Through my study abroad program, they offer us an opportunity for an "internship," which really just means a volunteer position in the Sevilla community. When I first applied to go abroad, I didn't even fill out the section for this, because I didn't want to overburden myself. But the more than I thought about it, and the more that I talked to other people, I realized...why not? It would be so much more enriching to help out the community and confront realities of where I am living. I think that with studying abroad, we can get caught up in the "exoticism" of the place, and take it--although there is studying of course--as a sort of vacation from reality. But by volunteering, we're slapped in the face by the situation that challenges some Spaniards everyday. I was assigned to work at Candelaria, an organization linked with a church in a big working-class neighborhood. Candelaria provides an after school program for children, where the first two hours are devoted to tutoring and the last two are arts & crafts, games, etc.
I began my volunteer work at Candelaria last Tuesday right after classes ended. All through the day, I was excited, but a little nervous. After all, I had trouble understanding adults...how was I going to understand children?
I met the head volunteers at the association and they told me I was going to work with the older children, ages 13-14. But, as fate would have it, the older class consisted of only one girl! There had been a strike in the secondary school, so the children hadn't gone to school that day. I was reassigned to the youngest class. The kids were adorable, and they weren't really sure where the US was. I have to admit, I was a little taken aback. But then I thought, when I was six years old, did I know where Spain was?
After about ten minutes, Mari (the leader here) came up to me and said, "I think these children might be too young for you." She lead me upstairs to the middle class, where a friend of mine was working.
They introduced me to the class, the kids erupted in chaos. Everyone wanted me to work with them! I ended up spending most of my time sitting at a table of three girls who were doing their science and math homework. Listening and talking to them, I realized that I would probably learn much more from them then they from me. I may be able to hold a conversation in Spanish, and write a paper on social issues in Spanish, but I didn't know how to explain math! So, if you can imagine, I crouched next to table, conferencing with an 8 year old boy on how to do long division and assist his classmate who didn't understand her error. In Spanish.
In all, I enjoyed my first day, and I look forward to continuing my work here. Although, I think I need to brush up on my elementary school skills!