Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Despedida, Part 1

La despedida. It means "the farewell," and as much as we'd like to deny it, that's where we're at now. The beginning of the farewell.

Sometime way back in volunteer history began the tradition of despedidas with the sections. Ever since then, it has become a ritual for each leaving volunteer to do something -- some kind of going-away event -- with their section of kiddos.

Back in May, I blogged about kids and birthdays. I talked about how the road to respect and to teaching these kids that volunteers-don't-equal-cash is...well, it's kind of through being a Scrooge. I said that being a volunteer at NPH means showing the kids, via not giving in, that I am here to share my time with you, not my bank account. And the same philosophy holds true when it comes to despedidas.

As your time comes to a close, the kids will start to tell you what they want you to give to them as your despedida. (There's a word you learn in Guatemala for this: engasado.) They'll ask you where you're going to take them for an all-day excursion or what expensive meal you're going to cook them. And can you even blame them? Odds are, it's what the volunteer before you did, or before them did, or what some other volunteer is doing this year. They're kids, and even after an entire year, they're still going to try to milk you for all you're worth.

But that's where you step in.

Yes, it's scary to tell the girls I'm not taking them on an excursion or cooking them anything -- everyone fears a disappointed kid -- but for me, neither an excursion or a home-cooked meal with my girls felt right. In my personal relationship with them, I wanted my despedida to be right here in the house; that felt right. And anyone who knows me will tell you that cooking for a huge group of people would give me a full-on anxiety attack, so that definitely didn't feel right. I know despedidas are for the kids, but if the entire point of having been their volunteer this year was to be a good role model to them -- just by being myself -- then my despedida should sort of feel like me, shouldn't it?

Besides, I've worked too hard for 12 months to show my girls that "Carrie is not here to give you money or presents or treat you to special things." Why would I throw all that away in the last 2 weeks?

I could tell you why, at least according to some people. Because they deserve it! They deserve something big! Hmm, okay. I mean, do they really though? And is that even the question we should be asking? What about, do they need a big fancy despedida?

Here. I'll tell you what they do need, and what they unarguably deserve: it's my time, my attention, and my interest in them. And those things don't have to be delivered in an out-with-a-bang despedida, at least I hope not.

Soooo, all that being said, read on for how I said "farewell" to the niñas this year... :)

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