Lindsey Chapman's Travel Blog


Planning A Fund Raiser

I recently planned my first fund raising event to raise money for VE Global’s annual campaign that is taking place right now.

It was a lot of work but it was also a lot of fun and turned out to be a big success.

Since it was my first fundraiser, I didn’t have high expectations but it went very smoothly and I found that people are very willing to help out for a good cause if you take the time to ask and explain about the cause.

Booking vendors, venue and entertainment

In the beginning stages I had to meet with possible vendors for the event. I had a short list of places where I knew there would be a mix of both gringos and Chileans.  I ended up choosing California Cantina, a place where they were willing to donate a percentage of drink sales, prizes for our raffle and give me contacts to find live music.

California Cantina also has a bar down stairs with televisions showing every sport playing at the moment around the world, and an open air patio upstairs where the band could play.

I found a band that was willing to play for free, called Zorro Martini. They were really awesome and didn’t hesitate to lend their services when normally they would get paid a decent wage.  All they asked was that we covered their food and transportation for the evening.

Soliciting raffle prizes

The next objective was to find people to donate prizes for our raffle. I asked all of the businesses with which I had any connection to so we ended up getting donations for complimentary meals, some English classes, Spanish classes, a bottle of Pisco, bike rentals and tours, and some wine.

People were very generous and wanted to help out in whatever way they could.

Outreach

I emailed every person I knew and asked a good friend to help me spread the word. We had a couple events on facebook advertising the event, inviting over 1000 people and from this we had a great turn out.

Success!

The place was packed on a Monday night. I made a couple of announcements from the stage about the work we do at VE Global to encourage people to buy raffle tickets.

Everyone enjoyed the live music and almost no one refused buying raffle tickets.  Thanks to a bunch of fellow volunteers and friends assistance the evening was a really big success. I had a lot of fun doing it and I am so thankful to everyone who helped out and contributed in any way.

If any of you have any questions about planning your own fund raiser, don’t hesitate to ask. Buena suerte!!

 



“Follow Your Bliss”
October 19, 2010, 2:18 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s an odd sensation going through the same orientation I went through three months ago as a new volunteer, only this time as an “antigua” rather than a “newbie,” as VE Global likes to refer to their respective volunteers. Being on the side of preparation and serving rather than observation and learning sheds new perspective on the activities. But meeting the new class of volunteers has also proven to be a good way to end my time here. I’ve had the opportunity to be behind the scenes of an NGO, and ample time to reflect on my experience to give useful advice to those expecting to have a meaningful next few months.

Your time abroad is whatever you make of it.

Your current position on the globe isn’t what provides you with the life lessons you hope to learn, or goals you hope to achieve.  You have to seek out the challenges that will stretch you beyond your comfort zone, because the difficult things in life are the things most worthy of your time and energy. Furthermore, I don’t know anyone who has learned and honed a truly valuable life lesson or skill during the easiest and happiest time of their life.

As I am about to depart, it’s very grounding for me to think about the fact that Mom is still working at Otsego Dental everyday, Dad is heading to American Family Insurance carpooling with his buddy every other week, and Royce is starting up her first year teaching at Elk River high school after enjoying the summer off with her friends.  I’m not sure how they are going to feel when I tell them I want to leave again. I already know that I am not ready to head back into the working world in the States, as there is still so much I would like to do and learn abroad, especially with my Spanish.

But I’m finding I don’t mind the uncertainty of the future because uncertainty just means possibility. All I know is that I would like to continue working with the disabled whether I can find a paid position or not. And if all paid positions fail, I can always teach English on the side. I also learned that native English speakers can find jobs really easily in Santiago, so if you’re looking, I’ve got the hook up.

Even though friends and family will probably not encourage another departure abroad, it’s important to follow your heart. I’ve come to gain a new respect for the work of American mythologist, writer and lecturer Joseph Campbell who coined the phrase, “follow your bliss.” He also said, “When you follow your bliss… doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.”

