Finally…Our Volunteer Work!

Although it took us a bit longer than we planned to get going with our regular day to day volunteering, we have been in full swing since the beginning of January. Well, as full swing as one can get with some non-profit or non-governmental organizations in Honduras.


From Movies

The volunteer work I am doing is quite different from what Jim is doing, so I will go over each of our work in different sections. With that said, you will see some of our work amazingly does come together. No, I won’t be figuring out what would be best for Masica’s dump, but Jim has skills (although not nunchuku skills, bow hunting skills or computer hacking skills) that interest boys, so I will be recruiting him for some activities at the orphanage.

Dawn and Her Boys

When I walk into Casa Del Nino I hear little voices saying “Dona!”* Not my given name, but my heart still jumps because maybe the small things I am doing there may actually make enough difference in a life or two to help set things right. These boys have been orphaned, abused, neglected and some even have lived on the street. It seems since they have had so little, it wouldn’t take much to make a difference in their life, but the difference that needs to be made is to renew their faith and trust in the human race.

Little guys, some only as tall as my hip, some maybe up to my chest, come up to hug me at my arrival. It brings a warm smile to my face, but what does it do for Andreas, the angry little Garifuna guy, or Angel who is just so very quiet, and what about extra small Carlito? Hopefully by continuing to go week after week, offering activities from crafts to sports, sharing special treats and being open enough for them to feel my love, they will start to trust again.

I started volunteering at the Casa Del Nino (Boy’s Home) here in La Ceiba in January. My main goal with the boys is recreation, more directly, therapeutic recreation. Therapeutic Recreation is a new, or not even a known, concept down here. Actually it is still unknown to many people in the states, so I am not surprised. My goal is to try to help the boys to trust people again, as well as raise their self esteem, help them work better in groups, and to build their leadership skills. I can do this through all kinds of recreational activities, but the more intense ones I will need a lot of control over the group and trust between the leader (me) and the boys, and equally as important, have to trust each other too. So trust it is. Wish me luck.

I am not alone in this journey. Coni (pronounced Connie) a long time volunteer at the Casa is right there with me. She is from Switzerland and now calls La Ceiba her home. She has been volunteering with the boys for 12 years, and is happy to have someone at her side with the same goals. We got started by making up a list of activities that the boys might want to do and asked each one individually what they were interested in. That activity alone had more to give then we thought. The boys were getting individual attention which they so badly need, and they were actually being asked what THEY wanted to do. It was great to see big smiles appear on their faces as they sat their thinking quietly, taking their time because this opportunity does not come often in the life of a disadvantaged child, about what they would like to do. Their desires ranged from more field trips to computer lessons to fishing to learning an instrument and amazingly so, even more art activities. It was such a simple thing to do with the boys, and so far it is my favorite activity.

Most of the activities we have done so far have been of the arts and crafts variety. I have not seen a more art interested group of boys in all my years of working with boys, playing with nephews, or even growing up with 3 brothers. We have made pulseras, weaved bracelets. The boys love making them and they are so very good at it. We also did chalk art outside on the basketball court, which is used more as a very small soccer court more than for the American sport of basketball. It was a hit. The boys were to draw what made them happy, we saw a variety of animals, mountains, fish and houses. I have learned sometimes it is not as easy to gather up the boys for an activity, although they want to do it, they want someone else to start it off. So you start with one, soon there are 3, then 5 and then more. We usually do not have the whole 30 boys in an activity, but that is okay because it would be too overwhelming and there is just not enough supplies anyway. By the way, thank you to those of you have sent some more art, craft and sport supplies! We have also made drawings on paper with colored pencils. Such a simple activity but it seemed liked they never get a chance to do it. All gathered around sharing colors and concentrating hard on their own picture. Jim and I now have a handful of children’s art to put on our tiny fridge!

We have also played soccer, had foot races (remind me not to race a 10 year old with a 6 year old on my shoulders AGAIN), made thank you cards, and I have even started some of the trust games. We started with a small group of boys in a circle face to back close together and on the count of three; they all sit on the lap of the person behind them. It took a few tries, shouts and shoves, but they did it. After another try or two, one of the boys started to lead another similar activity! He took the initiative and got 3 other boys to do the activity. It was awesome, once the others boys got the idea, other groups tried as well. This one took more time. I just sat off to the side, watched and helped just here and there a bit, but they all did it. I felt a bit accomplished that day, especially since Coni was not there to help. You see I may have leadership skills and a lot of activities up my sleeves, but I do not have the complete command of the Spanish language. One step at a time!

We had a several step/day process activity. We made frames from tongue depressors. After the glue was dried, we painted them, a messy event. Then after the paint dried, we decorated them with glitter, spongy stickers and yarn. Then we had a photography day. Jim came in to help as we wanted an adult with each camera. The boys were supposed to take 3 photos of whatever they wanted, but mostly they wanted photos of themselves. Once one boy finally took a photo, all the others wanted to as well, over and over again…of each other. We took 150 photos that afternoon! I put together a video to show the boys on the TV, well, with Jim’s help. Also, printed out a photo of each boy for their frames.


Actividad – Casa Del Nino Feb.09

Now that you have seen those faces, you will understand when I say I have fallen in love with them. These boys are just kids. They are nice children with good hearts who have been through some rough times. Whatever their past experience was, it has been traumatic. And they are still living it. Although they get the basics, food, shelter, clothing, and school, they also have to work hard as well. There is no cleaning staff at the orphanage; the kids do it all, even washing their own clothes. And they do so without complaints. Sometimes the angriest of the kids will just pick up a broom and clean up after an activity without even being asked. They do their homework, and they like to do it…most of the time. They are learning to take care of some things, but what they are lacking is love. The amount of love a child really needs, unconditional always will be there kind of love. I can see that most of the staff care, and it is good the kids have regular adult supervision, but they need more. Although, I have seen signs of some of them pushing me away knowing in their hearts I will leave too, I hope by being there week after week for this year, they can trust me and I can bring at least a little bit of love into each of their lives.

Let me share something with you, so you think I am there to help the kids. Ha, every day I go to Casa Del Nino, I learn something new and it is the boys that are teaching me. They teach me Spanish. For example, now they love to tease me by saying to me, “Dona, Dona, Uno momento, uno momento!” Well, after saying that for weeks to the boys when they were all trying to get my attention at once, one boy finally told me “uno momento” is wrong, the correct way to say it is, “Un momento!” They teach me how to better make a craft. They teach me about food of their country. And they teach me, when things get tough, maybe we have to get tougher. Every day working with the kids is not all daisies, but I get just as much or even more out of my volunteer activities with the boys.

*Now a little explanation my name “Dona:”

First, it is not pronounced like Donna, but dough-na. Dona, basically just because it is close to my name, but it has two meanings. First Dona is usually put before a women’s first name as a sign of respect (Dona Dawn). Nice, I like that, but better yet, it is also the word Dunkin Donuts here uses for donut. That is me, Ms. Donut! It seems it is hard for them to say the word Dawn, so Dona it is most of the times. I am so very okay with it.

More news on my volunteer experiences in later blogs, but first, in the next blog post, we will talk about Jim’s volunteer experience…

Jim and his Dumps!

~ by My Gnome Little World on March 6, 2009.

2 Responses to “Finally…Our Volunteer Work!”

  1. “My goal is to try to help the boys to trust people again, as well as raise their self esteem, help them work better in groups, and to build their leadership skills.”

    I could use some of those lessons too.

  2. Shoot…I could have practiced all those activities with you two when you were here!

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