Lately, I have pondering the meaning of this phrase of social justice especially in relation to my mission placement. My mission placement works the pediatric AIDS population as well the at-risk female youth in Cochabamba. It varies from day to day what I do with both populations. With the pediatric population, the kids live at a group home and their ages range from 10 months to 5 years. I change diapers that sometimes are filled with poop. I am still impressed with the smell that emanates from these diapers. It is a little rough. I brush teeth after lunch and after dinner. I fold laundry because the kids can get through a lot of clothes in one day. I put the kids to bed which is hard because I do not have experience in this at all. I read books. I sing songs in both English and Spanish because it is a great way to distract them as we are waiting for the snack or lunch. The “Wheels on the bus” song is very popular right now. The kids request this one more than “Twinkle, twinkle little star.” I play different games like putting together puzzles or painting various shapes. When the kids are tranquil such as nap time, I drink tea with the ladies that work with me.
With the at-risk female youth population, they also live in a group home and the ages range from 6 years to 15 years. In this population, there are a least 5 groups of sisters and my organization wanted to keep the 5 groups of sisters together. This is why there is such a variety of ages. These girls have come from abusive home situations. They have seen and experienced a lot in their lives. They now have the chance to rebuild their lives and be a normal kid. They have crushes on boys and talk endlessly about them. They listen to Justin Beiber and tell me everything about him. They read and watch the Harry Potter series and know more about Daniel Radcliffe than I do. They invent and play their games. They skateboard in the park near their house. These are all things that kids in the States do. I am impressed with these girls every time that I go over to their house. When I arrive at their house to work, I pretty much talk the entire time that I am there. I help out homework as well as read books and magazines. They brush my hair and sometimes fight who is going to do this. I usually receive at least 3 different hairstyles within the span of 30 minutes. We laugh at lot about my Spanish mistakes or other stories from school. I attempt to learn new recipes from the girls but then I forget everything in 5 minutes. It is never boring with these girls.
I continue to think how I am doing social justice in the time spent with these girls and with my babies. I am not changing policy in Bolivia about how money is spent on the Pediatric AIDS. I am not a social worker taking kids out of abusive home situations. I am advocating to the President in the States about the status of AIDS in Bolivia. I am not running a support group for families affected by AIDS. I have yet to meet other AIDS activists in the Cochabamba area. I simply change diapers and laugh with the girls. I enjoy my time with these girls and my babies.
Perhaps though in these simple tasks, social justice is being created though. I am literally accompanying and spending time with a population that is often forgotten about. Their life is given value because someone thinks it is important. Hope is being formed just by talking and giving time to someone.