Alice and Bethan’s Summer Holiday
Alice is my grand-daughter and she and her friend Bethan – both 18 year olds have just left school, are waiting for their A level results and opted to spend their summer holiday working in an orphanage in Mexico. Here is
The orphanage we worked at was a short bus ride from the centre, or Malecon, but it was almost like a different country. The Malecon is home to beautiful beaches, scattered with local people trying to sell bracelets, small toys and fake tattoos to anyone and everyone (the phrase 'no gracias' could be repeated hundreds of times during a day at the beach!) The centre also contains bars, restaurants and souvenir shops where I shamelessly purchased unnecessary Mexican paraphernalia: sombreros, maracas, the lot.
The orphanage was located in a small residential area, placed at the top of a steep slope, the walk up to which was often more tiring than the subsequent 5 hour shift, particularly when you consider the 35 degree heat.
Although I don't speak any Spanish, there wasn't a real language barrier with the kids.
I organised my volunteer work with a British company, and there were around 35 other British volunteers at the orphanage, so the children are used to English speaking volunteers and, although they don't really speak any English, there is a certain universal level of understanding. Some phrases you would pick up in your first shift, such as "caballito!" from the mouth of an excited child, caballito meaning piggyback, and "no los hagas!" being said by one of the nannies, which means 'don't do that.'
Day to day work at the orphanage was so rewarding; sometimes you would spend the day just sitting with the children reading or watching a bit of television before going to play outside, but you always came away feeling you'd been a huge help (and also very tired!)
All the children were real characters, within a few days you would know who to look out for and who were the cheeky ones. There was Angel for example, ironically named since he had a bit of a temper and the only English he knew was "stinky," which he'd shout at all the volunteers at least once a day. Still, his personality really shone through, and after a few days with him I ended up teaching him numbers; he learnt 1 - 10 in English and he taught me 1 - 10 in Spanish, so we both came away with something!
At times the work was quite heartbreaking. Hearing some of the children's stories made me truly appreciate how blessed I am to have my family supporting me. Some of the children suffered from mental disorders and physical disabilities. They had such a sense of fun though; I could spend a whole shift outside with them, laughing and playing, and then feel guilty for calling it work!
I'd really love to do something similar again, and am already thinking about next summer. Working with children has always appealed to me and my time at the orphanage definitely confirmed this interest.
Below are a few pictures from my time there. The children adored having their picture taken, often trying to grab the camera themselves. They also had a fondness for taking volunteers sunglasses, which you can see from the photos!