Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Before we begin our information exchanges, it´s necessary to gather the materials we´ll use from local markets.  Paper, pens, sheet protectors, scissors.  Popsicle sticks and sheets of foam.  At the ferreteria (which is the hardware store, not a place to get a whole bunch of ferrets), we get wooden dowels for head wands, hooks for reachers, rope to make a contraption which helps you put on a sock without bending down, and duct tape for...pretty much everything.

Another crucial material: cardboard, for making inclined boards which can prop up books and other items for better visual access.  This, we have to scrounge for--going from store to store asking for empty boxes or cardboard sheets.  It takes some persistence, but can usually be done.

And, last but definitely not least...the all-important empty shoeboxes.  Perfect recepticle for the supplies we station at each work table, but also the foundation of activity boxes: self-contained educational toys which help students with and without disabilities to practice key concepts like sorting, matching, counting, and patterning.  A person always thinks of a shoebox as an easy thing to get...until one needs to go to another country and procure about 50 of them.

Sunday evening, our in-country director, Gladys, made the rounds, visiting every open shoestore within several blocks of our hotel and sweetly beseeching the owner for boxes.  It was surprisingly hard going: most shopkeepers nodded attentively as she described the need, but firmly insisted that the shoes went with the box.  She managed to get us enough to at least make some basic models, and we strategized about how to actually make shoeboxes from the cardboard slabs we´d managed to get from a supermarket.  If we could make a positioning device that usually cost upwards of $200 out of cardboard, we figured, a box would be cake.

Armed thus with a perfectly defensible back-up plan, we went to bed and awaited the bus in the morning.  As is not, er, completely uncommon, the bus was two hours late.  More just to have something to do than because we really thought we´d get anywhere, two of us hit the town on Shoebox Quest 2.0, and discovered, two doors down from the hotel, an incredibly sweet shopkeeper who was delighted to give us as many empty shoeboxes as we could possibly desire.

Things never go exactly as expected.  But they always seem to have some way of working out.
-Sonia Thacher

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