Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Posting by Anne Jonas

Walking into the Olcott school today, I was full of excitement and hope about what an internship in a different culture would be like. Unfortunately as soon as I stepped into the office of the school, my hope turned into fear and frustration when I was told that the headmistress of the school – our only contact there, the only one who knew we were coming and why, and the only one around who spoke more than broken English – was out of town and would not be back until Friday, the day we leave the site. A young girl came down and led us to the closest English-speaking person in the school, a young Canadian woman volunteering at the school who, although she did not know why we were there, let us take over her class to do our art therapy assessment and mural planning.

What struck me most today was that although the language barrier was strongly present, and we could not always accurately communicate through words, I was able to feel personal connections to the children with whom we worked. They were genuinely happy to have us there working with them, and proud to show us their artwork and tell us their names. I learned that sometimes translators become a bigger barrier to effective communication than the lack of our own language skills. Through the actions and emotions of these children, I learned the power of the shared human experience and the commonalities that we all share despite being from different backgrounds and using different words. Even without words, we can all communicate and work together to accomplish something truly meaningful.

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