Last month, Centro Infantil de los Angeles was lucky to host a group of volunteers from St. Louis University High School. Over the course of three weeks, these wonderful boys filled the daycare with their enthusiasm and love. Whether it was through overseeing potty time, serving lunches, painting classrooms, or cooking dinners for their grateful volunteer coordinator, the volunteers left a mark on our hearts that will not be forgotten. The group left at the end of January having built new friendships, experienced a new culture, and made memories to carry home with them. These are a few of their favorite moments from Centro Infantil de los Angeles.
Twelve baby toilets are arranged in an tightly packed L shape in the corner of the classroom, extending out against two of the walls. All of the kids are only between one and a half to two years old, yet they are all already potty trained (for the most part). The kids also all sit on the toilet at the same time while we clean up the classroom for the next activity. However, when the setup takes too long, the kids get antsy and start to bother each other.
During one particularly rowdy occasion, I had an idea to distract their attention for a little longer. Standing right outside the door, I’d occasionally stick my head in and shout “Pa!”. Every time, the kids screamed excitedly for half a second then went right back to attention, waiting for another surprise. This went on for over ten minutes. While I’m sure the teacher might’ve been getting tired of hearing the same thing over and over again, the kids could’ve been surprised like that for the rest of the day, and I could’ve enjoyed seeing their beaming faces for the half second I stuck my head into the room for the rest of the day as well.
My favorite moment of my twenty-one days in San Miguel de Allende came on my second to last day of service. Jose, a child who I had become especially close to referred to me as his “amigo.” Something about his innocent voice and warm, large eyes caused me to almost tear up. I gave him a brief hug, and we went back to playing with the toy that he was driving up the face of the cliff that was my arm and summiting on my shoulders. I really do feel that these children have in many ways become eleven additional friends. I will miss their “Hola Machews” in the morning and their messy faces rubbing up against my freshly laundered clothing. I have very much enjoyed my time here and hope to return again.
Otro Mas (Charlie)
Complete with slides, seesaws, orange trees and more, the playground outside the daycare has everything a kid could ask for. But despite the giant trampoline to the left, Philip’s favorite part is the curved plastic climbing wall. It’s basically a really steep ramp with hand holds, but the problem is Philip isn’t big enough to climb up by himself, his arms can’t reach. So every time I grab his stomach and hoist him up, making noises and “woooosh” sounds like he’s a rocket ship blasting off. And honestly, lifting a three year old up over and over again is extremely tiring. After four or five times, my arms start to ache a little. But after he slides down, he always comes over, tugs on my pant leg, looks up and asks “Otro Mas?” Again? And everytime he’s got the biggest smile in the universe, as if everytime I lift him up it’s like he really is in a rocket ship, about to blast off yet again.
Otro Mas? Absolutely.
One of my favorite memories from this trip involves Francisco’s father. It was right around 3 o clock when most of the kids begin to be picked up. With Francisco sitting atop my shoulders, we were galloping around the classroom as if he were a cowboy and I the horse. When we got close to the door I saw his dad waiting to and said “Mira Francisco, su papa!” I quickly lowered him to the ground as he ran to give his dad a hug. However, moments later I heard his dad ask, “what’s the name of your friend francisco?” to which he replied, “Jack.” This next moment is what I won’t forget. His dad then reached out his hand and said “gracias Jack” as I reached mine out and said “Mucho gusto Mr. (last name of Francisco in Mary’s class.)” Perhaps it is a combination of the mutual respect, face to face interaction, and the recognition of good work, that made this encounter so meaningful.
Picture this: you are changing an unbelievably dirty diaper while the baby screams and squirms due to a bright red diaper rash. You hear three other babies wailing in their cribs because they miss mom. One kid, still seated in her high chair from lunch, spits her chupón out and joins the chorus of cries. It’s complete pandemonium in the baby room.
Then, an idea strikes you. You walk over to the stereo and put in Música Para Bebés, the sole CD lying on top of the cabinet. El Zorro Loco begins playing, and suddenly the room falls silent, the repetitive beat and catchy melody cutting every cry short. Slowly but surely, every baby begins to rock and bob with a huge smile from cheek to cheek. Screaming cries are replaced with joyous laughter, and an all-out dance party ensues, with you in the lead. So far, that has been my favorite memory at Centro Infantil de Los Ángeles.
My favorite moment took place during the time where all the kids go outside to play before nap time. I started playing on the trampoline with a few kids and became “El monstruo” where I would crawl after the kids and grab them to put them on my shoulders while they laughed hysterically. Eventually more and more kids joined until almost the entire class was on the trampoline running in circles around me. They were all laughing so much and each one would jump on me to try to get my attention. It ended with all of them laying on top of me in a dog-pile.