~~These are the days that I have dreaded my entire time here: my final week. Nonetheless, I was determined to make them some of the best days yet! With not being in a teaching position, I had much more free time and less leadership as I prepared for my transition back to the States. I finished several projects that I knew I wanted to accomplish before I left which included organizing the new educational center storage room, taking inventory of all the working games, and completing an introductory powerpoint for new volunteers. It was great to have that little bit of extra time with the children to just simply play yard games and have silly conversations with! Tuesday night all of the volunteers and I went to our friends Anina and Piet’s house for a small “farewell dinner.” It was nice to spend one last meal with them and to catch up with all of our happenings.
Wednesday morning the inevitable had arrived, yet I wanted nothing to do with it. I woke up, said goodbye to the children as they went off to school, and began to do little chores around Open Arms. All of the homeschoolers went on my favorite hike which was a long three-mile excursion, but none of the children had even one complaint the whole time! When we came back, I decided it might be time to start packing as I was leaving in the afternoon. I began to pack when suddenly someone knocked on my door and to my surprise it was my two little first grade boys each holding a handwritten card to me. I was so pleased and very, very happy because I know how hard it must have been for them to even form the letters and words. I then became sidetracked from my packing duties and spent some final one on one time with my two boys. They are such a significant piece of the beautiful puzzle that this journey has shaped into and I will forever cherish the time I shared with them. When Rita came to tell me that we were leaving in twenty minutes, I still had lots and lots of packing to do and I was still in denial that I was leaving. Finally I finished packing, promptly shut the door, and walked over to the “Purple House,” where the older girls live, to give them each a card from me. I thought I would be able to hold my composure, but the moment I walked through the door I started to break down. I have never been emotional with my farewells in the past, but after staying with them for an extended stay apparently something came over me and I just couldn’t keep it together. Two of the girls then started to cry with me which then made me cry even more. After that I said goodbye to the rest of the children and the waterworks continued to flow. Each child holds a special place in my heart it was incredibly difficult to say goodbye not knowing when I will return next. I know that I will come back soon, however, as I start university in the fall I am conflicted and concerned that my time at Open Arms will be limited. I cried a little after jumping in the car, but then kept my composure the rest of the way. Mark, Amy, and Rita had to run some errands before they dropped me off so I had some time to calm down and process all the emotion that had happened today, but I knew that the hardest goodbye was still to come.
I said farewell to Mark and Amy in the parking lot and wished them the best of luck with their time at Open Arms. I think that they will be an instrumental component in the growth of the home and I look forward to working with them in the near future. Rita then walked with me until I had to go through security and we each did a pretty good job of not talking about my departure until the last second. We discussed several things that had happened that week and we talked about little things that helped keep my mind off of everything. However, when I had to let her go, I couldn’t help, but break down once again. She has been my partner since day one and I truly look up to her as my role model. She continues to inspire me with her grace, kindness, and endurance every day and I am so thankful to have such a special mentor like her.
Even after Rita had left, I was still distraught and could not believe that my time here has ended. It seems like just yesterday Jeanien picked me up from the airport and now here I am alone with a tear streaked face asking myself why I didn’t stay longer. I began to read all of the cards the children wrote to me which did not help me regain my composure at all and made me even angrier that I was coming home. I knew that I now needed to truly calm down and digest everything so put the cards and pictures away and slept the whole way to Amsterdam. I now realize that rather than being angry at my time at Open Arms, I must first be thankful that I was granted this opportunity in the first place. I understand now that I look forward to continuing to spread the word of 15:30 Project’s endeavors to keep the spirit of our fight against poverty and orphaned, disadvantaged, and underprivileged children alive in order to further the impact and footprint we are leaving behind. With that mindset I write to you on a plane to Chicago happy to go home with a deeper, more passionate fire in my eyes to do all that is possible for the children.
This trip has brought me to this conclusion: I had always thought that my first trip to Open Arms was the best experience of my life; but I now realize that that is wrong and rather it is the journey I am most thankful for because it got the ball rolling. It is this recent experience that I shall now recall as the best experience of my life. These past few months had some ups and downs, but without each event I would not have gained nearly the amount of knowledge I have now collected. Who knew that 57 children could ever teach you so much just by simply being a kid.