June 22: Day 7: Recycling to VAMOS! to pinata party!
A poster explaining some principles of VAMOS!, an organization for street vendors' children
Michael observes VAMOS! children playing
THE ABOVE FILE IS A VIDEO OF QUAN HITTING THE PINATA DURING THE PARTY
Today has been magnificently busy, and perhaps our most fun day yet in Mexico! I am happy to say I have again outwitted the Mexican internet's best efforts to not have pictures on this blog! The pictures for this entry are uploaded now in their entirety. Enjoy!
(Also, directly above this text is a link that says, 'Download File.' The downloadable file is a short, fun video of Quan swinging at the pinata.)
The morning reflection today involved analyzing the culture of Milwaukee in relation to Cuernavaca, as well as to introduce the C.E.S.A.R. students to concepts of productive societal analysis. One highlight of the reflection was a period of approximately 20 minutes during which the whole group was divided into two. One half was to create a skit about a day in the life of a family in Milwaukee; the other was to create a day in the life of a family in Cuernavaca. More than anything the process was fun and the final skits were entertaining. However, it was interesting to see what aspects of each culture the respective groups chose to represent in their theatrical presentations. There was an undertone of genuine thought and cultural awareness in both skits, and this undertone provided the bulk of the discussion for the remainder of the reflection.
One group presents dinnertime in a Milwaukee home. Mark is serving, "Meat...lots of meat," which Myzel clearly acts excited about!
The 'Mexican family' skit: Michelle (family mother) speaks to her 'children,' who are busy pounding tortillas (Maya,) chopping vegetables (Pachan,) and being frusturated that he can't play soccer any longer! (Michael)
The Recycling Center at Tejalpa
After morning reflection we left for Tejalpa, a town near Cuernavaca. There we assisted three women who run the only recycling center in the Cuernavaca area, even though Cuernavaca has approximately 1,000,000 residents! All three women were volunteers. We also learned that many people around Cuernavaca are unfamiliar with the concept of recycling, and so our role was to help organize the various material that had been delivered to the center into types of recyclables and non-recyclables. We worked for a little more than an hour, providing some valuable service to the city of Cuernavaca!
The group works on organizing Cuernavaca´s recycling
The group in front of the Tejalpa recycling center, the only one near the city of Cuernavaca, after providing some service time. The white containers in the background need to be shipped to Japan or China in order to be recycled!
VAMOS!: An altruistic vision of hope and development
The afternoon was occupied by a trip to VAMOS!, an afterschool program for the children of street vendors in Cuernavaca. Many of the children work on the streets themselves, selling artisan goods and food. The VAMOS! organization takes the same kids in daily and provides them a meal with a multivitamin. For many of the kids this is the only full meal they will receive in the day. After eating, the kids do their homework and participate in a myriad of educational, recreational, and skill-developing activities.
The program was founded approximately 20 years ago by Americans Bill and Patty Coleman, who, struck by the poverty in Cuernavaca after visiting, decided they had to do something to not just alleviate suffering, but also to promote infrastructural development in the city. Unsure of how to attain this noble, but intimidating, goal, Patty and Bill returned to Cuernavaca and began forming relationships with local citizens. Patty recalls that after some time, she gathered a group of local women and asked what would help their community and children. She said that after giving it some thought, one woman said, "It would really help if we had a bathroom." Another then said, "If we could have something to eat sometimes." A third said, "I never learned to read and write. Could you help our kids go to school?" These suggestions led to VAMOS!, which encapsulates functions of both a school and a community center. Throughout the year the program has approximately 100 children 'enrolled' at the facility we went to in Cuernavaca, although since its inception VAMOS! has expanded to include 17 locations around Cuernavaca which serve about 1,200 children per year!
The program is run 100% on donations, and is certainly making a difference in helping Mexico combat its poverty in a constructive, sustainable way. We toured the facility, met some of the kids there, and had a great experience learning about an institution of not only such profound hope, but also of such concrete results.
Quan and Nyesha with children at VAMOS! The eight year old girl, Carla, is deaf and mute from childhood trauma, but this clearly has not stopped her from being a happy kid!
Myzel in front of a mural painted by VAMOS! children
Michelle and Teneisha communicate with a child at VAMOS!
Quan observes VAMOS! children playing
Daren, a participant in the VAMOS! program and a talented artist, proudly shows us his picture book
Girls at VAMOS! are given haircuts
Observing VAMOS! creations
Pinata party: Inviting children from La Estacion to CCIDD!
Our evening was occupied by perhaps our most lively activity to date: inviting a number of children from the La Estacion community over to CCIDD for a pinata party and festivities! Some of the children's mothers were women with whom we had met and spoken in La Estacion, and this was a great way to connect to these families in a less emotionally heavy atmosphere.
After the pinata party, the kids continued to play and bond!
CCIDD volunteers, C.E.S.A.R. students, and La Estacion children play an icebreaking game called 'Fruit Basket'
There's a 'fruit basket upset' and everyone needs to find new seats!
Myzel laughs hysterically after knocking his chair over and getting back up
Michael reassigns what 'fruits' people are
Boys from La Estacion horseplay
Myzel is blindfolded in preparation for the pinata!
Nyesha swings ferociously at the pinata!
Maya, clearly happy after taking her turn at the pinata
A mad rush for the candy after Michael cracked open the pinata!
The pinata king is crowned!
An impromptu game of musical chairs after the pinata
Towards the end of the night, the kids-both C.E.S.A.R. and La Estacion-played a sort of 'keep away' game. At first the teams were divided English-speaking C.E.S.A.R. students and Spanish-speaking La Estacion children, but before long the teams became mixed. In the words of one C.E.S.A.R. student, "You don't need to speak the same language to have fun together!"
"I'm not leaving!"
All day long I've had a story from breakfast with which I was planning to close this entry. It goes as such: Michelle sat down at the table with a plate full of fruit. She declared, "I'm really going to miss fresh mangoes and papayas when we go back to the U.S." Michael immediately interjected, "I won't because I'm staying here. I'm not leaving!" Myzel then lit up and added, "Yeah, I wanna live at the center!" This seemed to show what a great time the kids were having and would be a good closing note. However, this evening, during a game we were playing with the kids from La Estacion, a CCIDD volunteer asked the whole group, "If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?" Before anyone could answer, Myzel answered, "Home. To see my mom." He was, by no means, feeling sad or homesick, and proceeded to have a great time at the pinata party. It was clear, however, that he was in a healthy place with both appreciating his experience in Mexico and appreciating his home and family. I think this sort of perspective is the best thing any kid in this program could have, and it was really great to hear that response from Myzel response during the game. It also confirmed how this entry would finish. Good night, all. And for the last time I can say this, I will write again tomorrow.
A view of Cuernavaca from inside VAMOS!