When I work day in and day out with the students, I forget sometimes that their cultural foundation is so different from my own…. or students I have had in the past. I know that much of my role here is to encourage and press on for the hope of a different future. In this culture, the students are told at a young age that they can’t do something. They’re not big enough, have the right resources, have the ability. It is a spirit of “no puedo” (I can’t) here that presides. As we start the final quarter of classes, we focused on the idea that “God has a plan for your life.” This was a new concept to so many of our students. As we talked through this idea and presented encouragement to them, I saw jaws drop, sideways glances and tears. We encouraged the students to think of what purpose their life might hold, what priorities they need to make, how to form positive relationships and how to strengthen their faith. Each afternoon we spent in discussion and it was encouraging watching the faces of the students light up and talk through deeper issues in their lives.
One student in particular this week shared with the class, teachers and visitors that were there how he has been abandoned by his mother and father. His sister died and his younger sister is only 13. He feels so alone and without any emotional support. His questions was simple, “Where do I need to look to get my support?” In this culture, personal information is rarely shared. I was so proud of him for being bold enough and making himself vulnerable. But it also reminded me of the cultural divide that exists. Most of our students have no idea what it feels like to have support, to be told that God has a plan for their life, or that they CAN succeed at something that is difficult.
The hunger to do good. The thirst for knowledge. The probing of questions. Smiles on the students faces. I have realized how much this class has become their own family. No one has an easy life. Each of them need the support of one another. And they truly have each other’s back. They do not want to see each other fail. After our lunch break I walked in to begin our afternoon to a sight that made my heart smile. In the middle of a circle of his peers sat Cesar. Prior to this year, he had been made fun of and taunted at his previous schools for being different. He liked school because he has a thirst for knowledge, but he hated the atmosphere. He is one of those students that soaks in math and science like a sponge, but communication is not his strength. He has flourished surrounded by his peers this year. And today I saw a grin on his face from side to side as he had the guitar in his arms, surrounded by his peers singing praise songs. Six months ago this boy wouldn’t even sit at the same table as his peers during lunch break. He avoided interaction and any attention. It goes to show how encouragement and opportunity can transform even the most isolated students.
And so… we press on in this transformation year. One day at a time.