As this trip is coming to a close, I can’t help but think about the challenges that have been faced, and the impact of our time here. A major thing that I have learned during this experience is the value of vulnerability. Although I have travelled quite a bit, I have never been on a service trip before, which has been a totally different experience for me. From the moment I have gotten here, I have felt vulnerable but in different ways. It isn’t the kind of vulnerability you feel when you’re a tourist in a new place, figuring out the ways of transportation and pushing yourself to speak the language, but rather the feeling you get when you’re standing in front of a huge audience waiting to give a speech. Here I feel vulnerable when I try to speak Spanish because I’m afraid I won’t seem to know what I’m talking about. I feel vulnerable that I can’t know exactly what the community is thinking about me. I feel vulnerable because I hate any kind of public speaking and teaching classes gives me a little anxiety. I feel vulnerable because I can’t relate to their culture, and have no idea how my presence will affect a community. Finally, I feel vulnerable because I don’t have all of the answers. When we leave here there is no telling what will happen to Chaquijyá, how it will develop and what its people will become. We leave here not really knowing if we did harm or good, and there’s really nothing that we can do about that. We can look back, like we did today, and come up with ways to create more sustainable and effective (successful) programs, but right now we are living in the present. What good can we do if we are just leaving like the rest of them?
I think we challenged the people of Chaquijyá to be vulnerable too, which I hope was a good thing. When we came here they went out on a limb to introduce us to their communities, their schools, and their children. I might have felt vulnerable walking into a community that was foreign to me, but how vulnerable did they feel when they tried to communicate with me and let me teach their classes? They didn’t have to welcome us, but they did. We took a chance to come here and they to a chance to welcome us into their lives. Had the vulnerability not been reciprocated, Manna would have never been able to accomplish what it has in Chaquijyá. Being vulnerable and proceeding anyway is what makes service and development work and I’m glad to have pushed myself out of that comfort zone.
- Nicole, Visage student