Sunday, September 19, 2010

should i stay or should i go?

warning - long one! trying to work out my head. this is a letter I sent to geoff since i haven't been able to figure out what to say here.

I think I'm going to leave here. I just had a moment of realization. I've got a permanent scowl on my face that try as I might I can't get rid of. I'm ready with a yell for any child that may happen to cross my path. I even have a necklace of key hanging around me jingle-jangling every time I walk. I'm HER! The cross matron. It's not really true, I'm more patient than anyone else here, but sometimes I feel like I'm being her.

Then, a child is crying because she got hit in the mouth swimming but all she really needed was to lay in my arms and be held for ten minutes. It's also what I needed. I think that is where my heartache lies more than anything. What these kids really need is some love but what they get are volunteers stretched too thin to have the patience to love them. Every last one of us at our last straw. I believe the kids to be at risk. 6 people are in charge of the health and safety and well-being of 250 kids. No one in charge of us. No one else looking out. We have a coordinator but she is worthless at best. Actually harmful most of the time. Absent a great deal of time.

So I struggle with whether to stay or go. I am being a person I dislike more than I can express. I complain, I yell, I'm not fair. I'm the only volunteer that speaks both english and spanish. 4 others that speak only english. one that speaks only spanish but she's in charge
of 22 girls ages 4-8 so I end up being the one paying attention to everything, talking to every kid when they're misbehaving. The authority figure for all of them. Always telling them when they're doing wrong. The one in the middle of disagreements between the volunteer who speaks only spanish and the rest. Then accused of managing by the coordinator. Told that this is not my job and to not do it. But then she is worthless so no one does it. She's at me every
time I turn around. Hates that I think of things she's not thinking of, that the rest of the volunteers come to me with problems or things they need solved then yells at me when I try to do it. I feel like every time I turn around I'm in trouble with someone for something
they should be thanking me for. But then it will be even worse if I go.

Today I lost it. Told my girls I was leaving. Told them mean things, went to my room and cried. Then had to go put on a good face to be the ringmaster of a day of field games that I organized that the kids only complained about. Don't want to be here anymore with these ungrateful
wretched children who are mean and tell me to go home anyway. They are so rude. And I get it. I get it. Everyone who has ever been in charge of them their whole entire lives has left them. Starting with their parents then to this compound in the jungle you can never leave - some
haven't left this piece of land in literally years- then every volunteer that has ever come to be in charge of them, to love them, to teach them to open their hearts. Every single one has left them. Of course they are awful. I get it. I get it. I get it. There is nothing I can do to change it. I will also leave them. Whether it's this week or in December, I will leave them. They will have yet another personality to get to know. Someone else who doesn't know their names, who wants to know their stories, who doesn't even know where to get more shampoo.

How do I reconcile it?

Do I leave, not wanting to support this organization - I haven't even gone into how corrupt the person who runs this place is. Every day I learn more about how much she steals from these children. Not give my support and energy and attention to something that I disagree with so
strongly. Do I leave because I am miserable and feel like no matter what I do, someone is going to let me know how f-ed up it is and there is no support?

Or is this one of those things that will make me stronger if I just stick with it? Am I just being extra emotional because we don't have proper nutrition and there isn't any way to drink enough water and we don't get enough sleep and there is no such thing as a day off? Does it matter if these are the reasons if the end result is the same?

No matter how many times I turn it around in my head I just don't know. I want to leave more than anything. Is it a cop out? I don't know.

I'm curious to find out what I do.

Thanks for emails, it really helps to know that you're out there.


today is tomorrow and I feel a little better. I talked with my girls last night though and asked them what to do? How do I manage them better? What would they do if they were me? To a girl they said that the only way is with yelling and punishments. I talked with the useless volunteer coordinator this morning and she said the only way is to detach. To not care what they think of me, to be tough and keep them in line. Well, that is a shitty way to live. She says, you can't help them, your expectations are too high. Well if I don't think I can help any of them, why on earth would I come here? To a compound in the middle of the jungle, completely isolated where the kids are wild beasts?

Now the boat captain is yelling at me that someone is going to tell Snra Angie how everything is going here, that it's completely out of control, as a threat. I just said "please, someone tell someone. How on earth can we possibly keep everything going? He says, keep the computer room door open! I say I've closed it because the boys come in and bother us and wont let us be. Well, kick them out! But they don't listen to me, what can I actually do if eight boys are in here and wont leave when I tell them to? Just kick them out!" Well, thanks for all your help, Don Tocho.

Last night two of the big boys got a hold of one of the little girls and threatened her with a knife, held to her stomach, told her they would kill her, she managed to get away but they said they would come looking for her in the night and get her while she slept. So she slept in my room and they closed the entrance to our house with a lock which is never done and a guard was put outside of our house with a gun. Then today, there has been no punishment for them. The workers are yelling at the volunteers that we aren't doing a good job of keeping things under control, but we aren't workers. This isn't our job. We are here to help, not be in charge. Everything is completely messed up.

But how do you leave knowing that it will just be even worse than it is for everyone left?

Jeez. It's all really stupid right now.

Guess I'll come out of it with some lessons.

thanks for listening/reading. i'll try to have something nicer to say soon. at least post some photos. cause they kids are really cute, i'll have to give them that.


  1. MaryJane,

    You don't have to stay if you don't want to my dear...
    You are doing your very best and you know it.
    Volunteering can be tricky and you are expected to do things you don't know how to do. Remember, you are only a volunteer. Whether you go or not-it's your decision.
    I do really appreciate what you do whith these children, but everything else-you just don't deserve it! I found myself in a similar situation last summer, in a horse farm in which the owner saw me as cheap labor. I had to leave. He was whining and teling me he need;s me. He was fine after all. I went on to a place where my work as a volunteer was appreciated and I felt really comfortable and stayed for the whole 2 months.
    But - as the second owner said - volunteering is like cooking without the dinner. You start cooking something without tasting the food because what you do is not yours. It's someone else's. Unless you set up your own children's rescue center, you will never be able to help children the way YOU would like to.
    So make a loving decision for your own self, because there is no point exhausting yourself like this. You will not have the energy to help anyone else afterwards. Love yourself first in order to give love to anyone else.
    Take care, you are very brave and deserve the best in life.
    Much love and light

  2. Elina,
    What a wonderful woman you are, what nice support. Thank you for this kindness to a stranger a world away, it is much appreciated. It's nice to have perspective from someone who's been there. And I do, in fact, have plans to open a spot where kids in need can be cared for - this is part of learning how to do that. Well, this in particular is learning how NOT to do that!
    I hope your day finds you well,

  3. Ok, I'll come and volunteer for you then! I plan to travel around the world as you already know! I'd love to meet you! Kisses Elina