From the time our children were born, we’ve talked about exposing them to other cultures and by so doing, widening their vision of the world. We also wanted our children to understand the bounty that we enjoy in America and to internalize the importance of service. I’ve come to realize that children will learn these values if the parents exemplify them and are passionate about them.
When we moved to Cedar City, one of the doctors Mike worked with was taking annual humanitarian trips to Bolivia with his family and some co-workers. Both he and Mike had spent time in South America previously, and had developed a love of the culture, language and values. Mike immediately joined in on the trips. Part of the draw to visit South America has been to inculcate in our family the powerful aspects that the Latin American culture has to teach: specifically the value of community, family and relationships above individuals, peers, and worldly “success” as the purposes for life.
Mike and his partner started out using established non-profit organizations to coordinate their trips, but after a couple years realized that the administrative costs were inflated. They decided to start their own non-profit organization called World Village. Their physician colleagues have contributed and they have been able to do much good with no administrative costs.
Along with the great work of remodeling clinics and taking down much-needed medical supplies, these trips have given our children wonderful learning experiences and service opportunities.
One of the projects our kids have done several times is puppet shows for children at health fairs.
The show is given along with a recording in Spanish about the importance of good hygiene, avoidance of alcohol and drugs and what foods are healthy.
Mike loves to interact with the locals and expose our children first hand to their culture and sweetness of character.
I got a big dose of culture one night after we went to a health fair. There was a party held where the people performed traditional dances, rich in color and music. I got to participate in one. After our last trip the community presented a ceremony of appreciation, a cultural exchange of giving and receiving, filled with food, music and dance. These are powerful highlights of our trips.
The first year the group remodeled the emergency room at an adult hospital. The family members painted a world map mural at a local school. The next year the group participated in construction of an emergency room at the children’s hospital and the family members helped pave a driveway for the ambulance.
The next year we helped construct a clinic, painted a school and had a couple school rooms remodeled.
This past trip the group helped supply a new clinic and participated with the clinic staff in public health measures including tuberculosis follow-up and mosquito abatement to control the spread of yellow fever. Our kids walked around the neighborhood with clinic members helping people drain any standing water in their yards.
We usually take down medical supplies which are given to local doctors. We pack our clothes in our carry-on luggage and check the supplies in crates as our regular luggage. I also took some Scholastic books in Spanish for the school.
The doctors there are very knowledgeable, they just lack funds and good equipment. Locals have to pay cash before they have treatment or surgeries. Mike spoke with one doc who told him that he does surgeries on people, even if they don’t have enough money to pay, until he himself runs out of money. What a sharing heart! Mike was so happy to give this doctor some desperately needed supplies.
These sloths were in the town square. In Spanish they are called “perezoso”. We called them “very-slow-slow.”
There were no amusement parks, but these natural rock slides were just as popular.
Mike has taken the kids on a couple side trips to see ruins,
Traveling can be expensive. Some of the families that have gone on these trips held yard sales and other fund-raisers to earn money. We’ve acquired a air-miles card, and Mike writes off many travel costs as humanitarian contributions.
The farther down in South America you travel, the more expensive it is to fly ($900 round trip to Bolivia). But there are many destinations in Central America that are more affordable (Mike flew to Guatemala for under $500).
A great resource I’ve found is a book and website called Have Kids-Will Travel. They offer many good ideas and even coordinate trips which include humanitarian service.
Expanding children’s minds by exposing them to other cultures is so valuable. There is much that can be learned and seen on the internet for free. Just make it a priority and seek out the things that interest you.
Tie the lessons in as you go and you will find many rewarding experiences.