Introducing the SALEM Angels
Its for nothing that we call our volunteers “Los Angeles”, as the volunteers provide a very special and valuable service to the children and community of Mindo.
Volunteering has a long tradition in SALEM: every year since 2002, three different volunteers have spent their gap year here in SALEM Ecuador! The German volunteers have traditionally applied and been selected through the volunteering organisation “Weltwärts”- Welthaus Bielefeld. The Austrian volunteers often select SALEM as an alternative to national military service and apply through the Austrian International Volunteer service.
For the first time ever, this year we have three female volunteers: Luzia (left), Rebecca (middle) and Sarah (right).
The three live together in the project and work with the children in addition to performing many other essential tasks!
In order to introduce themselves to you, the three Angels answered some questions about volunteering and life here in SALEM Ecuador.
1.) How did you come up with the idea of volunteering and working here in SALEM Ecuador?
Luzia: For a long time its was clear to me that I would like to go abroad after graduation. However, it was important to me to do something meaningful in my gap year and really immerse myself in a culture. So I decided to do a year with “Weltwärts”. South America interested me because of the biodiversity and the language; I wanted to improve my Spanish. When they offered me a place in SALEM in Mindo, I was really glad because the project suits me perfectly.
Rebecca: I had applied to various organizations to volunteer in Central or South America. When SALEM was proposed to me, I was really happy, because we share the same values! Now I’m overjoyed to be working in SALEM!
It’s a worthwhile project run with love and passion.
Sarah: I knew that I wanted to work in a social project in South America during my gap year. My friends told me about International Volunteer Operations which connects volunteers and social projects around the world. I really liked the project here in Mindo and I was overjoyed on my birthday when I read that my application had been accepted.
2.) In one sentence how would you describe SALEM?
Luzia: SALEM is a little oasis for children to live in peace and harmony with their fellow human beings and the environment, learning out of curiosity and enjoing great projects and excursions.
SALEM is a peaceful place for children and young people to discover and develop their talents
to practice new things and learn to take responsibility for themselves and for others.
Sarah: SALEM is so much more than afternoon care for children and adolescents. It offers support with schooling and traditional education, but also introduces children to new topics and values through a varied program and furthermore helps to solve problems within their Families.
3.) What does your work at SALEM consist of?
Luzia: I work mainly with the youngest children. In the mornings I prepare the classroom and the afternoon activities or write articles for the SALEM website. At lunchtime my job is in the kitchen: I try to make sure that every child eats a balanced, healthy lunch and to get them to opt for soup and salads.
After lunch I work with a teacher helping the children with their Montessori lessons and on various creative projects. In addition, I give yoga lessons and perform many small tasks around the project. Working with the kids is a lot of fun and it is often exhausting. That’s why I really like the quiet mornings to myself.
Rebecca: My work day starts with preparing my classroom, the outdoor area and games and materials for tutorials. There are also regular team trainings and meetings where we can give feedback, ask questions and plan upcoming activities. When the children arrive, my job is to greet them and see if their behaviour shows signs of any problems they might be having at home or at school. Later on in tutorial I help with homework or Montessori lessons in the fields of mathematics, language, geography and biology., I also assist our music teacher with the singing and guitar classes.
Sarah: Everyday life in Salem begins for me with cleaning and making up materials or games that I’m going to do with the kids in the afternoon. After lunch the kids come to me to brush their teeth. In the afternoon I work in the special needs group where children can pass the time if they are upset, angry and cannot work in their normal groups. After tutorials end I prepare the afternoon refreshments with one of the children which we all then eat together at the end of the day. On some days I give a drawing course for interested children and adolescents. Apart from the normal everyday program, there are always excursions or other special activities which I help out with.
4.) What do you like most about the project?
Luzia: I like the fact that, on the one hand, I have clear responsibilities and know what I need to do, but on the other hand, I can contribute things that interest me such as yoga. Also I’m 100% in agreement with the whole philosophy and education methods and I identify strongly with SALEM.
Here in SALEM you have the freedom to put your own talents to good use.
I particularly like the singing and guitar lessons that I assist with.
Sarah: I love being involved so much in the team.
The volunteers are given a lot of responsibility.
For example, in my group I have the freedom to design and deliver a drawing course with the children myself.
5.) What have you gained personally from this year?
Luzia: Since this is my first experience of living alone, without my parents, and on top of that, in a foreign country,
I realise how much I have changed. Especially how independant I’m becoming.
In addition, I’ve obviously learn a lot about the right way to deal with children. I will also remember all the experiences and contacts I’ve made for a long time to come.
Rebecca: The friendship with Luzia and Sarah will definitely be with me for a long time. Also I appreciate the simple things in life more. I am also more self-confident, independent and nature-loving.
Sarah: I’m taking a whole load full of new experiences, insights, knowledge and new friends home with me.
I know that I couldn’t have spent a better year anywhere else.
Now that you’ve had a chance to meet our current volunteers and gotten to know a little about daily life here, if you yourself would like to spend your gap year volunteering in SALEM Ecuador then please send us your application via mail! We’re looking forward to hearing from you!