Dana Piccirillo, Horton’s Kids

This semester, I hoped to continue stepping out of my comfort zone and go beyond what I previously knew about serving. I looked forward to meeting new people from different backgrounds and creating unique bonds with them. I also looked forward to learning about a new culture while contributing my hard work to projects that would help the community. By focusing my energy on people who could use some help, I will continue to let myself surpass the bubble, becoming less materialistic, and concentrating on more important things.

While working at Horton’s Kids, I have definitely learned a lot about the kids of Anacostia as well as myself. As a Homework Helper, any of the kids that have homework to do can come sit with me, asking me any questions that they may have, or, if they have already completed their homework, they can read a book (or have me read it to them). I also work in their office on Fridays, completing communications and social media related tasks. Although I have never had a terrible experience, and have been proud of every student I have worked with at Homework Help, I have learned that the challenges of volunteering do not always end in hugs and goodbyes. Although some do, not every student makes you feel like you’re a super hero. One student that I tutored was extremely friendly and funny upon arrival; I asked him about his day before working, and after talking for a bit, he was ready to get to work. As we started, it almost seemed as if the work he was assigned to do was a bit more advanced than what he was capable of doing. One of the assignments he was required to complete involved him reading and answering questions about a specific passage. He not only had trouble reading the passage, but he also had trouble writing certain letters. That being said, forming a sentence was a very long, tedious process. I was extremely frustrated by this. I immediately wondered- why would the teachers assign him this homework if he didn’t know how to do it? After having to wake him up and consistently motivating him to finish, I realized how much trouble he would have had if he were to do the homework without another person there. After what felt like hours, he finally finished the packet, and I was so proud of him. We high-fived, he got his snack (a reward for attending homework help sessions), and said a quick goodbye. From this experience, I learned that it is crucial to think about the child’s home environment, and the reasons behind their actions. The kids at Horton’s Kids need extra care and attention, and if I feel tired or helpless, I simply need to remind myself that these kids go through an entire 8-hour day before coming to Homework Help. I now realize that there are many reasons the child was falling asleep while doing homework. Maybe, there is something going on at home, or maybe, he was frustrated with himself because he was already behind on his learning and writing skills. While I will never know, I now understand the importance of keeping the lives of others in mind while volunteering, and putting my feelings after the feelings of the student that I am trying to help.

As for my expectations, I have been pleasantly surprised about my volunteer experience. I have met so many amazing, like-minded people that I hope to stay in touch with. I have also formed relationships with the kids that I see every Wednesday, and look forward to helping them every week. Something that surprised me the most was probably the welcoming that I received from most of the kids involved in the Homework Help program. I feared that they would resent me- I thought that me being there would seem as if I think I am better than them, and that I am trying to “save them” from their reality. However, I didn’t get this feeling at all, and the kids were all so sweet and friendly to me when I first arrived. This also connects to my class because we have stressed the importance of not going into service with the intention of changing someone’s life or “saving them.” This would defeat the entire purpose of serving, and I have definitely seen the importance in doing my service for the simple purpose of helping others, rather than doing it for my own self interest. I have enjoyed my service greatly thus far, and I look forward to volunteering with Horton’s Kids in the future!

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