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Volunteering... ça va bien

So, volunteering for me has been a very good experience. I've done a bit of volunteering throughout the years but I've realized that the typical options such as working with the poor, with church, with elderly people, with those with disabilities, with young children, haven't inspired any passion for me, which is very unfortunate. I did at one point volunteer with younger kids playing soccer and that was something I enjoyed. Right now though, I am also volunteering as a Rotex (a past exchange student through the Rotary Club) which I absolutely love doing. All of this is a little besides the point though but I think I need to give a little basic background for you to see that volunteering, for me, hasn't been until recently something I dedicate my time to, voluntarily.

As I mentioned volunteering at Common Bond's Skyline Towers in the Homework department has been very wonderful. I remember my first week helping a younger Somalian girl write her name and having difficulty with it; noticeable with writing one of her letters backwards. However, two weeks later when I came back she ran up to me, gave me a hug and showed me how she'd improved since I'd last seen her. No more backwards letters! I'm so glad that this was my first week because I was able to see immediately that my time there is really beneficial.

I haven't had other major success stories since but there is improvement to be seen week from week when I work with some of the same kids.

I really enjoy seeing the kids and feel bad when they ask me if I will be back the next week. And from observing the kids interact with the other volunteers, from the University, other organizations and even from the housing complex, I can see that the kids really rely, look up to and enjoy the presence and relationships with the volunteers. It is equally noticeable that we the volunteers feel the same.

I've been reading a few of the other architecture students’ blogs and from reading their less successful stories with the organizations I feel very lucky to be apart of Common Bond and at Skyline. I couldn't ask more of the lady who is in charge of the homework center. She is very energetic, open and understanding (when on some occasions I've needed to come in early and leave early to make an appointment. The other people working with the volunteers are also equally positive and I really feel that they appreciate us.

And so, because of this organization I can add another volunteering opportunity that I like to be involved with.


Entry 2:
I wanted to mention something that I've witnessed during my service hours. Since I'm working at Skyline Towers which is an affordable housing apartment it is understandable that those that live there probably don't have many expensive possessions. While I am working with the kids I have gotten comments on my rings about how pretty they are and they often ask to look at them. Since wearing rings is, for me, nothing unusual and I always have them on I never think about taking them off for volunteering. However, I'm thinking that taking them off would be a good idea. I always feel embarrassed about wearing them since the children really notice them much more than anyone my age ever has. Whether my rings are expensive or not is not the important point, rather the fact that such a small thing can draw such attraction from these kids is. I think it really shows a division between our two cultures or at least a difference between something everyday and something rarer. It also shows other things like the great perception to details that these kids have.


Entry 3:
The week just before spring break I was volunteering and was talking to my supervisor Yvonne who told me that her nephew had had a hate crime acted against him. He had been at a local bar with a friend when a white man started harassing him. Her nephew talked to the bar tender who asked the white gentleman to leave. 20 or so minutes later this nephew went out to smoke deeming it safe and was beat nearly to death by this man who was still there. Numerous ribs were broken along with other injuries and he was put into a coma. The reason that I am bringing this up is because most of us think that Minnesota is a non racial state for the most part and that other hate crimes happen in the south more often (there were flyers out earlier this year about two hate crimes in the south, one on a homosexual and another on a black man). I think it is important that we realized that racism and other prejudices still exist in most places, even Minnesota and it is important to aware of these incidents so that we might try to prevent them in the future.


Entry 4:
Today at volunteering wasn't much different from most weeks. I helped this one girl who was working on subtracting 3 digit numbers. I'd corrected this type of assignment before with her but this week she seemed to be working faster through the problems. The last time I'd worked with her she had written down the numbers 1-18 in order to help her (I don't exactly remember when she resorted to these numbers) but this time she wasn't using them as often. It was really great to see the progress she'd made within a couple weeks.
One of the other girls that I see almost every time I go is Salado. She is one of the younger students to come to the homework center and she usually doesn't have much homework to do. Normally she'll have a small spelling, reading or writing assignment. But she likes to stay in the center and always comes up with imaginative games that she wants to do. The other week she made up on the spot a type of game with these colorful button type things she had. I really like seeing her creativity even if I don't understand exactly what she wants me to do in her games.

Entry 5:
There are a handful of students who are very bright but who do not apply themselves at the homework center. One of the girls in particular, I am always told is very smart but pretends to not be. She always distracts herself and sometimes her mom is in the room with us and watches her progress which is often slow going. Sometimes I feel slightly uncomfortable in this situation since they want me to keep her focused on her work while also not making things easier for her since apparently she knows exactly what to do but just procrastinates. The mom overseeing also makes it slightly awkward since I don't want to look rude or mean while encouraging her distracted child to do work that she apparently can do. On the other hand it is really great to see some of these children that learn so quickly and are sometimes very independent with their homework.

Entry 6:
Today was my last day volunteering. I helped a few kids with their homework like usual. The one boy I helped was working on prefixes and suffixes. He was quiet and not very responsive and since he didn't just go to work on it like a lot of the kids do, I assumed I'd have to guide him through the worksheet. However, once he figured out what he had to do. He went to town writing down examples of prefixes and suffixes, their definitions and example sentences. He told me he just wanted to get it done so he could go outside.
Salado came over and we play Connect Four for a while, but ended up just following her rules as usual.
It was kind of slow so Daniel and I were told to go outside and play with the kids. We joined up with Pat (another volunteer though the Architecture class) and Michael and played cops and robbers. It was fun to see how some of the kids strategize. Some went to Jail right away pretending to have already been caught and would wait until a lot of kids were in Jail and then free them. Others would try a rescue attempt and try to sneak up behind the Jail. Others took a direct approach and ran in. There was a bit of a problem of some of the kids not following the rules and not going to Jail when tagged or saying they hadn't been tagged and then going to free people. They had a lot of fun though and it was a really nice last day at Skyline.