JUCUM MEDELLIN: WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO VOLUNTEER AT AN ORPHANAGE
[Ryan] As the sun was setting, we pulled up to the orphanage and nervously knocked on the the door just minutes before our planned arrival time. We honestly had no idea what to expect. We waited several minutes and a guy about my age opened the door with a huge smile. He was a volunteer from Switzerland that had just spent the last 6 months working in the orphanage and was leaving in a few hours on an overnight flight back to Europe. It was the perfect transition because he was able to give us a quick orientation in English about our new home for the next two weeks.
Juventud Con Una Mission (Youth With a Mission) - Medillin is an incredible organization that has hosted nearly 50 children ranging from 5-17 years old for the past few decades. These children arrive from all across the country and have left their unfortunate family situations for a brighter future. They learn important values on love, sharing, friendship, respect, and have a strong foundation in their relationship with Christ. As we walked around the three story building that night, we didn’t know that we were about to experience one of the most profound chapters of our trip thus far.
[Corinne] By the night, we had met several staff members (none which spoke any English) and some volunteers. The directions for what we were expected to do were a little dodgy since we only understood every other word Norela, a lead staff member at the mission, was explaining to us in Spanish upon our arrival. We knew we would have to lay to rest any expectations we may have had and trust that God would lead us in our experience while we were there.
WHAT OUR MORNINGS LOOKED LIKE
[Ryan] We woke up bright and early the next morning to the sound of kids running around laughing, shouting, and getting ready for the day ahead. It was 5:30 am. Half of the children (the youngest between 5-9 years old) go to school from 8am-12pm, and the second half of the older children (10-15 years old) stay at the orphanage to work on homework before going to school after around noon. The reason for this is because there aren’t enough teachers at the school, so all of the children only receive education for half a day.
The morning was our time to focus with the older kids on homework including English, History, Mathematics, and Literature. It was often peaceful working these mornings because these children are well disciplined and motivated to complete their daily chores and homework. The boys' sleeping dorms, lounge room, and homework area was on the first floor, while the girls' domain was on the second floor. Corinne and I rotated working with the boys and girls each day starting our shift at 8am and finishing the day at 8pm.
LUNCH TIME CRAZINESS
[Ryan] The craziest part of the day was definitely lunchtime, but I’ll get to that later. Once the first group of children finished their lunch and headed to school, we had to prepare for the arrival of 25 more energized youngsters. After everyone completed their meals, dishes were all washed, and the dining area was cleaned, then everyone was supposed to hit the books. You can imagine how difficult this must have been to encourage elementary children to complete their homework after they’ve just spent hours at school.
[Corinne] Working with the girls after lunch was structured. They all had their schedules of classes they had so we knew what homework they needed to complete. I tried to help as much as possible, but truthfully, I was struggling to hurriedly search through Spanish-English dictionaries just so I could figure out what the homework was asking them to do. The boys, on the other hand, were a little more rugged shall we say. It was often more helpful to run around with them after lunch and once they had burned some energy off, then hit the books.
DAILY AFTERNOON ACTIVITIES
[Ryan] Most days of the week, we were allowed to take the children to the nearby park (aka La Cancha!) where they were able to play soccer, basketball, and play on the playground. This was definitely the highlight of their day, but they were only allowed to go if they had finished their homework!
[Corinne] This was probably one of my favorite parts of the day. When we could just simply play with the kids and watch their faces illuminate when they scored a goal or climbed a tree, it reenergized me for the rest of the day. It probably helped that I, too, got some energy out while trying to chase these guys around.
HOMEWORK TIME: HELPING WITH ENGLISH
[Ryan] One of my favorite times of the day was actually reading and teaching English to this little kiddos because they were very eager to learn. Once I was teaching English to one of the boys or girls for their homework, then often a group of them would crowd around me and participate in the exercise. These little moments of magic was what made everything worth it.
BECOMING AN EXPERTISE CHEF FOR 50+ KIDS
[Ryan] Besides working all day with the boys and the girls, another shift that we were often given was cooking and serving the children during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The chefs were retired church pastors that decided to pursue a different passion cooking and serving these incredible children each day. We assisted with the preparation of making meals for 50 people while playing music, singing songs, and dancing in the kitchen. All of the meals were made from scratch and took a lot of time to prepare. Once the meals were finished, we had to master our dish washing skills and prepare for the next meal. Corinne and I were an incredible team! We both worked very well together and figured out the perfect assembly line with each meal.
[Corinne] I don't think I danced as much as Ryan in the kitchen, but I loved our time spent in the kitchen. There's a methodology and peacefulness that comes with preparing a meal for others than just yourself. It wasn't a chore for us. We truly felt like we were contributing. Often the meals rotate, so once we had a few shifts in the kitchen down, it was easy to catch on. My favorite dish was probably the fried plaintains as a side dish and the arepa + eggs in the morning time.
WHY YOU SHOULD VOLUNTEER TOO
Our experiences at this organization were powerfully moving and really gave us a different perspective on our trip. Seeing the beautiful sights of each destination while traveling gives you a burst of excitement at that moment in time, but serving others gives you the opportunity to brighten light into someone else's life. Embracing the unconditional love pouring out of these children every single day lit a fire within our souls. They were constantly hugging us, holding our hands, sharing their meals, and telling us how much we meant to them. God had blessed each one of these children, and just being in their presence, God was completely blessing us.
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE
If you’re interested in volunteering with this organization, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more details! Comment below or send us an email at email@example.com!