We began with construction work on the community center (the sede), which our group began last year and which has progressed to a remarkable extent. Half the students worked alongside community residents, moving rocks and shoveling dirt to level the ground for a large concrete floor and aluminum awning that will be erected outside of the sede, for public meetings and events. The other half painted inside, sanding the wooden doors and frames before applying the reddish-brown paint that I had helped don David to select the day before. After a while the groups switched, so that everyone had the opportunity to get blisters on their hands and paint on their clothes. After three hours of hard work, the students were treated to an ice cream by members of the neighborhood directorio.
After lunch in the shade, some students went up to watch the women's futbol league tournament, before returning to the sede to teach classes to the barrio children. Fewer showed up than the previous week, probably due to the futbol tournament, but there were still plenty on hand. We divided into three groups - one for English classes, one for drawing classes, and one for photography lessons. Though the sede is still incomplete, it was wonderful to see it already in use, buzzing with activity as the children and students worked on their various lessons.
On their way down to the sede, four students were stopped by a woman who came running out of her house, yelling excitedly and waving her arms. At first the students were unsure of what she wanted - was there some sort of emergency? But no, she just wanted them to come inside her house, which they obligingly did. Inside, the woman and her husband invited them to eat birthday cake and drink soda with them. The man explained how grateful he was that we were here working in the community, that in all his years he has never seen outsiders come into a community for the purposes of doing work for and with the people who live there. He was very moved, as were the students by this encounter.
It is stories like this that make all of the effort, the energy, the sacrifice worthwhile. I am amazed to stand there and survey this work, and to realize that all of it exists because of the efforts we have made to bring this into being.