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Monday, March 30, 2009

The Experience of a Lifetime pt 2

Thursday we visited a children’s hospital. This day was emotionally draining, but also very rewarding. We visited a couple different wards of the hospital and delivered beanie babies and hygiene kits to the children and their parents. There was no air conditioning in the wards…keep in mind that the weather in Cartagena is around 85 degrees and humid year round! The children were so happy to see us. They especially loved blowing bubbles and receiving stickers. While at the hospital we also worked on painting a mural in the outdoor courtyard. JR’s niece had sketched out the design and we started the painting. We didn’t get it quite finished but it was starting to look pretty awesome!!

Friday was a day off from volunteering. We visited the Islas del Rosario, a chain of about 28 islands and a national park area. We specifically went to Cocoliso island and it was absolutely beautiful!! It was nice to spend some time just relaxing on the beach!

Saturday was my favorite day, but also the most challenging. We spent the whole day at Villa Gloria, one of the poorest villages in Cartagena. It is less than 30 minutes outside of the city, and yet the people there live in shacks. Most of the children did not have shoes on, and there was trash everywhere. Despite the dismal living conditions, the children and people here were some of the happiest that I had encountered. The children gave us the biggest hugs in the world! The little girls would give us hugs after hugs and then stand with us with their arms around our waists. We again passed out clothes, shoes, education kits, hygiene kits, toys, and stickers. The children were so grateful and it was very rewarding to bring them so much joy. When I was walking back to the bus on our way out, one of the little girls ran up to me and leapt straight into my arms for a big hug. It really brought home the fact that what we did over the course of a week means the world to these children. I was really sad to leave the village. If I could have I would have brought back all the children with me to the US!!!

We returned to the United States on Sunday March 22nd. I was definitely sad to come back, although eager to return to my friends and family. The people in Colombia were all so friendly and happy to welcome us to their country. Their culture is rich in music, dancing, and history and I loved learning about their traditions. Colombians are also much more affectionate than Americans; their custom greeting is a hug and kiss on the cheek. The country and city are absolutely beautiful, and I would not hesitate to visit again. This trip will hopefully be offered again, and if you have the chance to go I would highly recommend it! Happy traveling!


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