I think his theories are important for everyone but especially for the life of a traveler, because life abroad isn’t the norm. If you read his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, you’ll find that following your bliss doesn’t mean merely doing what feels most fun at the moment. It means figuring out what you are passionate about, and doing it. When talking about the journey of the hero he says, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

So whether you are thinking “Should I go or should I stay?” or “Should I give up or push through?” follow your bliss even if it seems to go against all logic. Because in the end, it will have been the only logical decision.



Olympiadas A Anakena
October 19, 2010, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , , ,

Last week we had Olympiadas at an outdoor public field a few blocks from Colegio Anakena. In the first heat of runners, there were five kids all around the age of five-years-old. Uno, dos, tres and they were off toward the finish line. Until the boy in Lane Three looked down to realize that the ground he was running on was made up of sand. As with most kids, a sand box is at least a few hours worth of fun. So he plopped down and started playing in the sand. And then a few others stopped to stare at him with jealous eyes.  We all cheered, encouraging them to keep running. One tia had to come and help him up, and remind him that he was racing. Eventually he found the finish line.

There were two running events, one long and one short, and three other events consisting of biking, long jump, and throwing a tennis ball. After all the events were over,  there was an award ceremony with certificates, medals, and trophies. The age categories were “mini,” “super mini,” “hyper mini,” and “infantile mini.” It was absolutely adorable.

I had the glamorous job of crowd control, and attempted to keep all of the kids that weren’t competing from running out onto the field. It was difficult to say the least, and the key word here is “attempted.” At the end of the day, all of this competing is in preparation for a bigger Olypiadas when Anakena will compete against about ten other schools in October. I wish I was going to be here for it!

The sun was shining and everyone was smiling — we got lucky. Olympiadas at Anakena were a success! Hopefully, come October, they compete on a grass field.



Recognizing Difference
October 19, 2010, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , ,

My experience with the disabled began with Colin.

He was a happy, 19-year-old boy with Down syndrome when I started working with him as a personal care attendant. During my sophomore year of college, I spent one or two evenings a week with him until a few months after I graduated. I also had the opportunity to help out at his Sunday School class that his mom lead, a class  full of students with any type of disability that existed within the church.

My interest in the disabled increased as my friendship with Colin and his family grew closer. I decided to join him, as a volunteer, at a week long summer camp he attended each year called Joni and Friends. I hopped in the car and made my way to Indiana about a month after I graduated. I was assigned to work with another boy with Down syndrome named Dan, who was also a happy-go-lucky kid around the same age as Colin. Because of the wide range of severity and accompanying complications within the same diagnosis, in this case Down syndrome,  it was a very good learning experience to work closely with another kid like Colin. They were very different. Colin was more reserved and used to love just sitting alone, trying to make me laugh by making funny noises. (Trust me, this could occupy his entire day if you let it.) While Colin wouldn’t touch water with a ten foot pole, Dan had the time of his life tubing behind a boat at summer camp.

As I work with the younger kids at Anakena here in Chile, I am continually reminded of the infinite levels of independence and unique personal characteristics possessed by children with the “same” disability. I had to ask my tia why Leonardo was in our class because for all that I could tell after working with him for a week, he appeared “normal.”  He helps with the other children and always knows the answers in class.  She responded by saying that he has a low level learning deficit and is probably the highest functioning child in the class. I hope for his sake, that being in that position doesn’t hinder his learning process. Then there is Alejandro, who’s autism is evident upon first glance. He experiences its effects both mentally and physically. He is a challenge, to say the least, because he’s in the stage of life where he must question authority at any given opportunity. And if you have spent any time with kids, you know that disobedience is contagious among a group of curious children. Disciplining children with disabilities opens up Pandora’s box of life lessons. The biggest one? Patience, patience, patience.

There are two children in the class with Down syndrome, Javiera and Felippe. They are both incredibly adorable and extremely stubborn in their own way. It is really interesting to work with them and think about what Colin and Dan might have been like at their age.

I have been disappointed with the education provided by Anakena when I am wearing my red, white and blue lenses. However, the school is quite impressive when you consider that “discapacidades en Santiago, Chile” brings up less than ten relevant results in Google, which is nothing for a city of five million. I’m not exactly sure what kind of resources exist for the disabled in schools and programs here in Chile, but I know it is little to none.  I have only seen one computer at Anakena, in the director’s office. The tias hand write all the assignments for each of the kids because there are no printers, copiers, projectors, or smart boards. They re-use all plastic “disposable” cutlery and paper plates each day for snack time. There is no heat and no hot water.

