Smiling: The Universal Language

Today our class continued our journey in Chile by volunteering at Hogar Padre Alfonso, an orphanage located in Viña del Mar. Hogar Padre Alfonso is a home to Chilean children between the ages of four and 12, with parents who cannot take care of them for various reasons. Children placed at the orphanage remain there until they can return to their families or until they are moved to a new home that is for older children.  Today, our class had the privilege of spending time with these wonderful children.

Even though the language barrier made verbal communication difficult, we had a great time playing with the children. After introducing ourselves and doing our best to talk with the kids in Spanish, we had fun playing games. A large group of young boys played soccer with the Drake students, while others hung around the playground. After we played outside, we used our time to help the children at the orphanage learn a few words in English. To do so, we sang the classic song “Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes,” played Twister, and taught them a ball game that introduced vocabulary.

Many people say that smiling is the universal language, and our time spent at the orphanage proves this to be true. When our words no longer served us, simply spending time with the children at the orphanage seemed to make all the difference. Our first encounters were difficult because the children were shy and so were we. However, after warming up to one another, it was easy to laugh and play together. Smiles were abundant today; the fun we had this morning will not be easily forgotten. It was difficult to leave as we said our goodbyes and gave hugs to the kids.

The reason the goodbye was so bittersweet is because of the time we spent together. Like we did with our service at the nursing home earlier in the week, all we did was share our time. Yes, we passed that time by playing games (Bingo with the elderly and Twister with the kids), but our service was our time. And, truthfully, sometimes giving people your time is the best gift that you can give. We didn’t need verbal communication with the elderly or with the children. All we needed was an open heart and a willingness to love the people around us.

The lesson we learned, to give others our time and our love, will stay with us forever. This type of service is needed all over the world. Globally, there are people that need a hand to hold or a person to kick a ball around with. Sometimes giving is that simple. We must remember the importance of taking care of all people in this world as we travel back to the United States. Regardless of a person’s age or where he or she comes from, we must give our time back to the members of our communities. Doing so, we will continue to be responsible global citizens.

As previously mentioned, it was difficult to say goodbye to the children at the orphanage. However, we were on a strict schedule to continue our tour of Chile. We spent the rest of the day exploring unique beaches and geography; we spent our free time soaking up some rays and enjoying the ocean breeze. Below is an example of what a typical beach looks like in Viña del Mar.

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Brightly colored umbrellas scattered across the sand of the beaches. – Photo by Molly

As we walked by the beach, we also saw a number of canons. These canons point out to the waters from the Las Salinas Naval Base. The canons in the photograph below were large, but people walked up to touch the massive weapon and grab pictures.

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Chilean canons. – Photo by Molly

We met fellow Bulldog, Emily, for dinner tonight. Emily is also currently studying in Chile with ISA. She is here for three weeks, and living with a host family in Viña del Mar. We had a fun time eating with her tonight and swapping stories about our adventures in Chile. Below is a photo we snapped before having dinner with Emily on our walk home from the beaches.

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Clear water and clear skies on this beautiful Chilean night. – Photo by Molly

With views like this and time spent serving others, it will be hard to leave Chile in a few short days. Over the next two days, we will make the most of the time that we have left, while sharing our smiles with those around us.

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