by Jada Garber
In March I was lucky enough to travel down to Puerto Vallarta with over 125 lbs. of puzzles, toothpaste, coloring books, and crayons for children at Children’s Foundation of Hope’s projects; as well as over $100 worth of GREAT socks donated by Smartwool. My Aunt, Chris Amo, and my mother, Susan Solomon, had prepared me for quite the adventure.
addition to bringing those much needed supplies, I was fortunate to be able to accompany 14 of the children from RISE on a trip to SPLASH Waterpark which had been organized by a Canadian group. After we arrived, the first round in the pool gave the kids an opportunity to show off their smiles! Believe me, there is no freer feeling than jumping into the ocean or a cool pool on a hot day and letting your body and problems float away. No one had to worry about school or homework; all that mattered was they were out with their friends, the sun was shining, and that there was a giant sea lion barreling down the sidewalk. That’s right, at Splash you can’t miss the friendly sea lion galloping across the park to take a dip with the kiddos.
You know how people say, “You never realize you’re out of shape until…,” well, you feel every corner of being out of shape just trying to keep up with children at a waterpark. While there are so many sweet aspects about children that warm our hearts, don’t let them fool you! Universally they are still tireless, sometimes overwhelmingly excited, love pizza, and, I am positive, have a Repeat Cycle button internally located somewhere in their brains.
Getting to spend a good amount of time with the children at the different projects CSHF projects gave me an opportunity to get to know the children. I came to understand their individual needs, aspirations for their adult life, fears, and what makes them giggle. Even thousands of miles away I was still in the presence of future astronauts, princesses, and racecar drivers. That is what I have always loved about working with kids – they take to heart phrases we grew up and out of like: “the sky’s the limit,” “follow the golden rule,” and “don’t take no for an answer.” Children’s aspirations, compassions, and amazement of the world around them have no borders. They all want to be wanted, want to explore, and sometimes love to push others’ buttons. I am, however, proud to say that the children from RISE who visited the waterpark were the best behaved group there that day.
After seeing how some things that I take for granted, such as going to a pool at a waterpark with slides, and the impact it had on the children, it really was a wonderful day. I only wish that the children were able to do it more often. I know that they will remember that trip for a long time and how much it meant to them; but their smiles and laughter right then and there are what will stay with me for a lifetime. I come from a culture where it seems like we spend our lives looking for significance in concrete materials and dollar amounts; however after this experience, I feel like for the first time in a long time I was able to find significance in those 14 smiles. I know that my trip was truly one-of-a-kind, and I hope that everyone can agree – “People are more important than things”, “Love is greater than wealth”, and “Other people’s smiles are the greatest payment someone can receive” – and of course, “Mas amor, por favor!!