Welcome to Madrid! I enrolled in the for credit, service-learning course which combines a structured curriculum and a placement in Madrid with a local community-based organization. Here, student community service includes direct engagement as well as a research-based action plan where I addressed a specific challenge or goal. I was placed with a foundation founded upon serving terminally ill children and their families. Their mission is to create wishes for children with serious illnesses and enrich their lives through personal experiences of hope, strength and joy. Their values include respecting the child’s right to having creative freedom in producing their unique wish. I worked with other local volunteers and children’s families in order to plan and create a special moment that aims to give hope despite a child´s difficult health condition. I was able to get a glimpse of what it would be like to work with sick children through optimistic aspects of their life in creating hope and resilience.
What I did at my Service Learning Placement
I collaborated with the program director and created personalized posters for many children events. My Spanish reading skills and vocabulary improved dramatically. I used photoshop to make elaborate posters for specific projects, wrapped gifts for children, I helped other volunteers with their tasks, and participated in a little girl’s wish realization that was held in the office. Often times, I had to be efficient and accurate to meet tight deadlines and, as part of my CIEE course, I also identified local needs and resources to help me start to understand ill children´s challenges.
Global Awareness and Project outcomes
In my service learning I recognized the importance of a Spanish workplace context, which is to actively create a relationship with others who work around you. Creating a familiarity in an office space produces a personal relationship with those who you rely on, and those who rely on you to get common tasks done on time. Rather than focusing on a serious professional partnership it can be vital to have a more integrated cooperative team. For example, I received two kissed on the cheeks the moment I was presented as the newest face in the office. It immediately made me feel welcome and part of a team. This is one of the biggest themes of cultural learning that I hope to bring back to the US with me in my future work endeavors. The creation of trust as a collective team is essential to the success of any organization.
Special Moment of Positive Change in Madrid
One of the most memorable moments of my service learning was the presence of a 9-year old girl with an oncology illness in our office. Due to the 90 required service hours for the course, I was not sure that I would be able to interact personally with any child or their family during this time. Before the girl´s arrival I helped set up the office for a princess themed scavenger hunt, it was adorable! We gave her walkie-talkies to communicate with us if she got stuck, which was adorable. This experience was so special and unforgettable to me because I was able to experience first-hand the power of giving hope to a sick child. The reaction and the way the family and their daughter entered our office was not the same as when they left. It was amazing to meet the little girl, help with her wish and share the experience with her.
Future Participants coming to Madrid
I recommend Madrid, but I wish someone had told me how much you walk here! Almost everything in Madrid is within walking distance of each other. Public transportation is very well-connected and very convenient when I had no interest in walking. I also had this false perception that Spaniards would laugh at me if I tried to communicate with them publicly in Spanish – now I know that could not be more wrong. It is appreciated and part of the cultural acclimation process to integrate yourself by speaking the local language. At times locals would speak English back to me, but if not, I saw it as an opportunity to practice my Spanish.