Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Another Interesting Night

March 19th, 2010 · No Comments

Yesterday I headed back down to New Hope Christian Centre for yet another night at the Thursday after-school club. My first experience was largely negative, while the second was much more fulfilling, so I didn’t know what to expect for attempt #3.

When I arrived, I caught up with Duane and company. They seemed legitimately sad that I won’t be around for the next few weeks over break (I’ll be in the US, Greece, and Italy!), which made me feel like I was really making a contribution to the organisation. One of the best aspects of volunteering is the warm, fuzzy feeling of accomplishment. I definitely felt that way, in spades. Go me.

I spoke to the social work student Katie and Duane’s wife Clare about the plans for the evening. Since some of the children requested more music, we took out the church’s electric keyboard. Unfortunately, none of us really knew how to play. I expected lots of banging on keys and loud, discordant noises, and believe me, I was not let down.

When the kids arrived, they jumped all over that keyboard like a fat kid on a dozen Dunkin Donuts. Josh, the resident big kid (read: bully) shouldered his way through the line of kids waiting to make ‘music’ and proceeded to bang his fists on the keys as hard as he could. It is an interesting phenomenon how one bad seed can change the dynamic of a group of kids so dramatically. He was acting like a jackass, so everybody else needed to follow suit. One of Josh’s lackeys and I had the following conversation:

Kid: “Hey, what’s your name?”

Me: “Andrew. What’s yours?”

Kid: “Suck my willy, wanker!”

Me: “Pleasure meeting you too.”

I suggested to Duane that Josh and a few of his troublemaking friends be banned. So he kicked them out for a week, leaving a motley mix of impressionable children without a rabble-rousing big kid to lead them. To my surprise, most of them went from borderline sociopaths to reasonable teenagers with whom I managed to hold decent conversation. What a pleasant change.

We played cards for a while and had a pretty fun time. One of the boys informed me that my accent sounds like Duane’s, meaning I sound like a Texan. No one really knows what their voice truly sounds like to the ears of other people, but I’m pretty sure I don’t sound like a southerner. Learn something new every day, I suppose.  

Later on, the boys started getting rowdy again. Instead of trying to calm them down, which wouldn’t work, I decided to channel their hyperactivity into something entertaining for me and the other adults. I taught them how to ‘elephant fight’ by putting your hand over your face with your left hand, while crossing your right arm behind the left, and swinging it around like a maniacal pachyderm. Google Images does a better job explaining than words ever could:

During the debriefing session, Duane and Clare lead us in prayer. This is something they usually do, being a Christian group. Usually I sort of zone out during prayer, not at all interested in giving thanks to the good lord Jesus. This time I actually listened carefully to their words and was moved. They thanked the lord for the opportunity to help some children enjoy their probably difficult lives. They thanked Jesus for the human capacity to empathise, giving us the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of the kids and really help them. I thought their words were so moving, I even said Amen in the end.

Hours logged: 3

Total hours: 8.5

Tags: Andrew B