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Simply Smiles provides bright futures for children, families, and communities. The organization partners with populations in need to create physical and emotional environments where suffering is alleviated and from which local leaders can emerge.

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Choate in Oaxaca 2013: Blog #5

Timothy Nurnberger

“Service learning involves everyone flipping the switch from a duty to serve to the desire to serve.” - Noah Hastings Yesterday was yet another exciting day here in Oaxaca. One of the tasks we were given at the beginning of the week was to package the rice, sugar, salt, and soap for the despensa in a few weeks. The despensa, which is an incredible experience, is a food distribution that Simply Smiles does for the Zapotec Indians in the jungles of Oaxaca every six or so weeks. We flew through the rice, sugar, and salt, but we were struggling to get all the soap done in time. Chloe, the freshman we kidnapped from Hotchkiss, had the brilliant idea of racing to see which team could bag ten of the giant bags of soap the fastest. The winning team got shower priority and supposedly didn’t have to go to classes on Monday (a questionable offer from Rev T). The winning team, Team 2, finished ten bags in under 33 minutes. It was insane! Word to the wise: always harness the competitive nature of teenagers.


The rest of the morning comprised of clearing off the roof of the bodega, straightening out more wires to make walls for the compound, mixing tons of cement, and some less stressful bagging of soap. By the end of the work day, the walls of the Center of Operations had progressed impressively, and we completed the bagging of the soap, leaving Simply Smiles ready for the despensa. In the afternoon we went to the park with some people from the dump. We borrowed the big yellow bus from our friends at Casa Hogar. Along with the bus they gave us 15 gigantic bags of clothing to give to our friends at the dump. We thought there would be 20 maybe 30 people joining us at the park, but we were off... way off. About 75 people tagged along for an afternoon of soccer, basketball, crafts, and plain old fun.

We speak on behalf of everyone when we say that going to the park was one of the highlights of the week. We played an intense game of soccer, mexicanos vs. Choaties. Needless to say, we got our butts kicked. But the best part of the game was our ability to play it together. There was no language or cultural barrier in the soccer game, the equally intense basketball game, or the crafts that Ms. Jewett brought. The one sound that resounded throughout the park and truly brought us all together was laughter. Age didn’t matter; race didn’t matter, and where we came from didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that we were all laughing together.



After a long day of playing with the residents of the dump, we had one last chance to say goodbye to our friends at Casa Hogar. As soon as our white vans pulled into the parking lot, we were swarmed by little kids who couldn’t have been more excited to see us. Little did they know that we were equally excited to see them. One of the little boys, still dressed in his school apparel, met us at the doors of the vehicles and shook each of our hands with an enthusiastic “Hola”. It wasn’t long after that when it seemed like every one of us was carrying a kid, snapping photos or giving hugs. The twenty minutes that we were allotted flew by in seconds, and our departure came sooner than we wished. As sad as it was to say goodbye to the adorable children we had forged friendships with, we know that they are in good hands with the staff at Casa Hogar and their friends here at Simply Smiles.




We truly hope reading this blog throughout the week has inspired you to make a change in your community. Whether you brave the storm and join us in Oaxaca or donate canned food to a food bank in your area, we hope the switch flips for you as it has for all of us. Do something amazing today!

- Team 5 (Caroline, Sophie, Riley, Shifaa)