Community through play

Hamlet of Luis Sauces

It might look like an abandoned barn in an overgrown field, but this is in fact the metropolitan centre small hamlet of Luis Sauces. It has five houses and a little primary school which also caters for the surrounding rural community, and one dirt road in and out where roaming sheep and cows are more plentiful than motorised traffic. Most Monday mornings find me in Luis Sauces. After tentatively setting out yesterday I was relieved to discover that the dirt road is still passable after a heavy rain.

little boy playing

The little boy who I am visiting is a lot of fun to be with. Responsive and relational, I find myself wondering how much more we could achive if I was seeing him every day, or even three times a week. But, it is a drive into the back of beyond, and I’d have to drop a few other things to make it happen. And then I remember how for kids in special school (or any school) in England (and Argentina) an hour of a teacher’s whole and undivided was (still is?) a rare luxury. I remember days when I used to deliberately volunteer for toiletting duty just so that I could spend one-to-one time with the kids who I barely spoke to the rest of the day. And that was in an expensive, supposedly specialised environment. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but at the moment the little I’m giving this guy is probably the best chance he’s going to get.

So we play. I bring games and ideas, and he responds, and I respond to his responses, and we laugh, and take turns to fish the ball out of the chicken poo again. In rural Argentina play isn’t a big concept. Kids are kids until they are old enough to help on the land, in the house, with the animals. I asked the family who plays with him, and they responded “no-one; there aren’t any other children here”. Only children play. And even that isn’t the whole story, because there are a few teens around, but these teens have long since become working adults, having finished primary school at 11. I’m saying “rural Argentina”, but actually it was only a couple of years ago, that in a magazine from Buenos Aires I read an article proclaiming that “play is good for children’s education”: that which I take for granted is still newsworthy stuff even in the most sophisticated and cosmopolitan of urban environments here.

So we play. I’m sure the family have no idea what I think I’m playing at (in every sense). Some of them make themselves scarce. The braver ones stay and watch. No-one has dared join in yet. But I think they appreciate that I’m trying to do something good for their kid because they have started “paying” me in eggs. More eggs than the three of us here could possibly get through. So from building community in Luis Sauces, we are building community back in San Francisco by re-distributing egg parcels to our friends and neighbours here.

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