Editor’s Note: Missioner Valerie Ellis shares some of her favorite moments with the pre-school children she works with from impoverished families in Chilimarca, Bolivia. 

  1.  When counting, it was commonplace for one little girl to say, “1…2…8,” so I asked her if “8” was her favorite number and she responded with a resounding, “Yes!” Since then, she has figured out how to count correctly, but I always smile to myself when I hear her counting and think of this moment.
  2. When clarifying to a new classmate who I am, one little boy always “defends” me by saying, “Her name is not ‘profe,’ it’s Valerie!” Since the students call all of the teachers “profe” (short for “profesora” in Spanish), they think that this is actually the teacher’s name.
  3.  When the littlest kids ask me to push them higher (“mas fuerte, mas fuerte” which directly translates to “stronger, stronger” or less directly to “higher, higher”) on the swings. It is especially rewarding to see the smallest children reach outside of their comfort zones and/or overcome their fears in this way.
  4. When the kids in my classroom ask for “a lot of” soap when washing their hands, as if it is a treat. Hand washing is something that they are just learning, and as in anything else, if they get “more of” something, it must be a good thing.
  5. When the kids show me their empty bowls with pride (the same pride that they show when they have wiped their own bottoms). It can be an act in patience sitting with the children at lunch and helping them eat, so at times this is a real accomplishment.
  6. When a kid looks up at me and smiles, just because. Only children can look at you with that innocence, joy, and pure love that is fleeting with the passing of years.
  7. When I first arrive at the school, and all of the kids bombard me with hugs (even if I am almost knocked down by the sheer force of their love). As the children continue to gain more confidence in me, even the older kids who are from other classrooms now approach me for hugs.
  8. When a little girl points at me from across the room with one eye closed (which I taught her how to do). This particular student was in my classroom last year, but is so smart that she has skipped a grade, so it is especially significant that we have been able to maintain our bond.
  9. When the kids rush up to me to ask me to help break up a fight, even if I don’t completely understand what happened or who did what. “Profe, profe, come quick,” they inevitably say, followed by “INSERT CHILD’S NAME has done INSERT HORRIBLE THING to INSERT OTHER CHILD’S NAME.”
  10. When I see the children hugging one another after they have fought (especially when the one who instigated the fight then instigates the hug). This is an integral lesson for the children to learn now while they are young, so that they can carry healthy behaviors into their adulthoods.
Playing in Chilimarca

Playing in Chilimarca, Bolivia

Endnote: The featured image shows children in Comunidad Educativa Para La Vida (CEV) in traditional dress