Daily Life at Casa Guatemala
This is just a break-down of the schedule at Casa Guatemala to give you an idea of what we and the kids “do” at Casa Guatemala. What we actually do in terms of the fun, laughs and emotions I will save for another blog!
5:00am – Days start early for both the children and Orientadores at Casa Guatemala. The children are divided firstly by houses (Girls & Boys) and then by age (4-8 years and 8-16 years). So there are 4 groups of children; Varones Grandes, Niñas Grandes, Varones Pequeños & Niñas Pequeños. One person sleeps over every night with their group of children to assist them during the night, so at 5am they have the responsibility of waking all of them up and initiating the start of their daily chores. Each house has different responsibilities in their house and area, however it’s generally housework such as cleaning the bathrooms and sweeping and mopping. On the whole the kids enjoy the responsibility and are used to the work they have to do every morning. A lot of them actually seek out extra work and once finished with their own chores will begin to help with the others! At their homes they would have the same responsibilities except here we at least have electricity (most of the time!) so they can see during the early mornings.
6:00am – Once all of the chores are finished it’s time for the kids to file up and make their way to the Comedor for breakfast! This usually consists of rice, beans, corn tortillas and atoll drink full of nutrients and vitamins! After they have wolfed down their breakfast and usually repeated on tortilla’s a few times, the kids wash up their utensils and head on back to the house to brush their teeth!
7:30am-4pm – School starts for the kids and they all head off to their various classes. Classes at Casa are divided by ability and not by age so that the kids are learning at the right level and not out of their depth. This sometimes means that some kids are held back or put in classes with smaller kids but it’s vital to their education to learn the basics first. They have all of their classes in Spanish, which isn’t actually the first language of many of the children. For most of them they were born speaking Q’etchi, a native Mayan language in Guatemala. However to be successful in Guatemala it’s essential for them to learn Spanish which they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to in their home villages. As well as standard classes they do also have physical education classes, mathematics and even English classes! During school time is when the volunteers get their free time, which can be used to relax, socialise and plan activities for the children.
11am-1pm – Lunchtime is staggered starting with the Kinder and Parvalos classes making their way to the comedor for the third time in the day as they also have two ‘refraction periods at 10am and 2:30pm for snacks. The food again is usually rice, beans and tortillas which unsurprisingly is actually the children’s favourite meal; they can sometimes be a little off when the menu changes especially if it includes “verduras”! They do get their share of vegetables though with a scrumptious vegetable stew or accompanying cucumber and beetroot salad available for some lunches. During the lunch period the volunteers are around while the kids get time to run off some energy playing around the park area!
4pm-5pm – After school the kids are back with the volunteers, for my personal favourite time of day, we get to just have fun and play with the kids. They generally get to suggest what they would like to do, however it’s usually the same suggestions; play football/sports, walk to the local village, go to the park or top of the list for every group, SWIMMING!
5pm – After the after-school activity the kids are usually either super dirty, sweaty or wet from swimming so it’s time for them to scoot back to their respective houses, shower and freshen up with nice fresh clothes! Shower time is always a fun one as they file up with a dollop of shampoo on their heads and take it in turns to enter the showers. It’s usually accompanied by a little chorus of singing and lots of laughs and giggles! While some children do have their own clothes we also have a stash of communal clothes that are handed out to those that don’t. Believe it or not these kids can sometimes be pretty vain and will often ask me for a “pretty top” and there’s the common complaint of “it’s too small” just so they can pick something else! It’s quite entertaining to see the different tastes in clothing! After shower-time they get a bit of free time to play in the houses which in the boy’s house is generally time to draw or run around playing with cars!
6pm – Time to head back to the Comedor for dinner, which of course is quite likely to be the filling and nutritional mix of rice, beans and tortillas! Often though there will be a special dinners, sometimes bought by the volunteers or due to events at the time such as birthday parties. Once we did have some Italian tourists which came for a full week and bought food and cooked for all of us at Casa! I think the volunteers were more excited for the change in food than the children; one of my boys in particular I remember telling me he didn’t want the delicious cheesy pizza they had made, he wanted the usual rice, beans and tortillas with “mucho” chilli sauce! I guess it’s hard to change the habit of a lifetime!
6:30pm-8pm– After dinner the kids get some more free time in the houses before its time for bed at 7:30pm for the pequeños and a little later at 8pm for the grandes. Bedtime is generally pretty stress free as the kids know the routine well enough to take themselves to the bathroom and jump into bed when the volunteers ask. For me it’s one of most heart-warming times of day as I can take a little time to go to each of my boys and give them a big squeeze and a kiss goodnight! They are all super cuddly and not shy to squeeze just as hard back! One of the Orientadores of course is wished a good night too as they will stay with the children overnight ready to begin the daily process all over again! The rest of the volunteers head up to the separate volunteer house generally for a bit of socializing but after a tiring day going to bed at the early hour of 8:30pm can be absolutely delightful!
The weekends at Casa work a little differently as of course we don’t have classes and a lot of the teachers go home to their families. Which means that the volunteers play a much bigger role and have a lot more responsibility during the day. Each week we meet and organize different activities for all of the kids! The activities we do range from the simple things such as sewing and baking right up to big activities for everyone such as organizing a theater show or doing fair games. One of my favourite weekend activities that I have had a chance to do twice now was day-tripping to Rio Frio!
For now I’ll leave this blog with the details of our schedule, it will take a few more blogs to describe the activities and fun we get up to during our time here at Casa and the spell that these children seem to cast over everyone that visits!