By Jessi Atha
About a month after I arrived at site, I finally decided to brave the stares and go out for a run. I ended up accidentally crashing a church service in the street and the whole town saw me, I was mortified. However, the next day, a woman at school came up and asked if she could start running with me. We started meeting three days a week and after a while, some neighborhood kids joined us. The teacher can no longer run due to health problems but the “run club” has evolved into a social/exercise/environmental group that meets at least twice a week. Most of the participants are sixth-grade girls, and we begin each meeting talking about why we are doing exercise and what else we do to keep our bodies healthy. Many of them said they want to lose weight (they’re eleven!) so we spent a lot of time talking about the importance of being healthy and not just thin. I have the girls each say something they like about themselves before we start. At first, they thought this was silly but I think they are starting to really enjoy it. Afterwards, we go into the work out for the day. They really like zumba, so I am trying to incorporate that as much as I can into the workouts I find on Pinterest and stuff I steal from my Insanity videos.
After the very first meeting, I noticed how the park was littered with trash and then I saw one girl throw her empty water bag on the ground. So before I let them leave, I sat them down and talked about how lucky we are to have a space to do this and that we should take care of it and I asked them if they would like to join me in picking up the trash around the area. I was completely shocked when all of them jumped up and with big smiles on their faces and ran around picking up every piece of garbage they could find. Now, it is just part of the routine that after the work out, it is trash pick-up time. It has been really good for the community to see and I hope that it has caused them to think twice before they litter.
This has been such a low-key but rewarding side-project that has really kept my spirits up after a rough day in the classroom. It’s still evolving and I plan to expand to three meetings a week and work in more charlas about health, self-esteem and leadership. The girls are really excited and actually want to do it five days a week! It is amazing how just going about my daily life brought me a fun, worthwhile side-project. I like to think that the girls are really benefitting from this, but I know that my attitude towards school and pueblo life has drastically improved, and for now, that’s good enough for me.