Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Entries from January 2011

Volunteering Episode III: Revenge of the Brits (?)

January 27th, 2011 · No Comments

Ok, so the Star Wars jokes as titles are getting stale quickly, and making less sense. I going to need to come up with a new idea in the near future.

As you may have realized, it was significantly colder outside than it has been in previous days. The temperature made the beginning of today’s walk to the Centre a little less fun than normal. Luckily, amazingly, Duane, the club’s leader, was stopped at an intersection at the same time I was walking up to it, cutting my journey in half. So I made it there a little early. This allowed me a chance to warm up and get a cup of coffee, of which my consumption has gone down dramatically from last semester. I also got talking to the son of one of the helpers, who must around eight, about the Lego Indiana Jones video game. For those of you that even only vague-ly know me, you will know that I was legitimately invested in this conversation about both the Lego video games series(ranging from Harry Potter to Star Wars) and the Indiana Jones trilogy (the fourth one doesn’t exist) It is comforting to know that those pop culture milestones I grew up with, and were around well before me, are still attracting the attention of the next generation in a different country.

Image obtained from http://indianajones.lego.com/en-US/videogame/default.aspx

Tonight’s club was much like last week’s club. We played dodgeball for the first half and the new game described last week for the last half hour. Once again, not much conversation to be had. Also once again, I do not think any of the kids were particularly interested in conversation. A small group of them had brought along Post It Notes at the beginning to write “Kick Me” on them and put them on people’s backs. I think they even realized how lame this was about a minute in, so it didn’t cause any real problem. All in all, it was an average night.

One thing that did catch my attention this week was when one kid initially refused to play anything. He was told that he could leave if he wanted to, and in typical 11/12-year-old fashion he went “I will leave then,” took a step in the one direction, and then changed his mind and joined the game. There was not much to this moment, but it did get me thinking, much along the same lines as last week . The kid COULD leave anytime he wants, as he is not there as a result of anyone making him be there, and if he were not there he would simply be playing in the town without anyone seemingly knowing where he was. It brings to mind how potentially little structure is in some of their lives, that they at the age of 11 could go wherever they pleased on a Thursday night.  It also makes you realize the sense of community this one-hour-a-week club brings to them. Had he left, all of his friends would have still been at the club playing dodgeball. This fact is probably what prevented him from leaving. While this is way more thought than he gave it, its interesting to think that, in some way, he chose to be part of the community rather than play the game he wanted.

Volunteered on 27/01/2011

From 18:00-20:00

2 Hours: Total of 6 Hours

New Hope Christian Centre

Supervisor: Duane Elkins

Tags: 2010 Andrew

Volunteering Episode II: Attack of the Dodgeballs

January 20th, 2011 · No Comments

My venture to get to the New Hope Christian Centre is about an hour in length. After riding the bus from campus center to Chapelfield Road at the start of town, I walk up the road past the Sainsbury’s. (As an aside, the Sainsbury’s, located only a minute’s walk from the first bus stop in town, only came to my attention on my first trip to the club. It comes highly recommended for your grocery needs.) I keep walking that road for a good five minutes, then make a right and walk another fifteen-twenty minutes though a neighborhood area of Lakenham. It’s an area of Norwich I never would have visited otherwise, and makes me realize how much more there is to explore in the city area. As this is around 6:00, it is always dark out by the time I begin walking. Most of my trek is fairly well lit, but the last five minutes or so of the walk, after I cross under a bridge, is in what feels like the middle of nowhere. There are a few houses to the left, but no lights ever seem to be on. It’s always very eerie to me, and I find it hard to believe that I’m within walking distance of a decently large city area when I arrive at the Centre. If you want to see the actual details of my journey, you can click on the link here.

I arrived about a half-hour before the kids got there. Duane, the leader, ran some new ideas for games to play by me and one of the other helpers. The game we decided upon involved one kid standing in the middle blind-folded, holding a pillow. The other kids would try and run past him/her without getting hit by the pillow. Last person standing wins. Since it involved hitting and running, it was a huge success. Of course, this was played after everyone’s favorite: dodgeball. Given the  dimensions of the room in which its played, only one ball is used. This makes it fairly easy to track the action and get out of the way, but somehow the game moves quickly and the kids seem to enjoy it. We have played this both weeks I have been back, and it seems to be the new favorite. It will be interesting to see how long they like it…

As I believe I mentioned in my previous blog, another student, Andrew Barron, volunteered at the New Hope Christian Centre last year. Looking back on his posts, it is a little hard to believe this is the same Kid’s Club I attend. Andrew(other Andrew, have not begun speaking in the third person…) talks about dramatically bad behavior problems and little control. While I would not claim things have been perfect, the atmosphere sure seems to be calmer than what he describes. Games have a clear order to them, and the kids generally follow that order. One kid was kicked out this week after a few warnings, but it was for behavior that sounds like the average kid during Andrew’s time at the Centre. There are a couple possible reasons for this. One: The Centre has decided to lower the age allowed at the Club. Two: It is a different group of kids. Three: The Centre now has another year under their belt doing the club. Either way, the evening is much more together than Andrew describes.

