I came to Project Somos on September 16th after a direct flight from Los Angeles International Airport, where I was living. After a long car ride, a short shopping trip in Tecpan, and 20 minutes on a dirt road, I arrived at the Project. I was at first taken back by the remoteness, stillness, and quietness of it all. I knew immediately that this is was going to be very different from my typical day to day, and that, it has been. At the time of writing this blog post I am sitting on the volunteer house porch, which is directly on campus of the school. I can hear the small micro-buses honk their horns and the faint rumble of the Volcan de Fuego. In about 1 hour, you will hear voices of kids which progressively get louder and louder. Eventually you see the line of students come in screaming ”Buenos Dias!!” as you sip the last of your coffee. Then your day starts.
Before coming to the Project, I worked for four years as a Structures Engineer in the aerospace industry. The overwhelming majority of my days involved constant screen time and sitting in a chair only getting up to go to a meeting or get coffee. While it was comfortable, I felt the need to break that routine. I did a lot of research to find a project or a place that spoke to me. I wanted to work with kids, live in a Spanish speaking country, and be in a remote area. After much reflection and thought, I quit my job upon accepting a volunteer position at Project Somos.
In my short two months here, I have gained more wrinkles from constantly smiling than anything else. Each job has given me a different challenge and the reward of seeing how the kids learn in different environments. The Farm-to-Table program is one of my favorites because I work with a group of 5-6 kids which are all different ages. The older ones write down what we need and do the math in the garden to figure out how many leaves of lettuce each kid needs to pick so we have 100 leaves in total (for example). The younger ones get excited by learning how to cut the stems off the chard or using a digital scale for the first time. In the preschool, I love picking out books to read, something many of the kids don’t get at home. Teaching art has let me see some kids shine that typically struggle with reading or math.
Guatemala, and especially this Project, have a special place in my heart. I am so happy to have escaped comfort for a short segment of my life to be here with these kids and experience this project with them. So many have already had to leave school to work, before the age of 14. Getting even 1 hour to play in the open air or read a book alone means so much, and I wish with all my heart that they will continue to get enough time in the day to just be kids.