I would like to introduce myself as the new volunteer of Li Ch‘utam. My name is Julia, I am 22 years old and I am from Hamburg, Germany. I am currently studying psychology and one of my goals during my time is to complete an internship for at least three months during my fifth semester. It has always been a strong desire of mine to spend some time abroad in a different culture and participate in a volunteer program focused on Child Education during this time. My interests are music, dance and art such as exploring nature and different cultures, human diversity, psychology and education.
Through my studies, I have learned a lot about how the environment a person is raised in can influence their future behavior. I have become impassioned about the importance of childhood education, especially for children who grow up in an impoverished environment and who lack access to quality education. Starting education at a young age and creating an environment which fosters creativity and curiosity is incremental in forming interests, goals, and positive lifelong behavioral patterns in children. I have prior experienced teaching and working with children, and enjoy both very much. As I am fluent in English and Spanish, I provided private lessons in both languages to younger students while working on my Abitur.
I have now spent one month in Guatemala and so far, I am in love with the country and especially the Polochic Valley in Alta Verapaz. Not only I am impressed by the beautiful nature of this valley, but also by the kind and generous people that live in Nueva Mercedes, the little village Li Ch‘utam is located in. Everyone will always greet you when passing by and will always help you. I am surprised but very happy how fast children have begun to accept and trust me as a new volunteer. As Anna and Daniel already explained in their introduction, it is impossible to just walk down to Nueva Mercedes and go to „Tienda de Jonas“ (a local grocery store) without being called or greeted by several people, especially children. Sometimes you might even hear a voice from very far away shouting „Juuuuuuuuuuliiiaaaaaaaaa!!!“. There is also another thing about living in Nueva Mercedes that I will always remember: Eating frijoles con arroz basically every day can eventually get boring.
However, the way Q‘eqchi in Nueva Mercedes live, is very different to anything I have ever seen or experienced before. Being confronted with the poverty has not always been easy for me. I find it very hard to realize and accept the position that women have in this place. Teenage girls, who tend to visit school only until 6th grade and often already are married and have kids. I am also shocked about the medical situation and condition of some of the kids. I cannot believe it is not possible for a family due to monetary reasons to have a simple disinfection liquid at home. It makes you realize that the life you have been living is not something taken for granted and makes me appreciate everything I own and the chance of getting the education I wish for. Even though, there are days that I come home and are just so exhausted by all the impressions I have had during the day, the thought of seeing all the smiling faces of the kids on the next day makes me put a smile on my face as well.
The four weeks in Nueva Mercedes have flown by so fast, and when I am gone during the weekend I get so excited to come „home“ to this gorgeous place. I have been learning a bit of Q‘eqchi‘ (already can count to 20 yaaaaay and sing a Q‘eqchi‘ children song), and would love to learn much more. Since school has begun, I have been in charge of helping Abelino, the Preprimaria (pre-school) teacher in his class. I am super happy with this position and totally enjoy being around the smallest ones of the entire school, that are between four and six years old. Every day when I wake up, I get so excited to see them again. We sing a lot of songs in Q‘eqchi and Spanish, play games outside in the sun, paint with the fingers and with modeling clay and do some eye-hand coordination tasks such as drawing certain lines, play with beads and strings. I am also very glad about how fast they accepted me, built trust in me, and respect me.
Next to the everyday afternoon computing classes, we have been planning different after class activities on Wednesdays and Thursdays, that always turned out to be very fun. We did a circus school, where the kids learned how to slackline, jump the rope, and play Poi. It was very difficult to tell them, when the time was over. Another activity was playing several games together, such as a quiz. Last week we were drawing our lives and presented it in front of everyone and today we played our new memory game where the little kids had to find word pairs in Spanish - Q‘eqchi‘ and older ones in Spanish - Q‘eqchi‘ - English. This game definitely not only helped the kids to learn Spanish, but me to learn Q‘eqchi‘. In the following weeks, I would like to do some more art and cognitive games with the children, to stimulate and support their creativity.
As my personal project during my stay in Nueva Mercedes I will conduct a study for my Bachelors thesis. The goal of this study is to compare female Q‘eqchi beauty standards including body satisfaction and self-esteem with the ones of Colombian and German women. Since this is a very personal topic, I still need some time for the women in Nueva Mercedes to accept me and feel more confident around me.
Receiving a position volunteering with Li Ch‘utam is allowing me to combine the skills and interests I have developed with the chance to learn about a new culture and perspective of life I have yet to experience. I am confident that my prior work, volunteer, and education experiences as well as my dedication and my eagerness to learn will make me a valuable contribution to your organization. I am sure I will have an unforgettable time here. I would not want to miss a single day that I have been here until this day.