A Day in the Life of a VE Volunteer
Michelle was a VE volunteer for nearly seven months at Hogar San Francisco de Regis, a home for about 25 girls aged 3 to 20 years. She also worked on the Programs Committee.
8:54 am: Press snooze on the alarm and wonder why eyes won’t open; remember that I just arrived late last night from an eight hour bus trip from La Serena. Make quick breakfast of granola, yogurt and some fruit bought at the local market outside of the hogar. Maul over ideas for some informal activities to do with the girls before lunch. Hop on the metro and take the easy 15-minute trip to Hogar San Francisco (the closest hogar to center city Santiago).
10:00 am: Arrive at the hogar to find the girls already going strong. Jump on the trampoline with a few of the younger ones and chase them around acting like a zombie for a while, to great shrieks of joy. After getting quite winded, jump off the trampoline and walk over to the patio to start a game of ¡Pesca! (Go Fish!) with any girls who are interested. However, this game usually attracts too many interested parties, and dissolves after one or two hands into a finger pointing and/or throwing of cards. The girls are certainly competitive.
12:00 pm: Hold two or three guitar workshops with girls before lunch. Many want to learn to play, but only a few can participate in the morning, so plan for more guitar talleres (workshops) near the end of the day.
12:45 pm: During the school year (March to December), we will arrive at the hogar at around 12:45 instead of 10am and prepare to pick the girls up from nearby schools between 1pm and 1:30pm. Almost all girls come home to eat lunch at the hogar; some will be finished for the day, but some will have to return to school shortly after lunch.
1:30 pm: Start digging into a relaxing lunch with the other tías (adult staff). Lunches are the biggest meal of the day, complete with typical Chilean salads (usually lettuce, tomato, cabbage, lemon and olive oil), entrées (a meat with rice, beans, or noodles), and desserts (this gets dangerous when the ice cream machine is not broken).
2:30 pm: During the summer, start preparing for an afternoon taller for the girls which will help the kids think about their dreams for the year by painting or drawing a picture and writing a goal on top. Cooking talleres are most popular, so plan a future taller where kids color in the food pyramid and make fruit kebabs.
3:30 pm: During the school year, go pick up the last group of girls who are at nearby schools and help them start their homework for the afternoon. The girls especially love using us to help with their English homework. Talk to the older girls about going to a movie together next week.
8:00 pm: Head over to the big apartment where many VE volunteers are living together with a bottle of wine and guacamole to add to the potluck. Reflect on the day’s work with my compatriots and start planning a class fundraiser over great (and inexpensive) Chilean wine and piscolas.
12:oo am: Get home and start translating some poems written by the girls for a poetry book project. Realize I’m too tired to continue and fall asleep thinking about the next weekend’s trip to a beach in Algarrobo…
Jess volunteered for eight months at Fundación Promesa Niños, a home for 18 boys between the ages of 3 and 14. She was also a part of the Programs Committee. Promesa closed in 2012, but this still reflects working in a children’s home in Santiago.
9:00 am: Start my day off by getting some motivation to go for a run in a nearby park. Return home to shower, change and grab something to eat before heading over to the office.
10:00 am: Pick up some supplies and activities to take to the hogar and leave to meet up with Nola, one of the other Promesa volunteers, to buy the rest of the supplies we need for the days activity with the kids.
1:00 pm: Arrive at the hogar, and after greeting all the boys, eat lunch and chat with the tías for a while. Work off a filling lunch by playing tag, hide-and-seek, and cops and robbers with the boys outside.
3:00 pm: Do a cooking workshop with a few of the boys, making pudding ‘dirt cups’ with insect shaped candies. Gather all the boys together for our first reading workshop for VE’s ¡Vamos a Leer! summer reading program. So exciting to watch 14 rambunctious little boys sit quietly and listen attentively (and have some help with the reading) to ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar.’ After the story, hand out ‘dirt cups’ to the boys to eat for once. Spend the rest of the afternoon coloring, reading and chatting with the boys.
7:00 pm: Head home to eat some dinner and chat with my roommates before heading out for a drink with my intercambio, where I attempt to improve my Spanish and help him with his English.
10:00 pm: Go home to check my emails and skype my family before calling it a night!