Several team members had talked about the value of giving the staff a way to organize all the stuff we’d brought rather than just leave piles of new things. Julia M had recounted her father’s adage that whatever you do you always have to take care of the staff. So Julia, the energizer bunny, has developed a detailed scheme for completely organizing and labeling the school office, the shelves, the cabinets and their shelves and drawers, the hangers for jump ropes, just about everything in the office. She plans moving the cabinets, consolidating them into the “Assistant Headmaster” office to create a full storeroom. She has us purchase small plastic bins for the shelves and a few large baskets for storing toys. Then a number of team members help her sort all the books, toys , school materials, papers and just about everything else in the office rooms and then store them on the newly labeled shelves. The office is absolutely transformed! Mr. Eliakim (the Asst Headmaster) works with us and when we’re finished he and the teachers seem very proud of how professional (and tidy) their “new” office now looks. I think this is the greatest gift we could have given them!
But there is sadness amidst the joy. Almost from the start there is a heavy heart that hangs over this day for all of us and Silvia starts crying during the morning PE. We have had a delightful time with these children and these teachers and we have all fallen in love with them.
During Monte’s 3-week stay last November, his heart was particularly sensitized to the experience of the preschoolers. This combined “Baby Class” (ages 2-4) and “Middle Class” (ages 4-5) often has little to do but sit in their spare little desks or plastic chairs and wait for the next group recitation. 38 children with one teacher who had to hand-draw each exercise sheet meant that there was little for them to work on–maybe one or two sheets per day. The littlest were often just sleeping with their heads on their arms on the desk.
I was completely overwhelmed watching one group play with stacking blocks together and another attach Duplos (oversize Legos) and another group play with puzzles of animals, letters, numbers, and others look at picture books for the first time in their lives, and others coloring pictures with crayons. I had to walk outside to regain my composure. This was worth the whole trip!
The time has come to leave one another.
Far too soon we find ourselves at the end of the school day at the closing ceremony of our last day with the children. After the children sing us their farewell songs, Suney takes over and leads us all in our songs: “Shake a friend’s hand”, “Jesus Loves Me”, and then the new Achungo clap-cheer as we mix into the throng of our new family. This is my favorite picture of the trip. We leave with a very full heart in so very many ways.