Yet, without all these things they manage to make education happen day in and day out. They make it happen out of necessity, but surely they would appreciate some of the luxuries we call “necessities” in the states. If you are interested in changing the lives of some teachers at Anakena or other schools in Chile, please contact VE Global to see how you can help.



Life in the Classroom

Up to this point, all of the kids in my class at Colegio Anakena have been between the ages of three and four, which is of course the most adorable age and size kids come in. Most of the children have some minor learning or behavior problem, but they all also have some sort of speech impediment or difficulty with pronunciation. There are many times they have to repeat what they are saying three or four times before they are understood. I’m sure it’s as frustrating for them as it is for the listener.  It can feel very debilitating to be misunderstood even when you can pronounce every word perfectly, but even worse when the recipient is unable or refuses to understand what you are trying to say.

Attendance is generally low, and almost zero when it rains. There are major problems with flooding in the streets here so it becomes nearly impossible for people to get in and out of their homes.

A new student joined our class last week. Her name is Laura and she is mute. She hears and understands everything you say but she cannot say anything. How difficult it must be to have all the words and thoughts in your head but no ability to communicate them vocally. A critical case when actions must speak louder than words.

My heart has a special place for Nely because she doesn’t have a mom or a dad. She can be very disobedient at times, but knowing her situation gives more than enough patience to provide her with the affection and attention she is looking for.

My birthday at Anakena with previous students

I know I shouldn’t have favorites, but Miguel is my favorite. He was the first one to understand my language barrier.  He gets in trouble a lot because he has a free spirit and he’s a four-year-old boy, but he listens and respects authority.

Amanda has the most adorable face you could think of putting on a child. She has puffy pink cheeks, big brown eyes and a sweet personality.

Monserrat is four years old and a little more mature than the other students. She knows how to color inside the lines and loves to sit on your lap.

Benjamin is the trouble maker. He is always disobeying and testing the authority of the tias. He can be so adorable at times but so frustrating too. He has taught me the incredible difference in patience it requires to discipline children with disabilities.

Fernanda was the first child I really connected with because on my first day working at Anakena, I had to console her for about 10 minutes while she cried in my arms about missing her mom. It was comforting for her to be held and it was comforting for me to feel needed.

Javier is the biggest kid in the class but he acts the youngest. He is always copying what the other children do or say and requires a lot of patience. But he always greets me with a hug, a kiss, and an “Hola tia!” which I love.

Victor is a kid who tends to blend in with the crowd. I try to give him extra attention and encouragement because I don’t think he is used to receiving it.

Anthony is the smart kid in class. He always knows the answer and seeks the praise that follows. He respects the tias and is a good leader in general.

After spending about two months getting to know these kids and pouring my heart into them, I was asked to begin working in another classroom. A classroom where the kids have more severe disabilities and the tia needed more help.  Of course I want to be used wherever I am needed most. I miss all my kids but I still see them every day and they are excited to see me when our classes cross paths.  My new classroom is great too. The kids are between the ages of five and seven years old, and are also very adorable. I deal with a variety of disabilities, such as Down syndrome, varying levels of autism, and some physical disabilities as well. It is challenging to say the least but I am excited to continue getting to know them and to create a lasting connection with each of them.

There are times when the days fly by and there are times when the days seem long, but my time in Chile is limited with these kids. I know I only play a small role in the grand scheme of life, but I want to leave the biggest mark on them that I can. I want to do something nice for the kids and the tias before I leave to let them know how special they are to me.

Any ideas? Please share!



“Let Yourself Be Defined By Your Actions”
July 30, 2010, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , ,

Cajón del Maipo, Chile: no internet access, no phone service, no distractions of city life.  Every class of VE Global volunteers gets to go on a weekend jornada, or day trip, to this quaint little ranch in the mountainside outside the city that is rented out by an adorable and generous  hippie couple who live there.

