Not only are we here to volunteer and share our love with the children but we are passionate about learning from them and embracing their lifestyle, too. That means we are sleeping on thin mats under mosquito nets and taking cold bucket showers. For the next week we are vegans who do not drink alcohol and we make sure to take off our shoes at the entrance to each building (even though sometimes someone forgets). It’s an adjustment but we want the full experience and love every minute of it.
We survived our first night’s sleep even though we slept with all the lights on while wearing our sleep masks. Our house is set a small walk up the hill from the rest of the home. We woke up to the peacefulness of the jungle and made our way down to breakfast and our volunteer meeting at 8 a.m. The 30 boys and girls whom are mostly teenagers were already off at school so it was nice to have some solace. There are two boys, Apeh, 3, and Paho, 4, who are not old enough for school yet so they were our little buddies for the morning. They are typical little boys with brave hearts. One has his mother (Mamie) here who is the cook. The other is an orphan. Both love sweets and chocolate cake for breakfast!
Our volunteer coordinator, Malina, is from Romania and has been here for 6 months so far. Each time she reaches the point where she is supposed to leave, she extends it. She filled us in over breakfast of fresh bananas (the most delicious bananas I’d ever had) and Nescafe. We told you we’re embracing the culture so we definitely shared in having a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast, too!
Then, we took the boys for an “elephant ride” on our backs up to the garden where we all took part in watering the vegetables.
The boys have nursery school for an hour or two each day. We were in charge of the lessons for school while Malina helped Dada in the farm. They do most of the farming in the morning due to the heat in the afternoon.
We have never been actual teachers but have taken pointers from our sister, Angela, who is an amazing, natural born teacher. While we were instructing them we both thought, “what would Ang do.” It was a little challenging keeping their attention but we played with building blocks, worked on our colors, ABC’s and 123’s.
They enjoy anything Spiderman so we painted a Spiderman coloring book for a little while. They were rewarded at the end of class with truck time and they loved Ring around the Rosie. They are such little sponges and stole our hearts right away!
Malina expressed the importance of giving the kids Wi-Fi here as she is able to justify it for their schoolwork, fundraising and coordinating with volunteers, like ourselves.
Dada came to show us what our next project would be. Electrician work! He enforces everyone to do their own fixing and work at the home. If your light bulb goes out, you change it! Our task was to create extension cords for the volunteer house.
We had nothing but smiles on our faces while listening to the Grateful Dead in the shade and learning work we probably would not have had an opportunity to do in the states.
Malina came up to chat with us while we worked. She read our blog and was excited about the work we were doing. We told her all about our adventure, starting with how we chose our name, Gypsy Givers. We told her that it took us months and although some give the word gypsy a negative connotation, we like the play on words. She explained to us that in Romania there are two types of gypsies. There are “the good kind” and “the bad kind.” The good ones dance, make jewelry and are really beautiful human beings inside and out. They take pride in helping the community. The bad ones, that most are familiar with, are the ones who steal. Her father was actually a gypsy himself, the good kind, of course. It was really fascinating to hear about her culture. Although we come from very different places, we have many things in common and therefore have an ease in conversation.
Next, we were told we would be sweeping the yard before the kids came home and we were happy to do it. It was so good to have the boys running around singing their ABC’s while playing in the water next to us. It felt so heartwarming to be making a difference and being part of “the good kind.” We prepped for our morning yoga class we would be teaching and had an amazing dinner (aberdeen curry and fried plantains with chili sauce and rice, of course). We finished a challenging but rewarding day with Home Alone 2 on a projector screen. We loved watching it with the kids, even though there is a language barrier. The connection we have through laughter vibrated the walls while we shared chocolate wafers. A perfect end to our first full day at the home.