By Erica Foster-Allen, CASA Chile Fall 2018 (Brown University '20)
I can say with utmost confidence that the highlight of my stay in Chile was the opportunity to connect with people from a variety of different backgrounds. One of such opportunities came about from a class I enrolled in at the Universidad Diego Portales titled ‘Problemátics contemporáneas en Chile: el aprendizaje servicio como motor de cambio, where the students were divided into groups to volunteer with a variety of centers and foundations in some of the marginalized areas of Santiago. I was assigned to a foundation called Rostros Nuevos, a government facility for adults with physical and mental disabilities. We visited the facility five times over the course of the semester, for three hours each visit. The residents of the facility loved to dance, sing karaoke, paint and converse with us. Even though the residents lived in the margins of Chilean society and rarely had friends or family come visit, they maintained wonderful dispositions and were absolute joys to talk to and get to know.
The absolute highlight of my time in Chile was my time volunteering at Club Domingo Savio, an afterschool program for children aged 5-14. I volunteered there for 2-3 afternoons a week in a classroom with children aged 5-9. The official day-to-day activities included homework time, recess, and afternoon snack followed by an activity. Every visit however was different from the last, and the kids always had something up their sleeves to make the afternoon interesting! I grew to love all the kids at the center, even though at times they could be absolute terrors. My Spanish improved leaps and bounds with the help of the kids-they had absolutely no shame in correcting me. I learned about how Chileans educate their children, a way which I believe is excellent way to learn about the idiosyncrasies of a culture. Fun fact: In Chile, children are taught how to write in cursive before print. If nothing else, my time volunteering with the program gave me a reason to let loose a couple times a week and let my inner-child run free.