Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Written by Ruth Härlin, volunteer with Kaya Children (August 2010 – August 2011).

There’s only half an hour left until the bell is going to ring. Adrian sits in front of me, busy entertaining his peers, laughing, telling the stories of the last weekend – busy doing anything but his homework; and it’s my task to make him do it. It could sound like an easy thing to do: helping the boys and girls with their homework after lunch. I really like working with them, these guys have conquered my heart within my first days at Kaya Children International in La Paz, Bolivia. But there are moments in which I wonder whether I have
the capacities to motivate them to do tasks like looking up the meaning of difficult words in
their small dictionaries. Especially on a day like this, with the sun shining in the blue sky, knowing that the boys already had a hard day at school filled with tests and presentations and teachers who want them to quietly pay attention…

“Adrian, look, you are going to have a break within a few minutes. Let’s finish this task, and you’ll be free to play whatever you want to,” I make a last effort.

“I know, but I think I’ve lost my encyclopedia. Someone must have stolen it. It was here, in
my bag. Now it’s gone. It seems like I won’t be able to do this task, then.”

He smiles at me, and I’m trying hard to resist his big, bright eyes that want to convince me
to not insisting on his task anymore. But I know there’ll only be more trouble for him. So I start searching. More boys and girls just finished with the same task, there must be some free dictionaries around here…

“Gabriella, could you pass us that dictionary, please?”


“Come on, Adrian needs to finish his task.”

Having thought about it during some seconds, Gabriella decides to be generous today. Adrian does not seem to be very happy about that, but I am willing to help him doing his homework as he should. We look up words like “tension”, “architecture” and “speculum”, Adrian writes them down, complaining that he’ll probably never need these words, and that the spelling is really strange.

Later, two minutes left until the break, he notices three words somebody has written on the first page of the encyclopedia: “I am silly.” His eyes lighten up. “Ruth! Look, it says 'I am silly!' It’s mine! It must be mine! The girl sitting next to me in class has put it there when I
stole her pencil case! Wow, that’s great! I found it! I am silly!” He wraps his arms around my neck, kisses my cheek, and runs outside, into the sun, singing along “I am silly, I am silly…”

This is just one of many experiences since I got here, and I’m so grateful to be with these boys who somehow manage to warm my heart every day I see them.

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