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We are more monkey than the monkeys!

Our project, Food for Thought (F4T), is a year and a half old. Today, I can say that I have never been so proud of our amazing team, and the project that is continually growing. We are witnessing the impact that this project is having and I’m not afraid to say it. What excites me is that it is not only having an impact on the children.

We are having a lot of problems with children’s behaviour, so the other day we cancelled our scheduled classes to stop and reflect with the children. We asked them to write down the answers to two questions. Why does F4T exist? Why do you come? We also asked the same two questions to our staff members and volunteers.

Our intention was for the children to paint a picture of what they think F4T is, share their reasons for attending, and also present to the children why we (staff and volunteers) are here.

The children wrote some great responses, and funny enough food was mentioned many times. We definitely have a focus on healthy food but I didn’t realise that the children noted this emphasis. I’m stoked that the children understand the importance of food and hopefully they can begin to understand the role that food plays in our lives. It is not just something that we need in our lives, but something that is part of the construction of what we are. We are what we eat.

One word that also appeared in the children’s answers many times was ‘jugar’ (play). This one word defines what it is to be a child. I also believe that for one reason or another, as adults, we forget how to do it. To play is to discover, to imagine, to create, to interact, and to communicate. These verbs and their role in our lives (just like food) are vital to our existence.

Valeria said something the other day that stuck in my head. At one point of our daily evaluation she said “somos más mono que los monos” (we are more monkey than the monkeys). She was talking about the point in one of her classes that the children, staff and volunteers let them selves go completely. I think it can be a beautiful thing when we have the courage to behave more monkey than they monkeys. How often do we do it? Valeria’s drama lessons have been a space where everyone has been able to achieve that.

Felipe, a great friend, and one of our long-term volunteers said that his reason for coming to F4T was to teach and to learn. He said that he receives from the children just as much as he gives. Felipe is a Brazilian guy who has been volunteering for us for over a year now. He keeps returning. It’s like he’s addicted. He literally can’t stay away. I see the excitement on his face when he arrives in the morning. What we are learning is that F4T is just as much of a learning space for the staff and volunteers as it is for the children.

What started as a food and activity program has naturally morphed and taken it’s own shape. It’s like a living organism that is growing and adapting to it’s environment. It is happening because of the amazing people that are involved in it! Valeria and Justine have hearts the size of basketballs, Cristina and Brenda (volunteers from the community) are such a huge part of the project that I couldn’t imagine it without them, and the young European volunteers keep arriving and continue to surprise us with there commitment and energy!

Brenda said that she keeps coming because she believes F4T is making a difference in the lives of the children. She commented on each of the F4T staff members and truly touched us with her words. I hope that she can become a staff member in the future!

What has allowed F4T to grow in this way has been the physical space where the project functions. Sad to say but our time in this space is coming to an end. The organisation MTD that kindly donated us the space needs it back. They are a very big organisation and need the space to coordinate their activities. There are no hard feelings towards these guys as it is their space and we have had a pretty good run. Our challenge now is to find a space that is within a three block radius of the current venue. We have to continue the work with “this” community.

I believe that we will find something. We have a lot of support from the community and have already had a couple of meetings, so we have high hopes. The search for a space continues, but in the mean time…más mono que los monos!