After the kids left and we started putting away tables and setting up chairs for the next day, two things were on my mind. One was a regret that we did not do more than play games with the kids. Honestly, given the kids not much else could be done. It’s not like you can sit a ten-year old down and have a conversation about life when there’s the option of dodgeball. However, I still wish we could do a bit more than just play games that I feel they would play anyway. Which brings me to my second thought: why are these kids coming? They enjoy the games, but I can’t help but think they play them elsewhere. We give out a few biscuits in between, but I hardly think that’s THAT much incentive to come. One can certainly delve into ideas about them wanting structure and the like, but I don’t know if that’s it. This is a question I have yet to answer, and hope to come to some conclusions as the semester goes on.

Volunteered on 20/01/2011

From 18:00-20:00

2 Hours: Total of 4 Hours

New Hope Christian Centre

Supervisor: Duane Elkins

Tags: 2010 Andrew

Volunteering Episode I: A New Hope Christian Centre

January 14th, 2011 · No Comments

Picture obtained from: http://www.yourlocalweb.co.uk/images/pictures/17/13/new-hope-christian-centre-norwich-168780.jpg

After arriving in Norwich last semester and settling into the routine of classes, I found myself looking for something to do in the surrounding community. Upon seeing the list of places where student had volunteered the previous year, I was intrigued by the opportunities presented by the New Hope Christian Centre Youth Club. At the time, I knew I wanted to write a paper about some aspect of the National Curriculum, and this seemed like an opportunity to work with kids whose day to day classes were affected by the program. Also, the religious nature of the organization, as it is run through a local Norwich church, made it seem like an ideal fit. After talking to Duane Elkins, the leader of the youth club who also serves as pastor for the New Hope Christian Centre and as a LEA appointed school governor at the nearby Lakenham Primary School, I knew that the club would be a great volunteer opportunity.

The New Hope Christian Centre Youth Club is run on Thursday nights within the church of the same name, located in an area of Norwich called Lakenham. Lakenham is an impoverished area suffering from high illiteracy rates, crime and other issues. Noticing these problems in their community, Duane and his church have been working for years to reach out and provide support in any way they can. The youth club is part of a larger organization started by the church known as Community Action Norwich. For a little over ten years, Community Action Norwich has been working to serve the community though different community clubs, lunches, literacy programs, classes and the like. The group has worked to make strong connections with those in Lakenham and make a difference in people’s daily lives.

As a branch of Community Action Norwich, the youth club  focuses on kids in Lakenham, aged from 5 to 12. Every Thursday,evening  the church opens its door for arts and crafts, dodgeball, ping-pong, and other games and activities. The goal is to give the kids a healthy community to connect with, provide a little bit of structure, and also give them a place to be instead of the streets. As a volunteer there, I help with set up, play with the kids during the club, and then clean up afterwards.

As a Christian organisation, the group is motivated by faith to help address the issues seen in the community. The primary goal of the church is to serve and reach out in the hopes of creating relationships. From those relationships, they hope questions concerning faith and Christianity will present themselves, and their faith can be shared through these organic opportunities. However, their first goal is to help out the immediate apparent needs in the community as they feel the Gospel calls them to do. It is very much the “preach the Gospel, if necessary use words” approach. As someone who is very passionate about their faith and is interested in both how to share that and how to use that in service opportunities, it will be interesting to observe how the church and Community Action Norwich work in the area, and particularly if there are any differences to their approach than my experiences in the United States. Duane is originally from Texas, so it has been and will continue to be interesting to get his perspective on British culture as a Christian.

I am looking forward to continuing this volunteer experience as a way to reach out to the community and learn about Christianity, education, and poverty in the UK on a very micro level. I will tell you more about my experiences during the club in my future blogs!

To learn more about the church and various programs it runs, click here.

Click here to see information about Community Action Norwich.

Volunteered on 13/01/2011

From 18:00-20:00

2 Hours

New Hope Christian Centre

Supervisor: Duane Elkins

Tags: 2010 Andrew