Friday, June 1, 2012

Pampa Aceituno & Inti students

For the past couple weeks a group of Pampa Aceituno students have been involved in an "exchange program" with street workers in Sucre. Charlotte, the other volunteer who helps out at Pampa Aceituno, was originally volunteering for a nonprofit that writes and publishes a magazine called Inti. Children who work on the streets sell the Inti magazines to tourists in the central plaza. The magazine costs 3 Bolivianos (less than fifty cents) and the children get to keep half the proceeds. It is a really great program that allows these working children to make their own money to buy school supplies, clothing, and anything else that their parents just can't afford to buy for them. Charlotte paired each Inti child with a student from Pampa Aceituno and for the past few weeks they have been writing letters to one another. On Tuesday, BiblioWorks and Inti hosted an intercambio– we brought the eight Inti students to Pampa Aceituno for a morning full of games, food, and activities. The morning was off to a slow start– the Inti kids were supposed to arrive in the plaza at 7:15 so we could all take a van together to Pampa Aceituno. Well, only one showed up. We waited, and waited, and waited until it was 8:30 and we just couldn't wait anymore. The girl who was there kept saying the other children were coming, but we had to leave as we were already late as it was. We were getting settled in the van and starting to pull away when she started pointing and yelling that the other kids were here. They literally got to the plaza just in the nick of time. We piled the other seven children into the van (an hour and a half behind schedule, truly Bolivian time) and drove up to Pampa Aceituno.

The Pampa Aceituno students were incredibly shy when it came to introducing themselves and interacting with the Inti kids, whereas the Inti kids were just going crazy and being their normal outgoing and in-your-face selves. It is incredible, the difference in their character and behavior. We did an activity where the students had to work together to make a poster of their town– so all the Inti kids drew pictures of Sucre, and the Pampa Aceituno students drew pictures of Pampa Aceituno– basically trees, sheep, and cows. Okay that isn't entirely true... there are a few buildings in this tiny town.... churches and houses that is! The Inti kids lost interest about five minutes in, but the Pampa Aceituno students were all sitting around the poster discussing the layout and then divvying up the work– giving each student a characteristic of the town to draw. For the next half hour they ferousiously worked without talking while the Inti kids snuck out of the room to play outside or tried to convince the volunteers to draw for them. Besides the drawing activity, students met their pen pal, got to know the students from the other town, played games, won prizes, had a big game of soccer, and feasted on a celebratory meal of chicken, potato wedges, and rice. I know it is hard to believe, but this kind of food is a special dish for the students. The ones who couldn't finish the food on their plate found plastic bags so they could bring it home and eat it later for dinner.
Playing games together. Photo credit to Charlotte
Later that night while at dinner with the other volunteers we discussed the drastic differences between the children– their academic and social life as well as their general character is just so different. I personally think that the Inti kids may be so free spirited because they never have anyone telling them what to do. Literally, everyday they go into the city to do their street work, (shining shoes, selling bracelets, food, etc) and sell the Inti magazines. These kids as young as seven years old have freedom that most eighteen year olds in the states yearn for. They have no adults telling them what to do, their
parents literally have no idea where they are. I realize that I am making these kids seem wild and out of control, but they are also very sweet and hardworking to make the money to support themselves and help contribute to their families income. They manage with living conditions that are hard to fathom– and they have already dealt with situations and hardships in their young years that I can't even imagine facing. On the other end of the spectrum are the Pampa Aceituno kids who also work and live in harsh conditions, but unlike the Inti kids, they have no way to escape their family or obligations– they literally are the only town on top of a mountain. Every morning they go to school, and at noon when they are dismissed they return to their homes to help their parents with chores. They are accustomed to having adults telling them what to do and following their directions without questioning them– it is the only way of life they know. There is no distraction of a city. Talk about completely different lives when these children are only separated by less than fifteen kilometers– a twenty minute car ride.

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