Zack and I spent 3 ½ weeks volunteering in Malingua Pamba. Before arriving we had only a vague notion of what we would be doing and little idea what the experience would be like. We quickly fell into a daily routine teaching English and Computation from about eight o’clock in the morning until 1:30 in the afternoon. We rotated groups of kids with the other teacher, played with the kids during recess, and even ate lunch with them. Our afternoons were free, though because we lived in the schoolhouse we generally passed the time with kids who stayed after class to work on the computers or just played soccer on the adjacent dusty field. Sometimes we would walk the kids home to see where they lived and meet their parents.
Malingua Pamba is an incredible place. To begin, it is situated on a mountain slope overlooking a picturesque valley with beautiful streams, mountains, and even a volcanic lagoon all within walking distance and making for great hiking. The community is rural with only a few structures at its core and all but a few of its 200 residents living on the surrounding slopes and practicing agriculture. I am still awed when I reflect on how far the kids walk to school and the steep and varied terrain they come over, yet they still always arrive smiling and in high spirits. I came to suspect that many were not fed breakfast after watching them consume copious amounts of rice during their subsidized school lunches.
I believe we had a positive impact on thecommunity. We generated interest in the computers andhelped the kids master fundamentals that will allow them to become increasingly competent with the computers. I also think that a little of the English will stick with them and hopefully it motivates a few to use whatever future opportunities they may have to continue learning the language. However, I feel that the most important contribution we made was just that of our time. Playing with the kids, making them smile, reading to them, and any other interaction was generally positive in that they had the opportunity to interact with and, I hope, learn from people different than most they knew. I remember one day washing my face with cold well water just after waking while a semicircle of nine year olds stared at me. I think they were just curious what the gringo was up to.
Malingua Pamba is very poor and is ripe for you to make a positive impact. There exist countless projects just waiting to be done and for someone with the time and resources to identify problems and then apply creative solutions. I have to credit Zack for his ideas of both painting one of the classrooms and building benches and tables for the kids to eat on (prior to this they ate on the floor). It was satisfying for us to leave something tangible in addition to having worked with the kids.
Lastly, I would like to stress the welcoming nature of Malinguans. During our stay we were always greeted with enthusiastic handshakes and a wide smile. The entire community is more caring, compassionate, and generous than the vast majority of people I know. I was there to have a positive impact on them, but I sometimes wonder if I didn't walk away with more than they did. To be a part of their community and truly feel like family was a perspective shifting experience.