Written by: Will Mariano
After 10 years of affiliation with JUNTOS and my friendship with Executive Director, Joanna Poz-Molesky, I made my inaugural trip to Oaxaca, Mexico to see JUNTOS work in action. I wanted to experience the Oaxacan culture, while understanding what JUNTOS does on their outreach trips.
One activity – among many – that had a lasting impression on me was called “Movement Invention.” Small groups were formed and led by a Dance Volunteer (DV) from JUNTOS. DV’s looked at each child encouraging them to share a movement demonstrating strength and confidence. All movement was welcomed even if it was just a shrug of their shoulders. Each “strength” movement was strung together as a choreographed dance. Once their dances were codified, the groups performed the choreography for their classmates. There was excitement and pride as each group finished their choreographed dance as teammates. The exercise provided each child with the confidence to move, act and take pride in their ideas. The “Movement Invention” exercise demonstrated that every child’s contribution mattered and that your group was there to support you. The activity is certainly something they can continue on their own after JUNTOS has left.
The children participating in the workshops JUNTOS teaches may not get the individual attention they crave and JUNTOS fills a gap where that is lacking. JUNTOS Dance Volunteers show attentiveness by listening, talking, and encouraging children to come out of their shell and freely express themselves.
At each organization, I could see the kids wanted to spend more time with the Dance Volunteers and vice versa, but time at each campus is limited. Though the time together is short, it is quality time. The kids always ask when JUNTOS will be back and the answer is always…”soon”. There’s hope that the current narrative of these kids’ lives has been impacted in an upward and bright trajectory by JUNTOS. We can hope JUNTOS has taught them what they can do on their own and together with their friends.
I have to commend JUNTOS International Liaison, Sussan Hrozek on identifying and working with organizations, to convince them to allow JUNTOS to hold enrichment activities. The ability for the team to be flexible with their schedule and adapt is remarkable. As the Abroad Leader, Caroline was fantastic in communicating to the Dance Volunteers on the upcoming activities where adjustments had to be made. With twists in their schedules or Dance Volunteers unable to perform, they managed to make it all work.
As a JUNTOS supporter and friend, I was proud of what each individual person shared and taught throughout the trip. There are much larger organizations and charities whose mission is to provide food, medicine and monetary support to organizations and JUNTOS is just as impactful. They provide human kindness; interacting with people through dance enrichment activities to encourage and cultivate personal confidence and pride.
The JUNTOS staff and dancers are ambassadors of goodwill and hold a special place in my heart. JUNTOS should be proud of what does!