Volunteer Abroad - Chile, Volunteer Abroad Programs

Problems in The Volunteer House

by Janna Elwell, Greenheart Travel Volunteer in Chile

Amongst all the excitement of las vacaciones, our little volunteer house has suffered a number of incidences. It isn’t any secret that the volunteer house receives minimum attention and maintenance, which in most cases is understandable as the houses of the kids take priority. As the house has slowly accumulated a handful of needed-but-ignored-fix-its, it also earned itself the nickname of “caja de cartón”, the cardboard box. According to Tío Juan, who helps with maintenance here, there have been a couple of impending problems within our little cardboard box that should have been taken care of years. The administration doesn’t want to put what little money they have toward fixing it. The procrastination of fixing these problems all came crashing down–literally–this past weekend.

The house has three bathrooms, only one of which is functioning. This solitary usable baño is on the upper floor, and although it functions there has been a problem with the piping for quite some time. After years of excessive use a rather large puddle of water had collected in the space between the first and second floors, causing the ceiling in the main floor kitchen to sag considerably. The impregnated ceiling finally gave way Friday night, and all of the collected water came flooding down onto our kitchen floor. The ceiling drained and drained for nearly an hour. When it didn’t stop, Tío Juan decided it would be best to shut the water supply off. Naturally this all occurred on Friday night, and administration wouldn’t be back in their offices until Monday. This left Maja, Silvia and I waterless for the weekend. As if this wasn’t enough, Tío Juan noticed a lot of the water drainage was passing over one of the main electrical outlets and deemed it best to shut off the electricity as well. Altogether we had a gaping, leaking hole in the ceiling, waterlogged electrical outlets, and the main supporting floorboards of the house completely soaked through with years-worth of water; our little cardboard box was brimming with all sorts of threatening conditions.

After a weekend of living with jugs of water and candles, administration returned to the hogar on Monday and has agreed to finally acknowledge the issue. We regained both water, electrical use, and a plumbing company is being sent to further look into what needs to be done to fix the issue, at last! As rustic as it was, the three of us couldn’t help but laugh at our situation. We figure that when there is nothing to be done, we just have to remind ourselves that it´s all part of the experience. The motto we keep within our dear cardboard box is “Así es la Vida” — This is Life.

Maja, Silvia and I all feel as if time is slipping through our fingers–we all only have about 2 weeks left here in Malloco before heading back to our respective countries. The rate at which weeks go by here is incredible, and we know that before we will even realize it we´ll be making that trip to the airport. We´re trying to do everything we can to fully maximize each day, myself especially, as I´m beginning to realize what a small time-frame 2 months is. I still feel as if I only know a fraction of the kids here and am scrambling to make the time to spend with those I haven’t interacted with. This is one reason I’ve particularly enjoyed the first week of their winter vacation so much and am looking forward to the remaining week as well; what a perfect opportunity to have that extra time to spend with the kids who would otherwise be in school all day. This weekend is my second to last weekend here, and I truly am at a loss for an explanation of where the time has gone. Granted, I do miss my cozy home and my big warm bed, the July heat that I´m so used to having, and most of all my dear sweet family. So yes, I am excited to return to all of that, but nevertheless I´m not quite ready to be closing this chapter of my life. For now I just need to focus on the time that I have and quit focusing so much on how little remains, instead going out and enjoying it! Disfruta la vida: Enjoy life.

Read more about Janna’s adventures…



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