Hi everyone! In the first post of my new blog, The Helper, I have decided to write about my volunteer work. I must admit I had never shown a strong interest in volunteering before this experience, but when I first heard about this great initiative I was curious and intrigued by it and I hope you will be too!
My volunteering job happens in a children’s care house named ‘Casa Priscilla’ back in my home country Italy, specifically in my home city, Padua. In fact, it was my best friend Margherita who talked to me about this initiative, and when she offered me to be a part of it I was very thrilled. My friend has been volunteering at ‘Casa Priscilla’ for four years, and when she heard that the owners were looking for somebody who spoke English and Spanish to help the children doing their homework she immediately thought of me, as I am fluid in both languages. More specifically, this care house is a non-government founded project which welcomes children of all ages, from babies until teenagers, whose parents are unable to provide for them, due to financial difficulties or for other reasons (from my exerince I can say that it is common for the children to have their parents in prison).
My main task at Casa Priscilla is to help the children in the care house with their homework, especially if they need special support with foreign languages, English and Spanish, as I speak both of them. When I started, I was assigned children who attended primary school. As I lacked the experience of both working closely with children and teaching a language, I did some research before starting my job. According to The Guardian (2013), it is really important to capture children’s attention, inventing new and creative activities to help them memorizing new vocabulary and grammar. Indeed, during my time with them I play songs, I read them poems and I make them draw and colour. One thing that I strictly avoided was creating competition between the children.
When it comes to teaching children, this experience has tought me some useful advice I would like to share. Firstly, it is really important to keep in mind that every child deserves the same attention. As it is a very small organisation they left me the freedom to decide how to run my afternoon sections; therefore, I have decided to run arrange small groups of children of the same age, and if some of them go to the same school put them in the same group, so that they will have a support (the facility does not have a school inside).
Secondly, when teaching children it is really important to speak slowly and make sure they really understand what has been explained. If they do not understand, they might not have the confidence to ask to repeat the concepts expressed. As a consequence, it is essential to have a lot of empathy; being really patient and understand that they all have a different sensibility and their complicated family history has an impact on their everyday behaviour.
In fact, as it is common for children in a care house, these children come from extremely complicated and upsetting backgrounds and usually have little to no contact with their close families or relatives, (with most of them being foreigners and even struggle speaking Italian). Given all of these difficulties, I sometimes faced problems with helping them, as I am an emotional person and I felt sorry for them.
This experience has been really delightful and enjoyable for me. As the Guardian (2018) states, volunteering can help people, especially if shy to increase their self-esteem and confidence, and help them grow. This process works both ways for the children and myslf, as I feel more mature and grateful for the experience.