Reshma Harripersad, Class of 2019, Plantando Semillas, Guatemala

This summer has been transformative. For the last several weeks I’ve been working for the Planting Seeds Organization in Guatemala. At this point in time, I’ve been here for a little more than a month, about halfway through my trip and it has been more fulfilling work then I could have expected. Four days a week I work as a classroom assistant in three different classes of approximately 16 4-6 year olds. The methodology of Plantando Semillas is focused on a “philosophy of love, nurturing and caring. As opposed to the much-accepted view that education’s main purpose is to provide skills for future careers, Planting Seeds strives to prepare children for LIFE…Committed to the idea of holistic education, Planting Seeds designs programs that address the needs of the whole child” (Planting Seeds).

I have various duties. I assist the teachers with preparation for the day’s classes as well as spend time creating learning materials with them for future lessons and activities. Many of these are created by hand by the teachers from recycled materials. For example, we are currently celebrating the Month of Guatemala’s Independence and there is a focus on national symbols such as the national flower, the national tree, the flag, the coat of arms, etc. Therefore, in one of the learning centres, there is a Quetzal (the national bird) created from a bottle, green tape and a section of a green umbrella. It is creative, durable and reused/reusable, as are many unique learning materials. I also engage the students as they are interacting at various learning centres with textiles, books, art mediums, vocational props, etc. There are several learning centres: pintura, creatividad, pre-lectura, pre-escritura, construccíon, rol de juegos and centro del docente. In each, the students build on the foundations of the numbers and letters they’re learning, creatively express themselves, and learn how to be autonomous, compassionate individuals.

     

However, my time in Guatemala has been not only transformative in a vocational sense but also personally. My first week of work I was involved in a major accident on a chicken bus, the popular form of privatized transportation. As I was leaving, my ring caught on something, and in pulling free I injured myself. Essentially, half of the flesh of my middle finger on my right hand was torn off to the bone. It was a horrific injury, bloody and terrifying. We were on the side of the highway, but luckily my supervisor had been with me. An ambulance was waved down and I was rushed back to Antigua and the hospital.

It was unsure whether they could reattach my finger and there was serious consideration to cutting it off at the knuckle. With the exposure, the flesh seemed both dead and corrupted. My doctor later told me that my chances were only really 10 percent. He tried anyway. I was awake for the surgery and made many promises to God while lying on that table. What was said will remain confidential but it seems like the powers that be were on my side that day. The surgery was a success. But the healing had just begun.

My hand was bandaged from tip to elbow. As a right-handed person, I have to relearn how to do everything. The most mundane tasks, eating, showering, changing, all effortless before, all require specific care. Being around crowds leads to anxiety with a needle sticking out of the tip of your finger. My possibilities for the life I would live in Antigua has dramatically changed. But I have established a life. A life where I try new restaurants and eat delicious food. Where I meet new friends and trade my life story for theirs. Where I do fulfilling work that makes you think about the next step, and could it look like this?

Three weeks after my accident, I was determined to try and write with my left hand because we needed to create new materials. I succeeded. Three weeks after my accident, my doctor said that my finger was saved. It’s healing. A day after three weeks after my accident my uncle committed suicide. How am I? I’m surviving. The students call me Seño (female teacher). I am their teacher and guidance. But they are also my guidance as well as my inspiration. Because they are also determined survivors, striving to learn, eager to create and a reminder to play.

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