Written by Emily Hric
I arrived in Potrero late in the evening almost two weeks ago. The drive to the coast from San Jose was long and arduous, but luckily my driver, Miguel, had a sixth sense for avoiding the thousands of pot holes that lined the dirt road into town. Tired, and a little apprehensive, I settled into my new casa , not knowing what to expect from Potrero or my time working with Abriendo Mentes.
The following morning, I was greeted bright and early by Lynn, another volunteer, who was tasked with giving me the official Potrero tour. I was introduced to the three super markets, which all seemed to carry the exact same products (though I would soon learn which super had best for produce and which had the best selection of my favorite cookies).And 20 minutes later, as the tour concluded (seeing that Potrero really is the smallest town I have ever been in) I caught a quick glimpse of the most gorgeous beach I have ever seen; only a few minutes’ walk from the center of town.
But then it was straight to work. I had arrived just in time to help distribute new school supplies to all of the children. Because of the great support from friends, families, and donors, this year the children were able to receive new pencil cases, filled with pencils, erasers, and sharpeners as well as a new set of colored pencils, a folder, and a new notebook.
Being a bit of a nerd myself, I know the excitement that new school supplies can bring, but I was in no way prepared for how thrilled these children were to get their hands on a new notebook. As each child filed into the Abriendo Mentes’ office, a line formed that ran from the top of the stairs all the way down and out the door. For some of the children, choosing between a pink pencil case and a polka dot pencil case, or a motorcycle notebook and a cool football notebook, seemed like it was the most important decision they had ever made in their lives. They sat there, almost in agony, debating between the two before they would look to a friend for guidance. And as they walked down the stairs, holding their new supplies tightly against their chests, not one of the students could contain their eagerness to show their friends and parents which supplies they had chosen. I have now been here two weeks, and still the pride that these kids take in having their own pencils and notebooks – that belong only to them, amazes me.
After only two weeks I have fallen in love with the kids. I can’t walk down the street in Potrero without three or four children calling my name or running over to give me a hug. Enthusiasm and affection just radiates from them, and it is entirely contagious!