Voluntariado y Despedidas
Last Friday, I went to my weekly volunteer opportunity and was greeted by a very touching day. I’d completely forgotten that it was a couple of the volunteers’ last day, and was told that I would not be teaching my running class that day. Instead, all of the kids were playing in the patio.
When I went out to the patio, most of the kids were crowded around the volunteers who were painting their faces. I later was chased by a few very impressive zombies and vampires. In the meantime, some of the permanent workers were setting up a Goodbye party for these two volunteers.
When it was time for once, the kids were ushered inside to wash their hands and then sat around a huge table. We served them all completos (Chilean hotdogs complete with avocado, tomatoes, and mayonnaise) and tea and then the two volunteers were brought in.
When the volunteers walked in, all of the kids clapped. They were presented with their completos and huge hand-made cards. Each of the kids had signed these cards, and the kids these volunteers worked with primarily had spent time designing these their cards. The kids wrote stories, memories, or signed things like “I’ll never forget you, thank you.” We sat, ate our snack and talked. Then it was time for the touching part (as if the handmade cards and special meal weren’t touching enough).
Tío Jorge, one of the head workers, addressed the two volunteers and thanked them for their time and commitment to the program. When he was done, some of the other permanent workers thanked them for their hard work before turning it over to the kids. Each of the kids had to opportunity to say something to the volunteers and their responses ranged from the standard “Thanks, I’ll miss you!” to “I want to thank you so much for what you’ve done for me. Our time has been special and I’ll never forget it, safe travels.” It was moving, and so great to hear how these volunteers had touched these kids hearts.
Then came time for the volunteers to speak. It’s often said that volunteers get more out of their experience than the people they’re helping and, in this moment, I found this to be true. One volunteer choked up, thanking the kids and the organization for the time they’d had, saying that she’d had a great time working with them, and that she hoped to one day return. The other volunteer remained more stoic, but still thanked the organization for this opportunity from the bottom of his heart. It was a really touching moment.
The evening was emotional and full of goodbyes, but soon there’ll be more volunteers to share this experience. The goodbyes are hard, but I’m sure these volunteers are going to carry these experiences with them and spread their stories to those who will listen. It’s amazing what can happen just from the goodness of other people’s hearts.
If there’s one thing I know for sure, these kids aren’t going to forget their volunteers anytime soon.
That’s all for now!