Many times I’ve shared with you what the volunteer teachers teach the students at the Nueva Esperanza Preschool on Sunday afternoons. I’d like to share what I’ve learned from teaching at the preschool at the Guatemalan Mam Church, Iglesia de Dios.
First and foremost, the children are some of the best behaved children I’ve ever had the privilege of teaching. Only once did I have to tell one of the boys to get off the table which he did promptly. I’m not sure if my tone of voice scared him, but his behavior surprised me probably as much as my response surprised him. We both recovered and forged ahead to the next activity.
I’ve learned that the children are very caring and notice when a new child needs a welcoming buddy, especially when there isn’t a teacher available to give all the personal attention needed. For example, new children may arrive to preschool looking like they don’t want to be there. Typically, I’ll ask the parent to stay until the child feels comfortable or a teacher will encourage the new student to pick an activity at the different tables. It’s so sweet to see when an experienced student goes and takes the newbie by the hand and speaks to him/her in Mam, kindly making the new child feel at ease. I often wished I knew what was being said in Mam, a language that to me is very difficult to learn. Could it be that the older child is telling the new child to “suck it up, it’ll be fine” or “stay and you’ll have fun”? Maybe next time I’ll ask what was said.
It’s not hard to see where the caring and welcoming spirit comes from. The Guatemalan Mam people at the church have always made me feel welcome. Every Sunday when I arrive, the adults greet me with a handshake and a “Buenas tardes, hermana“ (Good afternoon, sister) and the adults and little ones whom I’ve grown close to over the last 3 years give me a hug.
A really big lesson I’ve learned in regards to running the preschool is not too worry so much because God, through many angels, has provided what the preschool needs. When the co-director, a Ph.D. in Literacy Education, moved to Colorado and volunteers were on the decline, I worried. But the preschool and I were blessed that she masterfully laid out how the preschool should function.
As far as the declining number of volunteers, I realize many people can’t sustain volunteering on Sundays as this is typically a day to spend with family and friends. I’ve been putting the word out about needing volunteers, but sometimes a volunteer seems to just appear unexpectedly. As in the story of the latest angel that appeared at a senior center, sitting next to me ready to watch a movie. We knew each other from work. She had recently retired and asked what I was doing. As soon as I described the preschool, she said she wanted to volunteer and she has been coming each Sunday. What a blessing!
Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity staff found another angel who is willing to commit to volunteering twice per month starting in September and perhaps step in if I can’t be there. Yet another angel is one of my best friends,Yvonne H., a gifted arts and crafts queen and animal lover. She organized a special lesson to celebrate the last day of preschool and graduation day. Her handsome pet, a hairless guinea pig, thrilled us all along with a beautiful photo display showing him in action at his comfortable pet condo. My friend provided folders with pictures of guinea pigs for coloring. The kids asked if they could keep the folders and they were so happy to know they could. My friend has agreed to come back to give more lessons.
Children coloring in their guinea pig coloring folders.
Another angel, Catherine K., provided a portable baby playpen that she found during the cleaning of the Church’s downstairs room. She asked me if the Guatemalan preschool church could use it and that very day I took it to the church and was surprised that it was just what we needed. You see, the ladies of the church prepare food in a corner of the preschool room to sell for church fundraisers. This one lady who was preparing food also had a toddler who she let loose in the preschool area which was not a good idea as there are so many small toys to choke on. The playpen is just what was needed. The mother gladly agreed to use it for her toddler where she could be safe while mom cooked.
I look forward to learning more among the angels, the big ones and little ones, when preschool resumes in September. One of the lessons that I have to learn over and over is not to worry and to have faith that everything will work out with the preschool. Thank you Skyline Church family for supporting the preschool, especially Nancy T., a consistent volunteer, and thank you volunteers from other churches and the secular community. All your love and support is a divine gift.