Karl and Marsha Stum generously committed to spending a year of their lives serving the kids at Nuestra Familia. Their roles are to help the kids catch up academically, teach them life skills, and help the orphanage leaders give the kids more individualized attention.
In the time since they arrived, they’ve had a wealth of meaningful experiences with the kids. In this post, we’ll give you a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s really like to be an Extended Volunteer.
Building Meaningful Relationships
Miguel* (9 years old) and a couple of other young boys showed interest in the piano. Marsha had brought out a beginning piano book and invited them to join her for a lesson. Unfortunately, Miguel had explosive anger issues, and a few days after the lesson he refused to cooperate with chores or meals and found a small metal bar that he was banging on the wall, doors, and furniture. Everyone was giving him space.
Eventually, Miguel began banging on the walls and furniture in the dining room near the donated old baby grand piano. Marsha went over to sit at the piano and began to play the melody and chords they had practiced the days before. She called Miguel by name and motioned for him to come join her. Slowly, he inched closer, lowered the bar to the floor, and sat by Marsha at the piano. Then, abruptly, he got up, took the piece of metal outside, and came back to the piano, sitting by Marsha again and putting his hand on the keys. All of Miguel’s energy and adrenaline seemed to help him focus and he was able to play the notes with greater accuracy than before. Marsha said, “I joyfully gave him a big hug of congratulations and he just melted into me. I could see that love and redirection made a big difference for him.”
On Sunday, Miguel sat by Karl and Marsha at mass and whispered to them about when they should kneel and stand and helped them find the place in the printed recital text they should be reading. Later, when they were leaving to go on an errand with one of the visiting Child’s Hope staff who he knew, he had her sign an imaginary contract in his hand promising him that she would make sure that she would bring back “his volunteers.”
On September 15th, the Stums joined the kids in celebrating Mexican Independence Day. In anticipation, the kids prepared musical numbers and they taught Karl and Marsha how to dress appropriately to go along with the theme. The kids talked to Karl and Marsha about the tacos, candies, drinks, and even taught them some dance steps so they’d be ready for the big day.
Karl and Marsha didn’t hesitate to go out and buy Mexican outfits so they could dress up with the kids. Marsha commented that for her it was a great honor to be invited by the kids to the party, but more than anything, she felt that for the kids it meant a lot that she and Karl dressed up in traditional Mexican clothing. After the party, they felt even more included and a part of the family at the orphanage. Emma, one of the directors of Nuestra Familia, said, “I love this beautiful couple.” She is very grateful for all the support, dedication, and strength that Karl and Marsha put into their activities with the children.
Reading With the Kids
One joyful element of Marsha’s day was reading “La Telaraña de Carlotta” (Charlotte’s Web) to the kids. She read it with great expression and added dramatic voices to the characters. The kids weren’t used to this and they responded enthusiastically. As Marsha read, she asked for help with difficult-to-pronounce words.
One week, 11-year-old Juana*, the oldest and most confident of the young girls, wanted to begin reading after she had read the very dramatic dialogue between Wilbur and Charlotte when he learned he would die at Christmas. She began to read and added just a little more interpretation than before. She got to one of Wilbur’s cries of desperation, and she read it with such great expression. Marsha congratulated her, “Perfecto!”
She read a little more to the end of the chapter where they normally would have stopped, but she just turned the page and started on the next chapter. She was so engaged in the story, Marsha thought she would have finished reading the whole chapter, but they had to stop because it was their bedtime. Marsha knew that she had experienced the magic of this delightful book and the power of her own voice.
In preparation for school to start, Marsha and Karl wanted to show the 12 teen boys “Stand and Deliver,” an inspiring movie about Jamie Escalante who was a teacher in an inner Los Angeles mostly Latino area.
The orphanage director encouraged them to make a party of it down in the house of the teens. Gea, the younger children’s tutor, stayed late to help the teen boys make sweet empanadas. The boys enthusiastically helped roll out the dough and squeeze the fillings for these delicious treats.
Karl went outside as the sun was setting and said a prayer that somehow they would settle down and watch the movie. That effort, along with bringing in some Taki’s and Coke, resulted in the boys settling down and watching the movie. Karl went over to the oldest boy, Antonio* (16) (who is the one all the kids look up to), and told him this movie was very important and that he hoped he would watch it. Antonio said OK and eventually moved up and took the bean bag chair for a front and center seat and watched the entire time.
Karl and Marsha were so pleased with the way it turned out. After the movie, Karl had prepared remarks in Spanish and said, “I hope you see from this true movie that you each can do hard things. You can each do excellently in high school and in what you do after high school. Thanks for watching the movie.”
Making a Difference as an Extended Volunteer
These have been just a few of the life-changing experiences Marsha and Karl have had in their time at the orphanage. As an Extended Volunteer, you won’t just have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the children’s lives, but on your own as well. If you’re looking for a meaningful way to spend the next six months to two years, look no further than our Extended Volunteer program.
Who do you know who might be a good fit for our Extended Volunteer program? Please take a moment to pass this on to them!
*Names changed to protect the children’s privacy.