Sunday, November 14, 2010

Our first weekend at Jesus Divino de Preso

We have begun a partnership with a new organization here in the Valley: Jesus Divino de Preso. Today Ashley brings a little more information about our inaugural activities and conversations with Jesus Divino.

Ashley here again, ready and excited to update you on an interesting new volunteer opportunity in which we have decided to take part. Bibi and Hannah initially met with Juana (affectionately known at their foundation as “Juanita”) from Jesus Divino de Preso, an organization that houses children whose mothers are in prison. While their intent was to discuss spring break, another opportunity emerged out of the meeting - the chance for us to volunteer every other weekend to give the “tías” (house aunts) a few days off.

Jesus Divino operates a number of houses on their beautifully lush property, in which children all live together as a family with their tía. Children are expected to take responsibility for themselves and all of their belongings, including doing dishes, cleaning the house, and washing their laundry daily. The foundation is run by a strong base of professionals who want the children to grow up feeling empowered instead of feeling poor and pitied.

Noel and I were the first to volunteer for a weekend, and it was quite an experience. We traveled to their property not knowing at all what to anticipate or what our role would be in relating to the kids. It ended up being a weekend of dualities: feeling both necessary and superfluous, connecting with kids and yet maintaining distance, loving spending time with them and being frustrated at their periodic disrespect.

It was fascinating to see our shifting roles in relation to the kids as well: at different times we served as authority figures, stand-in loving mothers, disciplinarians, and playmates. After leaving from the weekend both tired and slightly confused at our responsibilities, we met with Juana and a few other professionals from the foundation, including a psychologist with a great deal of insight. They provided us with information about our relationships with the kids as well as the benefits (on both sides) of our volunteering with them. It was incredibly helpful, and we are excited to continue working with them in this unique opportunity!

Two of the houses where the children and tías live on Jesus Divino's grounds, including the one we occupied (left) during our stay.

A tía and some girls waiting out the rain.

John Kevin playing with Noel's umbrella.

Me playing with Freddy and John Kevin in the windows of their house.

Noel reading Aladdin to Freddy, Junior, and Jorge.

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