I remember at school always being fascinated by the few kids who seemed to be a little more worldly-wise through having travelled a lot. I was always a little envious. Pre-teens, they seemed to know more, be more confident and assured. When we were in our teens, they always seemed to attract more girls . Either way, it always seemed to give them an edge. They always knew that little bit more about something I’d not even thought about knowing about. And more importantly, they just seemed to have this very open demeanour about them.
And that is the opportunity we are hoping our children will grasp. To make the most of an experience that we are all fortunate to be having. To see and live with peoples and cultures a long way from Twickenham and the UK. Although they have a Palestinian father and Spanish mother, they are so far fairly rooted in one culture.
We will be volunteering with them as a part of our journey at a school in Cusco, Aldea Yapanay, which Paola found. In as much as I would hope that we can bring something of value to the Peruvian children with whom we will share some time together, I am also certain that they will bring something of value to us and to our children.
For instance, it would be wonderful for Omar and Alvaro to question the things that they take for granted, to understand the blessings that they have here in the UK. But also to viscerally understand that life’s riches are so much more than a Wii, or a DS, or a bicycle. To see first hand that children who don’t have any of these are not necessarily any poorer. Perhaps to see that life can be rich regardless of what you own and buy, and that in most instances, your perception shapes how rich your life is. And also to see that working with other people and children should be an act of support and joy, not of pity.
The ethos on which this school is founded sound tremendous once you get over the hippiness! “Values, Principles, Love”. They work with children who have harshness at home and at school, and provide them with after-school activities which given them a combination of respect, discipline and love. It is a fine balance, but a seemingly worthwhile one. I love these guidelines from their website:
“When you meet someone, try to understand them. If you don’t understand them, accept them. If you don’t understand or accept them, just respect them”. What a great starting point when you meet someone.
I am certain that it will also enrich Paola and I. Like most people in the UK, we have made donations to children’s causes where the appeal touched us. And as many of you know, with Paola’s support I co-founded Hope and Play, a charity for children in Palestine and Bangladesh with my good friend Tony. But giving money, while valuable, only scratches the surface. I still believe that the most that you can give and receive is in working with the children in the field, and that is an area that I am embarrassingly poor in. To be honest, I’m actually somewhat worried that I may not be any good at it. But time will tell.
There is plenty for us all to learn in the school of Central and South America that we are about to enrol in.