A reflection by Ana-Lucia Chalmers
This year, Chicos and Kids in La Mesa had nine new volunteers coming from Buffalo, NY and Silver Spring, MD. This led to a very unique experience and dynamic. More stories were shared, friendships were formed, and memories were made. Ana Chalmers, one of our 2016 La Mesa volunteers, is a rising 7th grader at St. Andrews Episcopal School. She has volunteered with Chicos and Kids in the past, such as participating in our holiday party and mentoring classes in Maryland. As one of our youngest volunteers, Ana brings a unique perspective to our organization. Her curiosity and eagerness to share with others allow her to learn and grow. Her maturity and growing confidence have greatly impressed me, but she never forgets to have lots of fun in the process. Below, Ana shares her experience volunteering with us this year.
Being in a leadership position as a counselor/teacher at Chicos and Kids in Colombia gave me a sense of purpose. It made me feel older and wiser; as someone who the kids looked up to. Sometimes, though, I looked up to them. The kids that we worked with had an amazing, positive attitude that many kids fail to appreciate. They were so grateful for everything we did for them. They are so incredibly loving, playful, and kind; they treated us like family from the minute we walked in. This counts for the parents as well. Some of the parents of the students brought fruits for the volunteers like mandarins and mangos. At the end of the week, they even brought a delicious pot of baked potatoes for snack time. The fact that they went out of their way to bring us gifts made our trip an incredible experience.
For snack time on our first day, I bought a soda and a bag of chips. There was a young girl next to me talking to her friend, and I realized she was saying that she forgot a drink. It was a hot day out, so I offered her my soda. Her face lit up and she eagerly accepted the drink; she looked truly grateful. By the end of the week, I had developed an amazing friendship with her: she was always asking if I wanted to join in on a game, and she was always sharing with me. I will never forget her mindset and positive attitude. Another friendship I developed was with a girl my age. She was in my class, and as soon as I walked in with the other volunteers, she got excited and started whispering to her cousin sitting next to her, nervous and eager to chat with me. At snack time, she pulled out three big bags of chips and shared with everybody. Then, she looked at the volunteers and waved my aunt and me over. She then asked for us to sing the star spangled banner. This definitely took us by surprise, but after a minute, we decided to do it. After we sang, she told us that she would sing the National Anthem of Colombia. We were also surprised by that, but we listened to a great version of the Colombian anthem, sung with a lot of national pride. After the two songs ended, everybody started clapping, and she took a big dramatic bow; we became good friends after that. She stood out to me because she went out of her way to make us feel at home, when all we did was walk in and say hello. She made us feel like we had known each other forever, like we were family. Working at Chicos and Kids had been an experience like no other.
- Ana-Lucia Chalmers