As part of our blog we want to share our stories and its me toca to give mine. Enjoy it.
Meet Hector: the first kid in Bocas I met nearly three years ago. I remember our first interaction like it was yesterday. Hector was only two at the time. While sweating in the Panamanian heat building a playground, Hector approached timidly with a death grip on his Uncle’s leg (first encounter pictured above). I figured a funny face could get him to open up. I was wrong. It only made him terrified of the scene and me, a foreigner in his backyard building an unidentified foreign object or playground to us westerners. We had many more encounters of terror and tears for the next few months. Fast forward to the opening of the preschool: the first education program started in Bahia Honda. Hector was of course the perfect age for this program, but only that. He was watched over by his older cousin Ana everyday and would not dare leave her side. I repeatedly tried to encourage him to participate, but he would not budge. He sat in the corner attached to Ana and as a first time teacher I felt helpless. Little did I know he was observing and taking everything in. Slowly Hector made the decision to become part of the classroom environment. First step was sitting down for circle time, our way to start every morning. It seemed like with each passing day Hector chose to take things further. Poco a poco Hector was not only developing confidence, but trust and love for me. Ana was soon no longer needed and Hector was on his own, a normal preschooler with an incredible few years ahead of him.
Fast forward to present day. Hector is the leader of the classroom, the star student, and a teacher’s favorite. I witness him showing the newcomers the ropes and greeting new volunteers like a mayor greets their townspeople. Perhaps it was the age that made him shy and nonresponsive years ago. Probably true, but I do know that our preschool in the jungle has provided Hector with a sense of self and the foundation for his path that I hope and want to be part of. Hector’s story is one of many that is made possible because of the support we have received since day one.