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Written by Ellen G.

My internship is at an organization for people with down syndrome that serves as a school as well as a training and research center.

This is my typical day:

My internship starts at 8:00 am. Each morning we spend a half hour going through our daily morning introductions. When I walk in I help to gather all the children and have them sit in a circle in their chairs. When Pauli (the teacher) comes in, we all sing “Buenos Dias” and some other songs to get the kids engaged. Then we go through attendance and have each kid put their picture up on the board. We’ll go through the schedule for the day and put each item on the board.

Recently, the kids have been learning about farm animals and the difference between day and night. An example of an activity that we have done putting up a poster of the day and night and then have each kid take a turn holding the cow and placing it in the day or night whether the teacher says “sol” or “luna”. They work with Mary for an hour until snack time. Some of the kids need help eating so I assist them. After snack, all the students from all the classes go outside to the patio and mini play space to hang out. When recess is done they go back to their classes.

At this point I will usually take an individual student and work with them one on one. Some students need help walking and others need help building their motor skills. I’ll do different activities for each student. For example, with babies, I will have them touch different textures with their hands and feet, but for kids who are slightly older, I will have them put balls on a sting or take an object from one container and put it in the other. Activities after snack vary depending on the day. On Thursdays, there is a cooking class and every Tuesday, we go to a horse farm where the students ride horses around a barn.

About a half hour before pick up, we sit in a circle again for reflection time, which includes going though what we did today according to the schedule and maybe singing a few songs.

I just finished my internship this past week and I’ve been reflecting on it and how the gap program in Cuenca is so different from what I did in South Africa two years ago. My South Africa program was designed as a service trip where we helped out in local schools and set up a street store for the homeless in Cape Town. After going on that trip I thought that all service programs in other countries would be the same.

Now I realize how different the things I did in South Africa are from what I’m doing here. One of the major differences is that with AMIGOS, we focus on sustainability after the project is finished. In South Africa, the word sustainability was never mentioned. It felt like when we were in South Africa we were just there to help for one day, but as far as I could tell, the next day everything would go back to the same.

With AMIGOS, I feel as though what I am doing is impactful and will last for years to come. And I loved being able to work with my community to find a way to make that happen.

It’s fascinating how different each of these trips were. I loved both of them in their own ways — I think both trips had their own gems and I am delighted I got to experience both. They each opened my eyes to the world of service projects and ways to get involved in many different communities around the world.

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