Volunteering is a great thing to do; everyone knows that. It’s not only good for the organization you help, but it’s also good for the volunteer. I help out at an organization called Fundación Balia. It’s an NGO that works generally with at risk youth and their families, or children in disadvantaged areas. I volunteer once a week at this school with the same group of children every week, and I think it’s a great establishment to help out with.
I work at the after school program for children in the area. It’s a classroom environment with educational activities planned and homework help mixed in with play time. I volunteer with grupo uno, which is the first group of the school. My group consists of three- to five-year-olds.
Working with children that young isn’t anything new to me. I’ve grown up around kids, my mom babysat, I babysat, I worked in the children’s department at my library, and I was a cheerleading coach. However, working with children in Spanish is something I’m not completely used to.
The first day I started, I was unsure of myself and how to handle situations. I didn’t know the proper vocabulary in Spanish to work with the kids, give them instructions, and keep them in line. They also didn’t trust me enough to think I was really in charge. The first few times, they’d test me or just go straight to the real teacher for help.
It was frustrating, because I knew I could help them easily if only they were speaking in English. It definitely humbled me and made me realize that I had to ask the head teacher for help. The people who work at Balia are wonderful and understanding. They always help me out if I am having trouble figuring something out. Although it was a little rough at first, it was still a great experience to go through. I’m learning a lot.
Now, after volunteering for eight weeks, things are different. The kids listen to me and come to me to tell stories or ask about the United States. We go over a few words in English during class when we read stories or they ask how to say something in English. It is fun seeing them enjoy learning a little bit of my language, especially because they’re teaching me a lot about theirs at the same time.
I know the routine of the classroom now and what to do if someone misbehaves. It’s still a challenge, because sometimes I don’t understand what they’re asking or how to respond, but it’s getting easier. I love seeing their faces every week and learning a little more about the way the classroom is run here in Madrid. I really enjoy volunteering at this school and I hope my little bit of service is helping out.