Phoebe Fiehn volunteered at a children’s home from August 2019 to March 2020. As part of her assignment, she helped out in the kitchen and with homework tutoring. Phoebe wasn’t able to stay in Mexico until the end of July 2020 (as originally planned) because of the pandemic. In her report, she tells us about her time on the programme.
Mexico is a fascinating country. Apart from delicious food and a remarkable culture, I was captivated by the people and their warmth and love of life.
Two years have passed since I went to Mexico as a weltwärts volunteer. My sending organisation, Kindermissionswerk “Die Sternsinger”, and missio helped find the ideal project for me – at a children’s home called “Hogares Infantiles y Juveniles Calasanz A. C.” in Puebla.
It was a really exciting time, right from the beginning. I landed in Mexico City to start with, which was awe-inspiring. I’d never seen so many people and so much traffic in one place. The city seemed to be constantly awake – even though I arrived at night. There were taco bars on almost every street corner, with people dancing around them and singing along to Mexican ballads, their voices full of emotion.
“I made some very close friends”
I became a big fan of Mexico’s highly developed dance culture. There are lots of different dances with at least as many different, brightly coloured dresses. I was also particularly impressed by the fusion of prehistoric and Spanish culture. There are colonial cities with grid-like layouts and then magnificent pyramids built by the Mayas and Aztecs, as can be seen in Teotihuacán.
But what I like best is how warm and friendly the people are. They just open their heart to you straight away. I felt incredibly safe and at home and welcome from day one. I made some very close friends and we’re still friends now and will remain so in the future.
My role on the project
The children’s home consists of three units with up to 10 boys living in each one, grouped by age. My main task was to look after the youngest ones – the 12 and unders – which I really enjoyed.
My morning activities were very varied. The boys were in school then so I used to help one of the ladies who worked at the home pick up donations (clothes, food and toys) for the children. If there were no errands to run in the morning, I was allowed to help the kitchen staff. That gave me the opportunity to learn how to make various delicious Mexican dishes, some of which I’ve already cooked back in Germany.
Once we’d picked the boys up from school, we all had lunch together. They couldn’t wait to tell me about what they’d been up to at school and it was lovely to listen to them. Afterwards, we had a bit of free time and I read to them or we tried out ball games together. They taught me loads of new games and there was lots of laughter.
After their break, I helped a teacher supervise their homework. I was particularly able to help them with English and some other subjects, like maths. It was a great feeling when a child made progress and proudly showed me what they’d done. Usually, they didn’t have any homework on Fridays so we went to a park or a playground. Sometimes I spent Fridays with the slightly older boys, with whom I got on equally well. We played German and Mexican board games or went to a local sports ground for a run around.
I really enjoyed my job and I quickly found my feet on the project. In particular, it was the sense of togetherness and the conversations with the children and my colleagues at the home that made my time there so special. Of course, there were some times when things didn’t go smoothly. But those were the situations that made me grow and enabled me to learn to cope better.
The people you meet, the learning from one another and the insider view of a completely different culture are what make voluntary service so fascinating. The local people’s love of life and their openness rubbed off on me and I’d like to keep them both in the future.