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I am happy to be a part of it!

Melanie, Dominikanische Republik, 2008/09, weltwärts

I am happy to be a part of it!

At first I would like to start with a description of the institution namend “Guarderia de los Tres Brazos, Centro y nutricion infantil de las Damas Diplomaticas y de la Parroquia Santa Luisa de Marillac”. The “Guarderia” is an institution depending of the catholic church in one of the poorest areas in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. There we have an area for the little children with the age between three and six and a school, from the first till the eighth grade, both including breakfast, lunch and snacks. We also have a medical center with some different types of doctors including a center for patients with tuberkulosis. In the “Guarderia” are almost working 50 persons, (now also the other volunteer Yanays Velasquez and me) and they are leaded by the nun “Sol Lydia”.

The children’s area

I would like to describe every area a little bit closer: Daily are coming to the children’s area almost 120 children. We have different names for them, because every grade has different colours: the little ones (three/four years) are the blue ones, the children in the middle (four/five years) are the red ones and the big ones (five/six years) are the yellow ones. ( In spanish: “los azules, los rojos y los amarillos”). Every colour has two classes with almost 20 children. I think everybody can imagine that its very loud over there.

The school

In the school every grade has only one class, so the classes are very big with almost 40 to 45 children in every one. It’s a civil school, so the students don’t have to pay, only their clothes and the materials, and these are not very expensive, because the “Guarderia” sells it cheaply. The students study spanish, history, english, french, mathematic, physic, sports etc. But for sure they are not teached on german school level.

A brief statement about our medical area: Everybody of the district can come to visit the doctors and the pharmacy, and they don’t charge too much. And also when the children of the “Guarderia” or the students are needed to go to the doctor they don’t have to pay and neither to wait because they are attended immediately.

My work in this project has changed many times, so I would like to tell it step by step, from the beginning to the holidays: The first time I took part in one of the blue groups to see the daily run. I saw the teacher how she takes care about the children and how she teaches them. But after a short time I was needed to go to the other blue group to take care of them because the teacher was ill. I stayed almost two weeks with them. This was very dfificult for me because I didn’t know what to do and the problem was also that the children didn’t respect me, because for them I’m not a teacher and neither speak like a dominican. But luckily the teacher came back and I could back to the other group to help this teacher to prepare the lessons for this year.

Working in the library

A certain time Yanays and me we opend the library of the school in the afternoons to give the students the posibility to come there to make their homework, to learn or to read books. We tried to help when they had questions and we also had the customary after studying to play cards with them. We always had fun together, but there was also the problem that they tried to do what they want and many times they were running inside the school and disturbing each other while making homework, and when we tried to get them quiet they didn’t want to hear or respect us, so it was hopeless. So one day the nun had enough of this noise and the running and we had to stop our work in the library. So now in the afternoons we are passing the time together with the little ones because they are staying there until the afternoon, while the students are going home after having lunch.

Visiting families around the "Guarderia"

We also had a time when Yanays, the psychologist and I were decorating the room where the little children are sleeping after having lunch and preparing many things for the graduation of the yellow ones in June. But the most interesting thing for me was when I passed almost ten days together with our psychologist visiting families in the different districts all around the “Guarderia”. With this visits the people of the “Guarderia” select the children who will be registred for the next kindergarden-year. All in all almost 70 families were visited. I took part in 50 interviews. We checked out how are the living situations in these families: Whether the parents are together or separated, whether they are working, how are the building of the houses, how are the economy situations. So to summarize: how big is the necessity for the children to go to “Guarderia”. To see all the poverty was really difficult to me, I didn’t know what to feel and I tried to understand how the people can live like this. I will never understand it but I also have respect how they can live like this. It was very helpfull to understand how big is the chance for the children which are selected to go to this institution. Many of the district children will never see a school. To see all the happyness in the eyes of the kids in the project makes me lucky every day I pass with them.

Happy to be a little part of the process

I also took part in other activities like a spiritual meeting, which means something like celebrating a mass, depending on the easter week with the people of the “Guarderia” and in an excursion with the choir of the school to the Public University of Santo Domingo for having a little concert. I have almost half a year work in this project and I’m really happy to be there, but many times it was difficult because there was no work, and when they had something to do, it was only for one of us. The problem is that we don’t have the knowledge how to teach the children here in this country and the way to educate the children here is very different from Germany. Many of these strategies are obsoleted. The only thing I can do is to be present in every moment and to help when they need me. But it’s difficult for me to say that our work is really helpfull. I know that the people and the children (they always call us “aunt”) are really happy that we are there to be with them and I think that’s the best help we can give. But I don’t think that we are working like our programm expects it from us. We cannot “change” or “develop” things in the meaning how to educate or to teach the children better or in another way. But I learned much about poverty and how to work with limited materials by reaching a good result, e.g. the decoration for the sleeping room and the decoration for the graduation. For sure there are many faults in the education and the deficit of materials, but all in all my opinion is that the “Guarderia” with “Sol Lydia” is on the right way to give these children a chance, and I’m happy to be a little part of this process.