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Starting with an “Ojo de Agua” and ending with a “Hospital Clown”! An Inspiring Day of Service in León, Guanajuato, Mexico

It was over 80 degrees outdoors but the air stayed dry and cool in the shade. By 10 AM on April 21st, 2012, a few more families joined the people who had already gathered at the “Ojo de Agua” Lake. The members of the Six Billion Paths to Peace Club of León, and their friends came to the lake in matching Six Billion Paths to Peace t-shirts, ready for a day of service and to start cleaning the lake. The “Ojo de Agua” Lake is almost completely dry by April with much litter on its shores. Nonetheless, it is a neighborhood place for the residents to enjoy walking around and picnicking. On this day, Ben Takagi and Ineko Tsuchida of Shinnyo-en Foundation joined the Club’s lake-cleaning volunteering team. Several boys and girls exercised their young muscles to dig up old car tires carelessly thrown away in the woods, while others collected litter and trash, such as bottle caps and broken glass, stashing them in plastic bags. Some youths were covered with mud by the time they rolled or carried the abandoned tires to the pile of bagged trash. (Please see the video of the lake cleaning volunteering at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdOW2L7pWEc)

After about an hour of exuberant cleaning, all of the volunteers huddled around Mr. Josue Cadena, an experienced team-building trainer. For the next hour or so, Mr. Cadena led one activity after another to help all the participants enjoy their time together with singing, and small and large group rope activities. One challenging activity for a group of over 20 people was to hold a single mountain climbing rope, traversing in and outside of the circle of the rope, or sitting or standing without making the others fall. It required a lot of arm and leg strength to pull the rope as tight as possible and coordinate with the others in the circle to move in unison. Next, the large group was divided into two groups and two smaller circles of ropes were placed on the ground. In a circle, each group of volunteers was supposed to stand with only a certain number of feet/legs and hands at a time.  Adult volunteers had to hold younger ones upside down so that their feet would not touch the ground in order to meet the required number of feet/legs in the circle! (Please see the volunteers in the team-building action at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7AFLacQJa0)

(Mr. Josue Cadena)

The young volunteers moved from the lake to the next volunteering site, the ISSSTE Hospital, and crowded in our mid-sized bus. Now our bus was filled with the young faces of the Six Billion Paths to Peace Club! After frequently volunteering together, they became close-knit friends who wanted to spend as much time together as possible. First though, we had to stop to replenish our energy at lunch. When we sat down with cold drinks at the restaurant, we were able to look around at their faces and appreciate how many youths and their families devoted their time to an entire day of service.

The next site for our volunteering was the Instituto de Seguridad y Servicio Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado (ISSSTE) Hospital, a regional hospital for public/state workers in León. The youths had folded paper cranes prior to their visit and brought them to give to the patients and their families with a get-well card written in a few different languages, including Spanish, English, and Japanese. If the patients or their families were willing, the youths also gave a warm hug to cheer them up. It was most impressive to the adult volunteers that the youths showed no sign of shyness or intimidation to explain their passion for peace and service as they visited the patients and their families. The youths were sincere, warm, and cordial with everyone whose difficulties, due to their long-term illnesses or injuries, required their hospital stay.

That evening, the power of hugging the sick patients and their families was the core message that the “Doctor of Laughter,” Mr. Jose Olivares highlighted in his lecture at the Karate studio. Mr. Olivares is a long-time volunteer as a “Hospital Clown” and has been visiting many hospitals to provide affectionate hugs and smiles to the people in need. In his lecture, he also emphasized the power of laughter to promote healing.

It was such a long and rewarding day of service in León, filled with young energy! An energy whose source of caring compassion helped to rejuvenate and inspire all involved. On behalf of Shinnyo-en Foundation, we sincerely thank Toshiya Abe and Ana Maria Gayosso for making the Day of Service available for anyone who wants to join in volunteering and the Six Billion Paths to Peace Club for all it does for the environment and the people of León.