Core value: Teamwork. Trabajo en equipo.
Every sport we play requires our girls to practice this value. Whether it’s through cheering others on, or physically working together to accomplish a goal, we are slowly instilling in them the importance of finding the strengths in everyone and helping each other in areas of weakness.
Somedays however it seems like everything we teach is a challenge for the girls to put to practice. The challenge is enhanced when a certain girl, Esther, comes to class.
Esther is a wonderful Chica Dinámica. She always volunteers herself when we need a helper or someone to play a specific role. She is sturdy and unshaken by those around her a quality we are thankful she possesses.
While Esther is many great things she is regarded by her classmates as chubby and a little “strange.” You know how it was in primary school. There were always those kids who nobody wanted to sit next to, partner with, or have on their team.
No one tries to pretend to be nice when they have to be her partner and while we do our best to discipline those who bully, sometimes our guidance isn’t quick enough to block a snide remark.
Recently we took Esther’s school on a field trip rock climbing in the community of Poroy outside of Cusco. Rock climbing is a fantastic confidence builder and fear facer. We love challenging our girls to reach new potentials and to exchange their “I can’t do it” complaints for “I can’t do it yet” goals.
The day was perfectly sunny and when we arrived at the rock the girls couldn’t wait to begin. Their eagerness was quickly stifled by their fears however.
Every girl got a chance to climb. Some made it half way up the route, others just ten feet off the ground and a few even reached the top. One thing was consistent across all the girls however, no matter how high up they were, they were all terrified to be lowered down.
Esther stepped up to the the rock like all her peers before her. Before we could say “vaya Esther!” She was halfway up the wall. Everyone turned to watch our outcast become the star of the show. She reached the cumbre strong, looked down to her belayer and said “?lista?” and with an unprecedented confidence and skill she bounded down the wall fearlessly flying her way back to earth.
Her classmates were stunned, we were stunned, our guide was, you guessed it, stunned.
While Esther’s story is amazing it gets better.
At the end of the day there was time for a few girls to go again. We chose Yulisa because she had gotten afraid and had to come down before making it very far on her first attempt. We also allowed Esther to go because she was full of a joy we’d not yet seen in her and wanted to foster her skills in rock climbing.
Yulisa cautiously got on the wall and slowly and fearfully made her way up centimeter by centimeter. Esther, roped up right next to Yulisa and within seconds was right next to her. Suddenly, Yulisa got scared and didn’t know where to move her feet. Esther however could see a secure spot for Yulisa to move to. She began instructing Yulisa on where to place her hands and feet to be more successful.
Yulisa listened and…it worked!
Then Yulisa looked down to Esther and began doing the same for her. Together, hand over hand, foot over foot they worked together up the wall, a feat of teamwork that we had never seen between anyone at Los Nogales and Esther.
Time was up. We had to go. Esther smoothly glided back down to the ground, but Yulisa froze. We began encouraging Yulisa, but it seemed like only one voice was heard by her: Esther’s.
Like this Yulisa. Esther showed the frightened face of Yulisa from below, extending her legs and bending them slowly as if absorbing a shock. Yulisa wasn’t budging. You can do it! Esther repeated.
Then, like a bird who suddenly realized that its wings were for flying Yulisa yelled “1,2,3 ahh!” And with us wide eyed and draw dropped and Esther cheering from below yulisa flew to the ground with ease.
Maybe they do listen to those core values after all. Sometimes being a ten year old can get in the way of showing us though. We’ve all been there, but that day we saw huge leap taken towards empowerment through teamwork.
1,2,3 ahhhh! Sometimes that’s what empowerment feels like.