Working with children is one of my favorite ways to volunteer my time abroad. Kids are such rewarding people to work with, regardless of which culture or region of the world you’re in. They often provide humor, honesty and clarity to situations in which adults cannot find those aspects, and spending time with them makes it hard not to feel a sense of hope for the future.
While volunteering at a daycare center this summer, I realized a few things about myself, and my role as a volunteer with children, that hadn’t occurred to me before:
1) I am a jungle gym
In fact, not only am I a jungle gym, I am also a napkin, a cloth to wipe up lunchtime spillage, a tissue for runny noses and sweaty foreheads after playing outside, and a very comfortable substitute for a chair. Who knew!?
2) I am gullible
Children are so friendly; you chat with them for ten minutes and feel you’ve made a lifelong friend. But they are also sneaky, so don’t be surprised when your new ‘best friends’ tell you that of course it’s okay for them to draw on those papers on the top shelf of the cupboard, that in fact that is exactly what they’re for, only to learn later that the little darlings have doodled all over the daycare manager’s very important paperwork…
3) I am fluent in every language
Okay, I’m not. But the great thing about kids is that as long as you play along, laugh, smile, and spin them around upside down occasionally, they tend to believe that you have understood every word they have said. High-fives and nods work in any language, anywhere in the world.
4) I am a clown
Another thing that bridges the language gap is pulling faces. You with cross-eyes and your tongue sticking out are hilarious in every language. Apparently it also never gets old, and I found myself pulling faces and making odd sounds for the majority of my days.
5) Nothing in the world is more exciting than lunchtime!
Actually… I think I already knew this one…