The purpose of the jornada is for the whole group to have a chance to come together to reflect and refocus on the mission behind what we are trying to accomplish at VE. It was very easy for me to become side-tracked amidst the excitement of travel, meeting new people and places, and the fact that Santiago is one big non-stop party.

We began the weekend with loads of silly team building activities and mushy talks that really set the stage for the entire weekend. We broke into small groups and discussed the multi-dimensional aspects of poverty and the endless cycles that exist within the economic classes.  The disparity between the classes here in Santiago is immense. With 18.2% of the population under the poverty line, the top 10% of the population here consumes 41.7% of resources while the bottom 10% consumes only 1.6%. The statistics are alarmingly drastic, and probably are in the country where you reside as well.

Photo of Cajón del Maipo from Flickr user Naturaleza

One of the aims of VE is to seek to improve awareness  and in turn, improve the situation for those in need. When you view poverty from an outside perspective, many times it is easy to mistake the effects of poverty for the causes, and the cycle continues. I believe a difficult cycle exists within the upper classes as well.  People who grow up with money become accustomed to having and doing certain things that are no longer recognized as privileged, but normal. My heart breaks when I think about the privileges I have been handed and taken for granted. Most of those being privileges that the children at Anakena, the school where I teach, would never imagine possible. I am not from the view that everyone should feel ashamed and guilty for taking advantage of opportunities in life. However, I do think it is our responsibility to be aware of what truly is privilege and what is necessity. Fortunately and unfortunately, those of us who have never experienced what poverty feels like will never be able to fully empathize with those who endure the oppression that poverty brings with it. We are left to strive for awareness and compassion.

During our weekend retreat, we were given free time for some reflection of our personal and professional goals as well as objectives we hope to achieve within our institutions and with the children. It was so refreshing to take the time to sit alone with nothing but your thoughts, a pen and paper. One of my personal goals in coming to Chile was to consummate my independence as a woman. The first step was getting here alone. The second step is being intentional about tracking the progress of my goals in a tangible way.

I have learned that it really isn’t enough to simply desire to be a certain type of person, you have to live it. Someone recently told me a phrase that really stuck with me. “Let yourself be defined by your actions.” Although a simple theme, the phrase inherently carries with it a deep-rooted, yet fundamental challenge to be the person you want to be.  As I sit here in Chile, journal in hand, I bring this challenge to you. Wherever you are in life, whether you are traveling abroad in China or Latin America or you are settled in a place you call home, allow yourself to be defined by your actions.



“Chi Chi Chi – Le Le Le! Viva Chile!!”
July 30, 2010, 4:25 pm
Filed under: Chile | Tags: , , , , , ,

If I had one word to describe Chilean fans, it would be dedicated. The students and staff at Colegio Anakena are no exception.

Photo of celebration of World Cup game from Flickr user Kmilo

“Chi Chi Chi – Le Le Le Viva Chile!” is what I heard walking into Anakena on Friday. As the children arrived, the tias were painting the students faces in Chile’s colors of red, white and blue. They were blowing horns and shouting this famous cry of all Chileans during the World Cup.  All the students and staff at Anakena had gathered to cheer on their team and eat completos for the game against Spain on this Friday. (Completos, in case you don’t know, are a very popular Chilean delicacy. It is simply a hot dog smothered in guacamole, mayo, diced tomato, and ketchup. It is enormously messy and all the kids were wearing their completos by the end of the game after sufficiently playing with them rather than consuming them.)

I’m not sure who was more excited after the game on Friday, the students or the tias. Even after a LOSS, they were brimming with anticipation for the upcoming game versus the famous Brazilians! It was so great to spend some time with them outside of classroom lessons, just having fun. I feel like I am getting to see more of who they are as people. I can tell the kids are feeling more comfortable with me and that is encouraging. I am also beginning to decipher the students specific speech impediments, despite my Spanish language incompetence, which is helpful for both them and me.  As I continue to work on my Spanish, and learn the types of words and sounds the children struggle with, I will be able to help them so much more effectively. I will also be able to develop closer and more real relationships with them. The mere  thought of that brings me so much joy.