Today the younger kids and their teachers were ready and waiting for a day of fun activities when we arrived – and that’s definitely what they got! For me it was a huge learning curve as to how best to have an impact, how to interact with the teachers and how at the end of the day kids will be kids. We went with some roughly planned out activities in mind and although to anyone watching it seemed like chaos, but it was organised chaos!

I was aware that ‘learning through play’ is a culturally abstract concept over here, although bits of it creep in inadvertently (‘head, shoulders, knees & toes’ well loved by the kids and teachers alike) but it is still hard to comprehend how playing is something and the value of playing is something we as volunteers need to teach them – pretty much from scratch.

I have learnt today that my deeply ingrained polite English ways, especially with the teachers, actually got in the way of getting stuff done. The teachers were looking for us to directly tell them what to do and how to do it. In my head I kept thinking ‘It’s so obvious’ and ‘I don’t mean to sound patronising’ and once I got over that, things started to come a bit easier.

Now for the fun activities (bear with me as it’s not revolutionary stuff to you or me) – we had several drawing stations, started height charts for each house (they have never done this before and were oh so proud to have their name & height recorded), playing with a lovely colourful parachute (total bedlam at first but they soon got into it with a bit of direction from me, to the teachers, back to the kids) and then general play time with toys.

Things we noticed; initially the kids were possessive and squabbled about whatever toy they were handed, but after a while they naturally started coming together with certain sets of toys, like making the wooden animals play together and fuzzy felts shapes actually going on the fuzzy felt boards. Their drawings are limited solely to dots that they join with lines, numbers and letters. That’s it. Drawing around their hands and feet was a very exciting discovery. Will definitely be building on this at the next visit. And what made me chuckle, only the boys wanting the My Little Ponies and then sitting around brushing their manes.

I imagine the teachers were thinking ‘how is this educational?’ but credit to them they joined in and wanted to hear our reasoning and I think they kind of enjoyed it too.  They truly got it when I explained the rationale behind the parachute game – learning trust, helping each other, negotiating your path and keep going even in the heat. And it almost became more fun when the parameters were set – everyone knew what they were doing and were in it together. Simple stuff.

It’s really hard not to use clichés and exclamation marks at the end of every sentence, because I really want to try and convey what it feels like to be here and what impact these seemingly obvious actions are having and it’s not easy to get across in words. So I’ll just leave you with this: at the end of our time today the teacher asked “would you like to go home & eat (food is always the priority in their little lives) or stay here and play?”


I’m taking that as a compliment of the highest order.

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