept my enthusiasm up. Try and use your initiative for things that need to be done around the orphanage but be very careful you don't step on anyone's toes; the sisters function like a well oiled machine, you don't want to get in the way of that.