Even though I don’t work at the Joshua Group anymore, I am still privileged to be able to volunteer once a week during tutoring. It is a highlight of my week- even though I often go feeling drained and exhausted after a day of therapizing, I find that it almost always energizes me. Sometimes I am tempted not to go, to just skip a Wednesday…I’m just so tired. I am always glad that I go, even today, when the kids were off-the-wall and very hard to keep focused and on-task.
But it makes it worth it when Ivy* looks up at me with her large eyes, gives me a big hug, and tells me in a hushed voice, “I’m in 1st grade now. And I like my teacher,” and then proceeds to read her favorite Barbie Princess book with me (hey, she chose the book, not me).
And of course to get exclamations of welcome and big hugs from Janisha, Oriana, and Shaniece. To be able to give and receive affection, to know the kids, to know their stories.
And then there’s Jorge, who has the most innocent smile and thirsts for knowledge, yet has been skipping school recently. I spent a frustrating hour working with him on a Science sheet that really could have taken 5 minutes. He came to the program last year after having not been in school for a while, and he just has a natural ability and desire to learn. But that desire is not supported at home, and I only hope that the other influences around him are enough to keep the spark going.
For me, that is the key- the relationships. Of course, that’s what the research says too- one of the major protective factors for children at risk is a caring, adult relationship. But whether the research supports it or not, it’s kind of common sense. Having an adult take interest in you as a person, wanting you to succeed and do well in life, wanting you to care, helps kids care themselves and in turn, become resilient against the odds.
And that is my hope and prayer for these kids who are so dear to my heart- that they would know deep inside themselves the truth that God has put in them: that they are worth something, that they are loved, that they can succeed, and that they can, in turn, inspire others to do the same.
*I am not using real names in order to protect privacy of the kids and families 🙂