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catch up on service learning blogs

I was recently informed that we are supposed to blog every time we volunteer. I guess it was stated in some fine print in the syllabus but anyways, I've been volunteering for ten weeks now so I will try to describe my experiences over those ten weeks as best I can and from now on I will blog every week about my service learning.

I volunteer at the same place I did last semester in DF1. It is a Common Bond community in St. Paul called Skyline Tower. It is a high rise apartment building that houses a couple thousand people. The vast majority of people who live there are Somalians. Some of them are refugees and others are simply the result of a chain migration. There are often a few generations of one family living together - from grandparents to children, which is who I work with in the computer lab.

Every Tuesday I volunteer from about 4-6pm in the computer lab helping children. Technically speaking I'm a "computer lab assistant" who is simply there to aid the kids in using the computers, but it also requires an equal amount of having to keep the rowdy whippersnappers under control. It can get a little out of hand sometimes.

For the most part the kids are absolutely great. Most of them are between the ages of 5 and 15 but they all speak such good English I often forget that many of them are from a country half a world away. They know the computers pretty well already but occasionally there will be a child who needs help getting to a website or playing a game or something like that. Compared to their parents who I helped last semester they are light years ahead in knowing how to use computers. I was amazed and glad to see that when I started this semester.

The kids are always polite towards me and the other volunteers that are there when I am. Sometimes it even seems like they look up to me which is one of the warmest feelings in the world. "Hey, Jeff come check out this video I'm watching," or "Jeff can you help me pick out a picture for my calendar," or "I want to play the Spiderman game!" are just a few of the things I've heard over the weeks. Today one of the kids accidentally programmed his computer screen to be upside down and it took myself and one of the other volunteers about ten minutes to figure out how get it back to normal. That's just part of the fun of working with kids.

On one particular Tuesday about four weeks ago the computer lab was closed so I was reassigned to the reading room. That night I had the pleasure of reading to, and playing games with, two young children who's names I can't remember any better than I could pronounce them. That was a particularly pleasing experience for two reasons: one, I like working with young kids, and two, I got to read books and play games that I hadn't seen in over ten years. If you give a mouse a cookie was one of my favorite books!

As of today I have about ten hours of work done with another five or so to go. I'm very pleased with how the service learning is going so far and I expect things will only get better as these last few weeks pass and the weather continues to get nicer.