I arrived at the preschool in Las Minitas to find palm fronds decorated with paper flowers on the door and tablecloths on the two tables families had brought to the school.
Javier, who also teaches our English class, myself, Frankling and Alcides and Marisela, the teacher, made quick work of hanging the whiteboard and putting up a bookshelf and outfitting it with the games, books and other creative things we were able to bring to stock the classes.
About 60 people came to the opening party — a true community fiesta for the inauguration — arriving in skirts or dresses and the smaller girls with princess-like pink satin dresses saved only for the most special occasions. When we had everyone there, who was either finishing lunch or work in the farm, Alcides led us off with a few words about the need for the school.
Families had used salvaged wood from the elementary school before it was built and replaced, including the old roof. That was the material that they replaced with a school, so when it rained, it rained inside the class, and really it was just a shell. That they dreamed of a preschool where the younger kids could learn to learn and not be afraid of it, and to get a head start for when they started first grade. Now it is happening.
I admit, I got shy about using my Spanish, because I can't really say what i want to say because I'm limited with my grammar and vocabulary. But I hit the most important things: how they are an inspiration to me, and to us, and that more than 150 people collectively helped to bring this goal to reality. Their friends in the U.S. and beyond believe in what they are doing here, and their vision for the community and we are happy to be partners in it. Thank you for letting us be a part of it.
People contributed because of the community collectively working towards its dreams, and because my friends, and their friends and people I did not even know, contributed because we all believe in the power of everyday people to make a huge difference. Las Minitas proves it.
Standing before the entryway and the bright blue ribbon we wrapped over the doorways, I remembered the little handprints of Joselito behind the palm frond. We had him dip his hands in blue paint for the school and press them on either side of the first door.
Those hands, I said, represent the ideas, the minds and the future of each kid that walks through there now and later for class. who knows what they will dream of? What will they think of? Invent? we don't know, but this school gives them the start and finding out what they become is the amazing part.
The hands also represent the amistad — or friendship — between us, and what we can accomplish together.
Marisela, the teacher, cut the ribbon, because hey, it's her school! I had her choose where to set up the board, the bookcase, where it fits best. She's also a scholarship recipient of The Friends Project, attending high school. Here, those with high school education teach preschool, paid by the government, and she is among the few who have done so in Las Minitas.
She cut the ribbon and led the preschoolers in, with Rolando wearing my GoPro fastened to his head (video coming!) They held hands in a circle, and we followed in. We took photos and then everyone came in, looking at the posters and the books and then we enjoyed cake that Erlinda made using a charcoal oven, which I'm not still sure how that works.
Marvin and Cristian and others played mariachi music, fast and upbeat with a chinka chinka circular instrument that was like a circular washboard and I first danced with Marisela and then Alcides and whoever else was not too timid to get up and dance. Each time someone did so, the crowd hooted and laughed.
I presented Marisela with the mascot that Kathleen so kindly crafted; Conejoito or tiny rabbit, as he's now dubbed by the class, started life as a "calzetina" or sock. Now he's the mascot in Las Minitas, watching over 10 kids daily.
We also had a 16x20 canvas art board. We brought all the preschoolers together and Marisela and I painted their hands and pressed their tiny prints onto it, followed by us, in yellow, green, blue and red, to make our own fine art that will hang on the wall ...
It's now drying over the whiteboard. :-)
Cristian fired up the band again and we danced cumbia and other moves for a bit and disbanded as the rain started.
I will be up next week or the week after to get photos with the doors on, which are being made by a member of the community, all handmade from wood from their farm.
THank you all who supported this effort.
Because of you, Las Minitas has a preschool that will last generations for tiny minds that will become ... ????