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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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Simply Smiles blog

Follow our blog and read insights from Simply Smiles staff, volunteers and other individuals whose lives are affected by our work!

Filtering by Tag: st- luke's/rangitoto

Two Thumbs Up from Oaxaca

Timothy Nurnberger

Hi friends and family, this is Lexi, Alice, Mel, Tash, and Thomas. This blog update is being posted Thursday, but we’re writing this on Tuesday night because we are heading off to the jungle early in the morning! Tuesday we all participated in many jobs that needed to be finished around the Center of Operations. We did jobs like painting the walls, helping lay down the adoquín (outside brick pavers), and painting bunks :)

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After lunch we went to the Zapotec ruins on top of a mountain; it was awesome! The views were incredible and the ruins were in amazing condition. The climb was pretty hard, as we were at 6000 feet above sea level, but it was totally worth it. Next we went to a pottery market called Doña Rosa, which was full of hundreds of beautiful pottery pieces (and don’t worry we bought you all some presents!) The pottery was made of local black clay, and glazed with quartz.

Then we went to an open air market, which also had black pottery, as well as some really interesting trinkets. The best part of our fantastic day was going to an authentic Mexican restaurant. We had five courses, and each one was better than the one before!

Finally we headed home to pack our bags again for our big day tomorrow! We will be getting up super early to get to the jungle, so we better head off to bed!

“Two Thumbs Up” From Lexi!

Adios Amigos

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All in a (Tues)day's work! Volunteers reflect from Oaxaca.

Timothy Nurnberger

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Eliot, Ben, Khush and Mia reflecting: Yesterday was a physically and mentally challenging day. We woke up to pancakes and Mexican sausages for breakfast that fueled us for the day. The day’s work involved groups bagging sugar, salt and beans, preparing adoquin for tiling, painting the outer wall and sifting sand. As you may have guessed, by the end of the day we were all pretty tired so we had a rest before we went on our trip to the local rubbish dump.

For all of us the visit to the rubbish dump was a very emotional and moving experience. We got to witness first-hand the conditions many Oaxacans have to live under. Edith, a friend of Simply Smiles and also our sandwich maker, invited us into her home to show us what living in the dump looks like. Her home is one of the 27 houses built by Simply Smiles in the dump but despite the “luxury” of her living conditions, we were all still left in utter shock. Edith’s home is one of the nicest ones in the dump and yet there are flies swarming the rooms and there is filth all throughout the couch. None of us could ever imagine living in such conditions. However Edith and her family had such pride in their home and expressed it with smiles that we readily returned and respected.

Upon leaving Edith’s home we held her hand to show our appreciation in her willingness to show us her home and were then showed around the rest of the dump. Sam and Pete led us all to the top of the garbage/dirt hill. It was terrifying to imagine living in such an environment every day. At the top, Sam told us a story about when Brian (the founder) and Kristen tried to spend a day with the families they knew in the dump, trying to work with them. They were the toughest of people, but even they couldn’t last an hour without puking and almost fainting. These were the condition that these men, women, and children survived in. We listened in shock as we heard the stories of the failed attempts by the government to help these families, and the corruption in the area. A single broken conveyor belt ended these attempts by the government to help. Despite all these difficult stories, many of us left with a bit of optimism as we watched kids screaming and laughing. It was uplifting to see happiness in such difficult condition.

We ended our day on a happy note, as well. All of the New Zealand and Connecticut kids sat together to play games and joke around.

All in all, our day was emotional and difficult, but also inspiring.

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Volunteer Blog from Oaxaca

Timothy Nurnberger

Hi friends and family, this is Kate, Sarah, Ana, Logan; Monday morning kitchen crew. We just prepared over 75 pancakes for the students and staff!

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Yesterday started off with painting over graffiti on the outside walls of the Center of Operations buildings. For the New Zealanders, who have just left winter, the sun and humidity was a different experience. Other students bagged rice into thousands of small bags for the food distribution or ‘despensa’ on Friday. In the afternoon, we were lucky enough to visit the Casa Hogar Childrens Orphanage. Here, 30% of the Mexican children are disabled and all children were left or abandoned by their parents. It was empowering to see how these children, who have so little possessions, could make their own fun. We drew pictures, played noughts and crosses (tic-tac-toe, for you Americans), tag, and made bracelets with different children. For those students who speak Spanish, it was a good opportunity to practice simple phrases like ‘¿cómo te llamas? and ¿cuántos años tienes?’. We spent time with children in wheelchairs and a deaf boy, Vicente, who enjoyed positioning us perfectly before taking numerous photos of us in various locations in the orphanage.

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It was nice to communicate with the disabled children and make them smile with something as simple as paper aeroplanes! We also served hot dogs and Doritos to the children, and we could all see the joy in their faces as we handed them their dinner. Last night, we reflected as a group on our experiences which helped us bond as a group. Overall it was a powerful experience which we will remember for a long time.

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