Sometimes you just realize that you have found the right thing to do. When my husband, Llee and I decided to move to Peñasco, we knew that we wanted to do something important and give back to the community. After looking through many of the non-profits and programs, we decided that the Steps of Love program, specifically the English as a second language (ESL) program, was where we wanted to put our efforts.
We did some research on the program and saw many great things happening. We immediately signed up to volunteer and our second week in the country participated in ‘Fun Fridays’. We headed out to Brisas del Mar with Carly, the director of the ESL program (amazing young woman), who incidentally is donating her time to the program. Once we arrived, we were overwhelmed with the smiles and the excitement of the children, ranging from 5- 18. They were so excited to be learning English and excited to have all of us out there working with them. Fun Fridays consists of learning letters, learning, and writing new words but in a fun way. The art teachers (also volunteers), Lynette, and Gloria are great. They let the kids have fun, get dirty and take something cool home every week. We all work and laugh with the children, and everyone seems to be learning something new – ourselves included. The kids are also fed lunch.
To say that we feel gratified to be able to help is an understatement. Every week we show up and we are greeted with hugs and smiles from all the kids. They realize that learning English is one of the gateways to better jobs, better education, and the ability to empower their future. We realize that putting the effort into making this a priority every single Friday also empowers us to try and make a difference in the children’s lives. It’s not about pushing ‘being an American’, it is about allowing kids to have an opportunity for a better life through education. Unlike in the U.S. public school is not free through 12th grade and high school costs up to $500 a year. Although public elementary school is ‘free’, many children living in poverty do not have access to the academic support, school supplies and other resources they need to complete even 6th grade. In addition to education funding, the AIM program offers daily academic support and other resources to help hundreds of local children go to school and succeed academically. Many students who would not have been able to go beyond grade school are now able to attend college due to the support they receive. Who can’t believe in that???
What you realize is that each child has a different story. You can see the children who have been worked with at home or at school and you also see the ones that need your help the most. Those are the kids that will melt your heart. Take Genesis for example, the first time we saw her in class, she would not speak the words, she was withdrawn and not as engaged as the other children. Working one on one with her brought her out of her shell and today, she is engaging and learning every session she is there. It is a great feeling.
Regardless of where your passion lies, we are all truly fortunate and there is a cause that needs you. Go find it. Be THAT person. You won’t regret it.
To learn how you can support this program go to www.stepsoflove.org