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Idealist volunteers

On the road to change the world

For international participants it can sometimes be a shock to enter the educational/childcare system in Mexico. We advise Casa HOY participants to not take things too seriously and to be prepared for a lack of, well, everything. Little or no discipline, lack of school supplies, technology, teachers, and staff, as well as limited, dirty and/or cramped facilities. Children and teenagers’ belongings and preparedness will also differ, some having a high level of English, and/or nice, clean clothes, and others with only half a broken pencil to their name (and of course, no eraser).

Even though Casa HOY prepares participants for these cultural differences, it is inevitable for volunteers to come with idealistic expectations for their volunteer experience. You may think, I’m one more person. I can help with discipline. I have some extra money, I can buy supplies that they will use and value. I have time, I can give them the individual care and attention they need. And hopefully, most of the time, that will be the case. Throughout your volunteer experience you will have up days and down days, especially when working with people; and even more so in foster-care situations.

I had an “idealistic” day like that today at an organization I’ve been helping out with off and on for the past five years. Now that I speak Spanish fluently, I feel a responsibility to help out with discipline, especially knowing that the staff there is overworked and, as we say in Spanish, probably “hasta la madre” (they’ve had it “up to here”). The boys were picking on a fellow compañero with some physical and mental disabilities, and I, for the life of me, could not get them to leave him alone. The staff didn’t discipline and of course the boys didn’t pay any attention to me. So much for my idealistic expectations.

When we left our volunteer work for the day I exploded, distraught with the negative treatment the boy was receiving and “hasta la madre” with the lack of discipline, interest/care and resources. But yet again, as other Casa HOY staff consoled me later in the evening, I was reminded that we are “on the road to change the world.” And sometimes we have to accept the road that we are on- we can’t change the road and the world.

Remember, Mexico is NOT your home country (even if I now consider it as such). If you compare it to your home country and apply the same expectations you have there for your time here Mexico, you’re going to come up short. The same standards in the US or Australia, for example, with childcare are totally different. We’re not saying that it’s okay for these problems to exist, but rather that they are part of your everyday volunteer experience and you can either harp on them or focus on the positive moments of the convivir part of your participatory travel.

Don’t give up on changing the world just because the world isn’t always ready to change. You might not be able to change the world of an organization, but you might be able to be the change in one person’s world.

Posted by UnMejorHOY 08:55 Archived in Mexico Tagged parties travel mexico de reyes international traditions community cultural volunteer casa voluntourism casa_hoy participatory rosca

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