The day I started volunteering in Luanda…
I felt like I was going on a blind date.
It had been two months since I moved to Angola and after spreading the word out that I was looking for a volunteering opportunity in luanda; one fine day; I get an email from a neighbour with an email address:
“Hey I heard someone mention about an organisation in the city over coffee and I thought you might be interested. This is their email address: firstname.lastname@example.org”
I had no idea of what they did but I found their website and even though it was in Portuguese; the pictures were enough to understand what they did! Art with Heart was what they did! 🙂 I wanted to volunteer there! But the very next thought was: I don’t even know the A B C D of Portuguese, how am I going to volunteer with children! But before my mind could come up with more reasons, I sent an email to them – I don’t know the language but I would love to volunteer with your organisation. And prompt came the response – “And we love you for that”!
And that was all the sign I needed!
A few days later I was sitting in the Foundation’s office with their director, Naama. She explained all the different projects the foundation does and I told her that I would like to work with children on recycled art projects. She said I could start tomorrow!
Tomorrow? And my mind was again “how will I talk to them?”. This little doubt kept coming up again and again and I kept pushing it down. I looked at a few things that we can start with and the stuff I needed to get for them. The next day as I was going towards the foundation, I had this strange anxiety and nervousness. I have worked with so many children but this was the first time I knew nothing about the children, their language and actually very little about their culture… I go in the quadrangle where the children come after school in the afternoon and in the little Portuguese I knew that time, I introduced myself. There is a regular facilitator but she also does not know English, so I decided for the first few days I will just be a part of the group and just let things unfold naturally. It was the first time for both the children and for me to try and communicate without the knowledge of language… and we soon realized it wasn’t difficult 🙂
It’s been a month since that first day! And our relationship has blossomed. I am no longer an outsider. We are all learning Portuguese and English simultaneously. I have more than 10 teachers who help me when I do an action or point to an object and they tell me the Portuguese word for it and I tell them the English word! There is cultural exchange too. Earlier this month there was carnival in Angola and we all made masks in the foundation and had a small celebration right there.
And after the day of holi celebration; I went to the foundation with red hands and red face and they were all asking me how could I get a red tan! I showed them more pictures of how we celebrate this festival by painting each other and explained about why we celebrate holi!
And the recycled art is coming out beautifully too! The first day I was surprised to see old water bottles being turned into money banks! Reminded me straight away of Akshaya Patra project in Manav Sadhna! It was just the same!
We made penguins with toilet paper rolls; we did paper mache with paper out of the shredder. And how could I keep my letter writing at bay! We have just started with small hand-heart cards for parents. I will soon put up posts on “how to” for some of the things we made so that if you are interested in recycled art, you can use the ideas too.
Now as I step out to go to the foundation I have an entirely different feeling from that first day. The blind date has now blossomed into a love affair!
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