Volunteering in Ipoderac
During the summer of 2009, I searched for a volunteer opportunity in South America or Mexico. I wanted to volunteer for several reasons:
1) To give back to a world that has given me so many opportunities and continues to be full of possibility
2) To do something out of my comfort zone
3) To fine tune my Spanish skills
4) To widen my worldview
5) And finally, to try and help those in need
While I was searching for a volunteer opportunity, one found me. A family friend told me of a home for abandoned and homeless boys in Mexico called Ipoderac. Ipoderac fit my above requirements very well and so, in September, I headed down.
Upon arriving at Ipoderac, I was placed in the San Juan house. San Juan is a (purple) house for the 12 youngest boys in Ipoderac. Their ages usually range from 6-10. If I said my transition to life at Ipoderac was easy, well, I’d be lying. It took time and patience on both my part and the boys’ part until we all felt comfortable with one another. By the second month, however, I could tell that my relationship with “mis chavos” (the boys) was something special, perhaps even life- changing.
So what exactly did I do during my time in Ipoderac? It’s difficult to say (as my duties were so varied), but I like to think that, to each of the boys, I was a stay-at-home dad, teacher, older brother, babysitter, and friend.
Because my roles varied so much, my experiences and responsibilities did as well. Some of the things I did included tucking the boys in at night (usually with some sort of classical music) and waking them up in the morning (usually with some Michael Jackson (their choice) or other pop music). I also helped with homework, taught English classes four days a week, played soccer, helped prepare meals, did laundry, farmed, maintained the pig’s sty, read to the boys at night, and helped teach some of them how to read. I walked some of them to school, joked with them, held them when they cried, and talked with them about the “outside world”.
Although trying to go into more detail about my time at Ipoderac would likely be impossible in a short testimonial, what I will say is this: leaving Ipoderac and mis chavos was the single most difficult thing I have ever done. I went down there to see if I could help change someone’s life and, when my plane landed in Denver in March, I realized my life was the one that had changed.
At Ipoderac, I learned more about life and about myself than I ever have or perhaps ever will. I know it’s cliché, but I honestly wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, anything at all.
Ipoderac is always in need of new volunteers. I ask anyone who thinks they might have a desire to do something like this or knows someone who might to please email me at email@example.com.