Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Precisely What They Need

April 29th, 2010 · No Comments

After a five-week hiatus due to Easter break and an extended holiday in Rome (thank you, Eyjafjallajökull), I finally returned to the Thursday club. I was immediately greeted warmly and they made me feel like my presence was really missed. I was thrilled to catch up with Duane and company about their holidays, and of course I had a chance to brag about my beautiful (and free!) set-up overlooking the Vatican dome. Don’t be jealous or anything.

After reminiscing and catching up with my fellow volunteers, we split like usual into older and younger kids. Fellow student and experienced child-worker Katie and I were the only ones working with them, and considering how difficult the kids can be, I proceeded with trepidation. When we entered the auxiliary building, we found two kids lounging on newly purchased beanbag chairs, playing Wii. A few more kids started funnelling in and before we knew it, we had a full house. Fortunately, they were all superbly behaved! A teen named Thomas, Katie, and I found ourselves embroiled in a nail-biting game of giant Jenga, while the rest of the kids wrestled on the beanbags. After much suspense, I pulled the wrong block and demolished the structure. After a few more games, we decided to set the blocks up like dominoes in a giant figure eight. All in all, everyone had a great time.

Once all the kids left, Katie and I tidied up. While I washed dishes, I met a church member. Never in my life have I discussed the weather so vigorously. I’ve officially spent too much time in this country.

After joining the rest of the workers, I noticed everyone was in high spirits. The kids in both groups were exceptionally pleasant, so moral was high all around. While we chatted, I learned that the two of the kids I spent time with had severe behavioral disorders. One of them only attends half-days at school, spending the rest of the day away from his peers who he has a history of abusing. The other has an impressive police rap sheet, and he is only fourteen. I could hardly believe my ears, considering how well they behaved.

There are, I believe, two contributing factors to their improved demeanor. The first is the selfless dedication and hard work the volunteers show week after week. Every pleasant moment spent with the kids makes up for all the swearing, fighting, and disciplinary action. It is all part of the challenge that, in the grand scheme of things, improves both the lives of the children and the volunteers that help them grow.

The other factor is humungous beanbags. Everyone loves those.

On the ride back, Duane explained to me that Lakenham, the district New Hope Christian Centre is located, has a 24 percent illiteracy rate. To draw a comparison, all of Europe has a literacy rate of over 90 percent; the vast majority is over 97 percent. Lakenham is poor, uneducated, and dilapidated. The issues faced by many of the children are related directly to neglect by their parents, or in all but a few cases, parent. Volunteers keep returning because they give the kids something they seldom find at home: love and devotion.

Hours logged: 2.5

Total hours: 10

Tags: Andrew B