Friday, December 9, 2016

Cakes & Races: School Vacation at the FSC (Part III)

Text and birthday photos by Elizabeth Barnes
Olympics photos by Pop Wuj teacher Gerson Yax (unless otherwise noted)

Today we're wrapping up a series of blog posts showing off recent events at Family Support Center. The participants are all on school vacation, and we've celebrated with special activities.

On November 10, we threw 2016's final birthday party!

Family Support Center Director Shaaron Hurtado leads everyone in applause for one of our birthday girls, Jessica. She turned 5 this year. We celebrate groups of birthdays, so this party featured everyone born between September and December.
After completing primary school, students graduate out of the FSC. (They do continue receiving support through Pop Wuj's Scholarship Program, and we invite graduates to join us for certain events like baking pumpkin pie for the Halloween party, the Olympics, and other fun days.)

This year we have a sixth grader, Maria, who just turned 15. The Director of Social Projects Carmen de Alvarado decided to honor her and Luisa, another FSC participant and scholarship recipient who turned 15. Quinceñaras (girls who turn 15) traditionally have special celebrations on that birthday to mark their transition into womanhood. (We emphasized that there's no rush to stop being kids!)

Carmen opened with a brief speech of congratulations and invited Doña Delfina, Luisa's grandmother and the FSC cook, to share some advice with Maria and Luisa. Then the girls held a mini dance.

Luisa and Maria have their quinceñara dance. Although our celebration wasn't fancy, we hope that upholding these traditions helped Maria and Lusa know how much they are loved at the project.
The younger children waited patiently for the more "grown-up" portion of the party to wrap up. When Maria and Luisa's dance song ended, it was time for piñatas!

At 3 years old, Andrea was our youngest birthday kid at this party. She couldn't be coaxed into having the first shot at the piñata, but after watching some older peers take their turns she changed her mind and went for it!
Shaaron ties Luisa's bandanna. Older kids hit the piñata with their eyes covered!
Once the ground had been picked clean of every last piece of candy and peanut from our two piñatas, we brought out the cakes.

Carmen and Shaaron light the candles.
Returning Pop Wuj student Alison generously baked those two cakes from scratch, frosted and decorated them, and had them completely ready to go by Thursday morning. She not only saved us time spent baking them or money spent buying them, but also produced the year's most delicious birthday cakes!

Angel and Samuel dig into their cake.
Brenda, Ilcy, and Norma enjoy the party! 
We're proud of all the Family Support Center participants and how they've grown this year.

Next up: On November 17, we held the Olympics! We rent a hotel's well-tended, enclosed soccer field in Llanos del Pinal for our games. First, in two groups, the participants presented their gimnasio (synchronized fitness dance routines).
Ilcy and Norma can't stop grinning at each other. Because they are in sixth grade, sisters Maria and Norma were leaders of the two gimnasio teams.
Gimnasio triumphantly executed, we divided everyone into four teams—yellow, blue, green, and red. 

I can say with absolutely no bias that Equipo Rojo was the best.
Our first Olympic event was a sack race!

Samuel tears toward the finish line. The sack race was a relay, so on his return Damaris took off in her sack.
Next we lined up with jump ropes for an over/under, jumping/rolling relay race.

Julio vaults over Daniela's jump rope as Equipo Azul looks on.
Jessica runs back to the starting line to tag the next member of her team.
We took a water, oranges, and tamales break (mostly so that participating adults could catch their breath) and started blowing up balloons for the next event. The object of this game is to pop everyone else's balloon without having the balloon around your own ankle popped.

Lesly charges forth! She graduated out of the project last year but came back to represent Team Blue.
You can't catch Evelyn!
After that—guerra de globos! Balloon war!

Photographer Gerson couldn't get too close to the carnage for his own safety/dryness.
Once everyone was wet—¡fútbol!

Long-time friend of Pop Wuj Tom and Family Support Center graduate Angélica sportingly play for Equipo Verde.
Afterward, sweaty and breathless, everyone reconvened in the shade to hear the winners announced. Team captains went up to have their points tallied. Equipo Azul took first place!

Pop Wuj student Will and his teammates put on their medals.
Equipo Amarillo came in second place!

Team captain Maria calls her players forward to be honored as FSC teacher Lidia untangles medals.
Equipos Verde and Rojo got stickers that said, "You're Dynamite!" which are better than some silly medal anyway. I'ts not like Equipo Rojo even wanted to win. (As a certain Student Coordinator privately sulked, Shaaron spoke with the kids about the importance of good sportsmanship.)

Along with the FSC participants, Pop Wuj staff and volunteers have had so much fun at all these activities. We have the Christmas party next week before the project closes for 2016, and we plan to make the most of that time!

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