Monday, June 04, 2007

I Less Than Three Camp

The parents of the kids who go to Camp Blank are all undocumented or illegal, which means most of them work jobs that while being better than what they left behind in their home country, don't come close to supporting what most people would think of as a middle class lifestyle, here on the insanely expensive island of St Maarten. There is no way many of them could afford babysitters or daycare for their kids, so their only real option would be to leave their kids home alone while they go to work... or starve. Luckily, acknowledging this, Camp Blank offers a program to all the students to give them some place to go.

Unfortunately, someplace to be is pretty much all it offers. Aside from a couple of trips to the beach, (where many of the kids swam in their clothes, because as I was shocked to learn, they didn't own swimsuits... on an ISLAND) we couldn't really do much with them. The other volunteers and myself all did our best to keep them busy with organized games, but the school doesn't own any playground equipment or games. The older kids played Cricket with some half rotted boards they found, and a rock, until one of the neighbors altruisticly bought some tennis balls for them to play with. An old freezer that sat on the edge of the school yard was a stage for the little girls to put on shows then became a picnic table at lunch time.

As "camp" came to an end it began to rain for days. All the kids cooped up inside the small dark school building became restless. Fights broke out among the kids at all ages. Things were stolen or "thiefed", as they say, almost every day. I got so tired of hearing "He thief me lunch money!" "No I didn't, tell she go." that I started giving grammar lessons. I don't know if it was just because there was nothing better to do than to sit there and listen, or because I was monopolizing the chalk board, but when I started teaching... they paid attention.

I think the impression I made with my humble grammar lessons must have reached beyond the kids who listened, because a week after "camp" ended I got a call asking if I would stay on and teach elementary kids. I felt really grateful for the job offer, but hesitant, because I have absolutely no education in teaching whatsoever. Fortunately there's a program going on at Starlight Educational Center to get new folks, like me, trained and oriented. I'm so excited- I had so much fun. Even though camp was exhausting and there wasn't any monetary reward, it was so worth it.

I really feel like my prayers are being answered, and that my life is moving back in the right direction. Aside from the new job I also found a church I like. After living amidst casinos, bars and strip clubs for so long, I forgot how spiritually renewing it is to worship in a congregation and just be around like-minded folks.

I painted these sunny yellow flowers this week. I really like how they turned out, but the paper warped a little, where the color is the thickest (that's what I get for using cheap paper). If anyone knows how to correct this, please let me know.

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