In the early moments of dawn our carpool of sixty-five Casa families, friends, and staff arrived at Sandy Point Park. As adults helped each other unload the food, umbrellas, beach chairs and games, young Isla stood shivering as she took the scene in. This August morning was cold for her! A staff member introduced himself and gave her a towel to warm up. “Thank you!” she exclaimed. Being a first grader coming to meet new Kids Club classmates for the first time, she watched the water reflecting the sunrise on the Chesapeake Bay and courageously began making new friends.
During the annual family beach trip, new students and parents alike enjoyed the opportunity to begin relationships with the community around them. For many parents new to the Chirilagua neighborhood, this was a welcomed day outside of work and parenting where they could relax and meet others. “Casa is a place where I can hang out and meet new friends,” remarks Blanca. She sits talking with her neighbors and the staff she’s befriended over the past year as they enjoy pan y cafe, a traditional Central-American breakfast.
Back at the beach, laughter and splashing fill the air as kids are swimming and playing games. Young Isla is bravely experiencing the water for the first time as she clutches on to her inner tube. At first she is scared, despite her new friends playing around her.
“No, I can’t do it! I’m afraid. I’m afraid.” she anxiously cries with a look of concern quickly changing to terror.
A staff member approaches her and holds onto her inner tube, “It’s okay. I am holding on to you. You are going to be fine. Take a deep breath. I am here with you. There is nothing to be scared of.”
Isla looks at the staff member silently wondering if she can trust. Her attention is no longer on the water but contemplating if this new person can relieve her fear.
The staff member follows up, “Do you trust me?”
She pauses, contemplates, then remarks, “Yes, I trust you.”
Isla lets out a sigh and begins to slowly float out deeper, where her feet can no longer touch, alongside the supervising staff member.
The staff member then lets go of the inner tube and says, “Look! You are doing it on your own!” as she waived both of her hands at Isla and smiled.
Isla looks around herself, seeing she has floated to a deeper area. With a big smile she happily remarks, “I am! I’m floating all by myself!”
As Isla, Blanca and other young students and parents begin this new chapter of their lives, a word of encouragement is sometimes all they need. Sharing a towel, bonding over a meal or walking into deeper waters together are the simple things we can all do to encourage each other and help overcome fears. Over the course of the coming school year we dream with anticipation of how much deeper and stronger these relationships will become. Who will Isla guide into deeper waters during this school year or next year’s beach trip? Only time will tell!
See more photos of our day at Sandy Point on Facebook