“Know what sparks the light in you. Then use that light to illuminate the world.” -Oprah Winfrey
“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” -Aristotle
“Live with the knowing that you are priceless. That you are lovely. That you are a delight. That you are a light. Live with the knowing that you are irreplaceable.” -Kayil Crow
“When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” -Barbara Winter
This morning (Friday—yes, we’re still playing catch-up), we traveled to El Porvenir to present our first workshop to teachers in one of the local national (public) schools. For the past two-and-a-half weeks, another student and I have been conducting observations in 12 national schools throughout El Porvenir and Trujillo Alto. The purpose of these observations was to note how students behave in the classroom setting, how teachers respond to student behaviors, and overall student/student and student/teacher interactions. Seeing as the specific program the other student and I are working with is geared towards preventing students from getting involved in the legal system, the overall goal is to help the teachers develop and foster a more supportive learning environment for these students.
Keeping in mind that many of these students do not have strong familial support, have limited resources at home, have parents who have to work around the clock to provide for the family (and are therefore left with limited parental supervision), have parents who want them to start working after primary school because an immediate income is more important than continued education, have parents who are involved in gangs/in jail, and/or are involved in gangs themselves, there are many outside factors that come into play that prove difficult for teachers to make an overall difference in the lives of these students.
As we interacted with the teachers throughout the workshop, we discussed various individual, social, familial, school-wide, and communal risk factors that many of these students face including teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse, joining gangs, and dropping out of school. Seeing as these were primary concerns addressed during the observations we conducted, we were then able to hear about the experiences these teachers have had with their students in each of the aforementioned categories. We discussed supportive factors too though, because as difficult as it may be to navigate around so many risk factors, there are always supportive factors that can counteract any and all risk factors. For many of these students, these teachers are exactly that.
When you spend years working in a profession where more often than not you feel exhausted, pushed to the limit, under-appreciated, and feel like the odds of success for your students are stacked against them due to so many outside influences, it gets difficult (to say the least) to persevere and keep trying to impact the lives of our future generation. The teachers we met with continue to do this, and as they described their motivation to join the field of education and their desire to continue working in this field, it truly sparked a beacon of light and hope in what has seemingly felt like a dark tunnel—especially when looking at the overall resources provided to these schools for educational purposes and the countless barriers that so many of these children continuously face on a daily basis.
After the workshop, we returned back to Huanchaco for our Global Mental Health class, which I’ll discuss in a later post. The rest of the day was spent getting a head-start on homework, and of course eating pollo saltado before traveling to Cajamarca, Peru for the weekend.
“Every person must decide whether to walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. This is the judgment. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
Once in a lifetime—if you should be so lucky—you’ll come across someone who will instantaneously become your best friend. He will be there for you each and every second of each and every day—no questions asked. He’ll wait around at home for you, he’ll wag his tail and jump up and down when you walk in the door, he’ll bark in the early hours of the morning to make sure you’re awake, he’ll get in your way and obstruct your path until he leads you to the area of the house where the bones are, and he’ll do so many other things that bring light to your day. But above all, he’ll always provide you with unconditional love.
Nearly three weeks ago, I lost a family member and my best friend of nearly 14 years. I’ve been wanting to post something in his honor, but it’s difficult to put together words to describe someone who has given me so much. Our house feels so much emptier without our special friend, and life in general seems a lot less colorful. It isn’t easy trying to adjust to such a significant loss, but fortunately, I have been blessed with countless memories that I will cherish for years to come.
Thank you Caine for showing us all what it’s like to truly be loved, and what it’s like to have the best friend anyone can ever ask for. This week’s Snapshot Challenge is dedicated to you because the love you provided me with is truly beautiful. I’ll miss you more than you can imagine.