January 22, 23, 25, 2016
When the idea of being apart of a Weatherization project loomed this past September I never imagined how transformative the experience would be. Semester came to a close and Learning Cluster approached. Our preparation encompassed an online course a week prior to a two-day session with Weatherization Without Borders founded by Nicholas The first day of our time in Campana was winding down. While at the first home in which I was apart of the energy audit, Axel the ten year old son was full of enthusiasm. As we used high definition technologies he was intrigued by the processes when using a manometer or when taking photos with the camera. We played catch together with his dogs and splashes were exchanged from the makeshift pool. Though he did not live in the ideal housing situation he was content and by this I felt so humbled. He had fun in our company and the enjoyment of interacting with the family on a personal level was apparent on all our faces. In the second home the little girl held onto a stuffed pig like animal as she meandered around the front yard and she allowed me to help her ride her bike around with training wheels in circles. She liked for her feet to be tickled and would giggle as she tried to hide under the foam top. “dónde estás no se puede ver” It was like playing peekaboo. She’d jump up “Aquí estoy” while filled with laughter. She was so sweet and a little shy but liked the idea of having a playmate. The mother felt comfort in this because the process of weatherizing her home became personalized. Though my spanish is not up to par, I could read facial expression and catch onto words to put together their sentences. Her older brother, Joaquin told a lot of stories and he enjoyed sharing with me the stories behind the photos on the wall of his family members. He found this red feather and we kept it up in the air while blowing the feather together. He gave the feather to me and I brought it back for safe keepings. While Sophia and I were speaking with her older brother he told us about some of his past pets and what had happened to them. Without hesitation and the slightest emotion he explained to us that one of his dogs had been taken and left out in the street abused to death. This kind of violence was treated as normal and the fact that he expressed minimal emotions during his explanation revealed to us the slightest reality of how children his age may be subjected a particular harshness early on.
The children of these homes interact with the world in such a different way yet basic communication through laughter and love broke this barrier right away. Taking time to listen to them and give them a positive atmosphere in which they felt safe brought about the comfort of the family. The service we were providing for these families seemingly could be impersonal but I believe it was so important to make it a personal experience so that the families not only benefited from the changes made in the home but also from our presence as a whole. As I went to visit the third house I couldn’t of imagined what I would find there. The close interaction and relationship built with the families was lasting. Not only did we improve their homes but we improved the energy surrounding the process with our personal presence. The children had smiles on their faces when we spent time with them and silly faces and sounds were so much fun for the both of us.
As I visited the last house I understood that previously some of my classmates had to lug two truckloads of trash outside from one of the bedrooms. I had a brief understanding of the situation. The conditions in which the children of the final house, were not ideal and from the beginning I could read their expressions as slighty dimmed especially the older children at the ages of 8 and 10. The rooms were dark and grim as we scrubbed the walls of mold. I understood that this was a chance to change the livelihoods of these families. And so we did we not only improved the physical aspects of the home we also were apart of their emotional health throughout the duration of our time there. I have formulated a short video about my experience in this home.
– Written by Naomi Antinarelli
One thought on “I brought back more than a feather”
This is great Naomi! I can totally relate to your experience! I often find myself going to places with a certain intention of doing something physical/infrastructure-related, but find myself leaving with just as much fulfillment, if not more, with the relationships I built through the process. The human-to-human element is so crucial in this type of work. You were right on when you recognized the importance of connecting with the families and children because then they will be more comfortable and open with you coming into their homes. Sometimes it’s not just about what you’re doing, but how you do it that makes all the difference. Also, I find once you’re in with the kids, you’re in with the family haha.
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