|Mervi from finland in Casa Heppenheim ( the teenage boys)|
Volunteer’s report from Casa Heppenheim: Living with lovely teenage boys and a dozen of rats
I started my volunteering period in Casa do Caminho thinking that I would be working as children’s educator and maybe teaching Spanish, since that is what I also do for my living. Quite soon it became clear, however, that teaching Spanish was not a priority because the children needed plenty of reinforcement also with their regular school subjects. So I became Maths/Portuguese/History/Geography teacher. Just when I believed to have my volunteer role defined I was suggested to take over another role. Due to the lack of volunteers I was asked to start giving school reinforcement to the adolescents living in the center of Xerém. I accepted the offer with an ill grace. I didn’t really want to leave Casa do Caminho; the children and the comfortable volunteer house surrounded by an extremely beautiful nature. Besides, giving school reinforcement to teenagers sounded like quite a challenge - one that I hadn’t been prepared to take. However, I soon found out that I really enjoyed my new role, up to the extent of moving into the dusty, unfinished Casa Heppenheim to live with the boys and a dozen of rats.
My normal day with the boys starts at six thirty in the morning when everybody starts their daily routines; one of the boys picks up the bread donation and prepares the breakfast, another one starts preparing the daily "rise and beans" and the rest washes clothes or cleans the house and the yard.
School reinforcement is divided in several different groups and during the day I travel several times between Casa Heppenheim (boys) and the Casa Amigas (girls) depending on the school schedule that each teenager has.
Implementing the reinforcement routine is extremely difficult and needs a lot of patience. In the first few weeks I sometimes had an hour-long battle with the boys to make them work. "Não tía!" ("No madam/auntie") was a phrase I soon learned to rebut with different methods and objections. But giving reinforcement can also be extremely rewarding. It is incredible how good it makes you feel when the protesting teenager calls you: “I got it right, tía. Well, of course I did, I’m quite intelligent, you know.” Or when the one who always thought to be poor in mathematics exclaims: "I finally understood it, Wow, I’m a human calculator!
The evening is divided on similar tasks as the morning: one of the boys prepares the dinner, another one washes the pans, and everyone takes bath before sitting in the dinner table and saying the prayer.
But living with the boys is not only routines! New, unexpected things happen every day.
It’s Sunday evening and we’re preparing the dinner with Mauro and waiting for the girls to arrive for the weekly meeting of sexual education. It’s starting to storm outside and we’ve already had several short electricity cuts. Uderson comes to me and tells that he’s having problems to breath. After hearing that he actually has asthma, that just simply hasn’t given him any problems lately, we decide to cancel the meeting with the girls and go to the local medical center. Alex is left as responsible of the Casa. But when we arrive to the medical center, we hear that they’ve been without electricity for the last hour and a half and that they cannot do anything but send us home. I feel stupefied and helpless! How is it possible? The rest of the patients sit calmly in the darkness, waiting silently on the iron benches. Uderson takes it more calmly than I do: “Lets go home tía, I’ll be able to sleep over night.”
When we get back to Casa Heppenheim the worried girls are still waiting for us. It is too late for the meeting now so I send them home. Uderson, on the other hand, is sent into bed. We start to set the dinner table with the rest of the boys when the storm cuts the electricity again. This time it seems to be for good so we have a romantic dinner of rise and beans in a candlelight.
We even have dessert because I have made the boys a cake as a reward for their good behavior. We eat the cake on the living room cement floor playing UNO. The clock is getting close to ten and I am just thinking that this time it’ll be easy to put the boys into bed. Since there’s no TV there will probably be little protesting. Just then the electricity comes back! “Educator’s luck” I sigh. I give them 15 minutes of extra TV time before starting to insist on bedtime.
When the time is up I ruthlessly switch the TV off, which instantly launches an avalanche of complaints. Maciel becomes my savior telling the others: “Just do as the tía tells you to, she’s the today’s educator!”
|Last Updated ( Saturday, 25 August 2007 )|