The most dichotomous life this St Lucia living. As my day began in difficulty at the Court Diversion Program, which I have lovingly renamed ‘Choosing Different Paths’ I saw a bumpy road ahead. Today was the day of my service learning activity which is one of the final assessment pieces before I am officially sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. This day arrived on the last leg of the roller coaster I had been riding since its inception but as is always the case in this beautiful universe we live in, all things were falling into place at the last minute. I knew there was a reason I never changed my procrastinating ways…they have always served me in the end. My day started early lugging 12 balls into the office and then heading to the store for water and to RC Boys School to assure we were on for the day. When all errands were done and things seemingly in place, I headed to work. Three of the boys that were expected to be a part of the activity were at the center so it seems to be my day…all things as they should be. So let’s start this day shall we???
I began my morning in Mr. Simon’s class as I usually do. We were working on reading a simple passage and trying to derive comprehension from it. There were five boys in the class. Four of them began fidgeting and becoming increasingly uncomfortable at the prospect of having to read this story about Chuck the pig who went to school. It became clear to me very quickly that four of these five boys could not read. My initial reaction was to pull one of them out and into my office to work with him on putting words together and understanding the sounds of the letters, but I hesitated because we are still in the observation mode of Peace Corps life and I have been told time and time again of the importance of observation. So I hesitated and watched as he recoiled and became more distracted and fidgety. The lesson went on to inquire about what was learned from the story based on some seemingly simple questions. Again, blankness. When another story was read and more comprehension questions asked, I looked around the room to see that the boys who were supposed to be writing their answers were laughing, drawing, and looking around the room for something to copy. What I have learned is that while they cannot read, they have become very savvy at copying the words in front of them so it appears as if they are engaged. So today I may have found project number two…work on literacy.
As 2:30 approached, I realized another boy who was in the original plan for the service learning activity had arrived which once again supported my theory that only in the last minute will things actually get done, and get done well. So, we gather ourselves and our materials and headed over to RC Boys School to get our football clinic on. Here is where things become amazing. If you weren’t there…which you weren’t…and if you haven’t been here…which you haven’t…none of this might seem as amazing to you but let me give a little background. Getting this project off the ground and running has come with a series of ups and downs…hurdles if you will. Tuesday when the boys and I finally got together to practice, it became apparent that they were struggling with the concept of teaching each skill verbally. The goal of this activity was to have the older boys from the CDP teach the younger boys at RC Boys basic football skills that would eventually end in a scrimmage. The key here was the older boys verbally teaching the younger ones. Tuesday I realized this might not be a reality so I altered the plan so that I would verbalize the skills while the boys demonstrated and then broke off into smaller groups to work with the kids individually. That was the plan walking to the school today. That was the plan for the first 10 minutes of the project…and then…something amazing happened. Each of the four boys from the CDP took charge of his group and patiently and confidently began imparting knowledge on these young teams of children in front of them. With ease and assuredness they went through each of the skills without prompting, arranging and rearranging the boys in lines and circles to pass, throw, and take penalties. Without any level of direction and of their own accord each one of those boys took control of not only himself and the project, but a group of 6 young boys. It was the most amazing thing I have seen since I have been here. These four boys who have been labeled in one way or another by society, shining and utilizing every ounce of goodness they have to share themselves with others. At no cost and with no prospect of reward or payoff. I couldn’t have been more proud or more satisfied with the way they handled themselves. So here we are with this group of ‘troubled’ kids who are anything but in this context. Shining. Brightly.
St Lucia is full of contrasts, of stark dichotomies. It is beautiful that way because you know there is always another way of seeing something, another layer. I have no idea what direction today will take me but I know those four boys forever changed my life today. They made me believe in myself in a way I never have before and they let free that light that I have seen all along. I am so grateful for this life and for the opportunity to be working in such an amazing capacity with such an incredible group of kids. Stay tuned for my next chapter as an official Peace Corps Volunteer...