For a few months now, I've been volunteering for Arc En Ciel, the children's centre I've already told you about. I try to teach some English, using roughly the same methods I use at school. Sometimes I feel successful, sometimes I have an impression that the kids are not very much into it. But I do go there regularly (unless I'm ill, which has been happening a lot lately) and I spend some time with the kids. As I only go once a week, the bonding ritual has been stretching in time. I even came to think that we might not manage to work out a relationship before I have to leave. The latter, by the way, wouldn't be that bad for the kids either, since it means they wouldn't miss me. Nevertheless, yesterday everything changed.
Initially, two other volunteers and I were going to take the kids to the beach. Such outings are organised a couple of times a month, and I think it's an excellent idea. However, the trip was cancelled by the Sister who runs the centre, as the kids had misbehaved in an unacceptable way. The Sister proposed that we came in and did some activities indoors, to which we instantly consented. After a vehement exchange of e-mails, we settled upon the "Christmas Crafts Morning" idea, which included producing various types of Christmas tree ornaments, origamiing and even making the tree itself from a wooden board (or what some might call "macho crafting").
We were surprised at how much enthusiasm was provoked by the crafts atelier. All the kids participated and were very proud of the effects. As you might suspect, I took plenty of pictures, and the children turned out to be fascinated by my camera. Supervising closely, I let them play with it a bit, and we ended up learning how to use the basic options, too. They were extremely careful not to break it, I must admit.
When we were leaving for lunch, the boys asked if we were going to accompany them to the American Embassy's Christmas Party, to which they had been invited. It was supposed to take place that very afternoon, and we were scheduled as chaperons for the event from the beginning. It was lovely to see them smile when we said that yes, indeed, we would go with them. As we came back to pick them up, the boys were already dressed up and beside themselves with excitement. One of them smiled at me and said: Oh, Madame Kasia, you really came back! Why was he surprised? I had promised!
The party was lovely. Lots of tasty food and swings - in short, all you need to give a kid a sugar high! The children were shy, though. They would only get food and drinks when accompanied by one of us, and I did feel a tad moved when R., the youngest boy, put his hand into mine to feel more confident. On our way home they were silent. I knew they felt sad that the day was over.
All in all, the children had a fun day but, to be completely honest, I don't know if it was more fun for them or for me. I felt we really bonded, which is, of course, fantastic. But it also breaks my heart a little. The more I care, the harder it gets, I suppose. And the hardest thing of all is... not to let yourself or the children care too much.