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Friday, August 23, 2013

What is it to be a community intern in Playa del Carmen?

Being an intern gives me the greatest privilege of being able to know the project inside and out. This week marks 5 incredible months of living in Mexico and working in the Ludoteca. I have learnt a few things during my time here and I’ll share only 3.

Firstly, on this still very young project, I’ve learnt that flexibility is a must. That is not, and I stress, NOT a bad thing as the volunteers and I were able to have ample opportunities to participate and be involved in more. Things such as the Recycling project, Environment Day project, marathons, fundraising and now we’re working along side WWF in their Whale Shark campaign. I’m sure you’ve already read the recalls of volunteers’ experience with the Whale Sharks – so it’s a great way for us to give back now and promote the well being of these incredible animals so we have the opportunity to keep them in these waters in the future.

Secondly, living here has been an eye opener to how much we do take for granted living in a first world country (not saying we live in mud-huts and we eat rice and beans every day – although I was expecting exactly that before I came!). On the contrary, here in Playa del Carmen, you do sometimes forget that you are in a third world country. To be perfectly honest, there bustling Centro (where we live) has a sneaky way of concealing this and this bubble can only be burst the minute we set foot in the Colosio (where we work). It’s always important to step back and realize how much we do have in comparison to others who live a short 15 minute bus ride away.

One last thing I’d like to talk about is of course, the biggest part of my life right now; the Ludoteca. I have never met people who are just so warm. The children are kind-hearted, charismatic and aren’t shy about meeting new people. I’ve seen these children welcome and farewell volunteers over and over. You’d think they’d be used to that, but I still, to this day, have conversations with the children where they tell me who all the volunteers were and where they are now. All. Of. Them.

I feel I need to share this with past, present and future volunteers. Children don’t just make small talk; they don’t make conversation just to fill the silence the way adults do. These kids ask because truly, each volunteer who have walked through those gates has made an impression (and a lasting one at that). These kids are genuinely aware of our presence, and takes advantage of every opportunity they can to spend time with you- if you let them. I hear volunteers say “I’m actually sad to leave the Ludoteca at the end of the day” or “I can’t wait to go back Monday”. I’ve seen volunteers with different levels of Spanish (from absolutely nada to Grade A) and each one can still create bonds. The Ludoteca is the best part of the day, and it’s been amazing to be able to share this experience with volunteers from around the world! One rule of the Ludoteca is to leave all your problems and ailments outside the gates; I feel that this is true not just for the kids, but for every volunteer too. It’s impossible to feel miserable here.