If someone asked me for a decision I took and never regretted, volunteering for Light Up their World would top the list. I’ve always wanted to volunteer but never got the chance to do so and I felt that joining Light up would be the perfect chance because I love teaching too. One of my friends asked me if I wanted to go teach with him and agreeing to that may have been one of the best decisions I made.
Light Up their World stands true to its name and literally does light up people’s lives. Every Saturday (and now Sunday), 10 to 15 volunteers from the Rotaract Club of SLIIT visit Morawinna Balika Child Development and Probation Center to teach English and Mathematics to the girls there. The continuation of the project for this year started in Septemper 2019 and is to continue on for 6 months. There are about 27 girls from Grade 1 to Grade 11 and each one is unique.
When I first started volunteering I was nervous as I didn’t know what to expect and was unsure of how to act with the kids, but it disappeared in no time. The little kids sit at a small table with cute little chairs and the elder girls sit at a bigger table. On the first day it was awkward the first five minutes, and then the chatter started! It was a non-stop of “Akki what’s your name?” and everyone trying to introduce themselves. It did not take long to feel comfortable around the girls. From that day on the little kids there or the “batto” as I refer to them now, became an important part of my life.
The volunteers try to give individual attention to all the girls and guide them through every step. The kids are taught English and Mathematics related to their syllabus and are kept entertained by giving them a colouring activity in the end. This is definitely the favourite part of the little ones and they try to finish up the studying part soon to get their reward. The colouring sessions draw the bigger girls to the kids table as well.
This is when they tell their stories of the week, from what they ate to the fights they had. They cling on until they get undivided attention from us and will continue with their stories and the volunteers really bond with them then. It was apparent that the girls lacked love and craved for someone to give them love.
Something I noticed while teaching them was that they just cannot sit in one place! It’s a constant movement. After completing their work, the kids take it around and show the other volunteers. We see them eagerly waiting to hear our compliments and the beaming face and the smile they give when they receive a praise is always priceless. There may be many photos of the kids smiling, but being in that moment, being on the receiving end of that beautiful smile, that happiness you feel can never be captured in a photo.
The girls are definitely unique and talented. Some of them are really bright for their age and catch up fast and they can sing and dance very well. We saw how talented the girls were last December, when the club organized a Christmas Celebration. It was so nice to hear them sing carols on the stage with all the decorations in the background, with red Santa Claus hats on their heads and all happy smiles. The best part of the day was when Santa came and showered the girls with sweets and gifts.
We saw the girls’ dancing talents at the Thai Pongal celebration that was held in January. The kids were given Holi powder to draw Kolam and they created two beautiful Kolam patterns. There were also special visitors that day; Rotaractors from India, who were in Sri Lanka for the international service project “Sentier”. The kids joined the Indian delegates and had a blast, dancing to Hindi music and it was definitely fun for the kids as well as the volunteers! The kids also celebrated independenceday with the volunteers in February.Not only their education, but the girls’ health is also a priority, and the club decided to give them a little check-up on their health. A doctor had come to visit the girls and when I reached the Childrens Home, there was whole load of chitter-chatter and excitement and the girls were running around with their medical health cards. It was adorable to see the girls lined up to get checked by the doctor and there was a loud and grateful chorus of “Thank you Doctor!”. After the medical check-up, a really friendly counselor was there to give them some advices in life and get them to open up. The kids were pretty excited the whole day with the change of events and it was very thoughtful to have a medical checkup on the kids physical and mental health.
The kids also have a very good memory on who comes to visit them, and if someone misses one week, the next visit would start with complains from the girls on why we had not come the last week. When they notice a volunteer absent, they make sure to ask the others where he or she is. The girls are also very possessive and don’t like to share “their akki” or “their aiya” with others. Another favourite of the girls is taking photos and Snapchat is their go-to app! They wait eagerly for a chance to test the filters and seeing them laugh at them brings so much happiness.
Even though Light Up their World is a project where we teach the girls Mathematics and English, they have learned so much more than that. And I believe more than the girls learning from me, I’ve learned so much from them. From seeing how the elder girls patiently explain things to the younger ones to seeing the younger ones sharing with the others, seeing how much they take care of each other will always amaze me. I have learned how to treat everyone equally and share my love with them, I have learned to appreciate little things in life more and found out that even a small compliment can make their day. Hearing their stories may make me sad but I feel so proud about how strong each one of those girls are and they teach me to be stronger. Each day I visit them, I come back home with a lighter mind and visiting the girls may be my escape from reality.
Light Up the World is not just a project, it is a whole life experience and I promise you, you will never regret it. I’m sure every volunteer has learned a lot and have many amazing memories to share about their days with the girls. Joining the project has truly been a blessing and the girls at Morawinna Balika will always have a special place in my heart.
Experience Share by –
Rtr. Azfa Azhar