24 May Penn State students encourage reading, writing and creativity at the CYEC!
Hamjambo to everyone reading our blog! The Human Development Team (Brittany, Blair, and Kate) has been working hard on this side of the globe. We are having a lot of fun fleshing out to fruition our art therapy project. After lots of planning, we instructed our first lesson today, introducing United for Literacy’s create-your-own-book project. At first, the kids were quiet, confused, and maybe a little hesitant about our project. What helped immensely was the translation skills of one Cate, a long-term volunteer working for the CYEC. Cate translated our English instructions and hopes for the project into a more manageable language for the younger children, Swahili. She proceeded to read our sample book, “Billy the Billygoat Brings a Friend”, which got a few chuckles from the children. Our story was inspired by the life of a beloved billygoat that had recently passed at the CYEC. Overall, the book project got a positive review from the thirteen children who attended our first session. In fact, one young boy named Robert wanted to create a story inspired by the parable “The Greedy Stomach”. With the creative juices flowing, we then asked the children to continue brainstorming for our next lesson.
In addition to the story writing, the kids were also prompted to draw a superhero, which led to a vast and diverse response of pictures! For example, one child even drew the force of gravity with only a few arrows and a human body! Other children drew any idea that came to them, such as flowers and cars. Every picture turned out completely unique, including Wilson’s image of a chef (“a man who cooks the food”), Robert’s image of a Kikuyu village (including “a pasture best for the cattle”), and Steven’s portrait of one of our own, Kate Thompson! Watching them contentedly draw reminded us just how young they really are and how this concept completely contrasts with the reality of their previous life circumstances. One child Steven could not tell us when his birthday when asked conversationally because he truly had no idea when it was. Living on the streets, he had no need to know his birthday. After teaching some of us more Swahili, such as “tafadhali” (or please) in particular, the children very reluctantly left to catch some z’s, for it was past their bedtime.
Our other focus, assessing the CYEC’s Peer Mentoring Program, has been going very well. We conducted a preliminary focus group with both the previous mentees and the mentors. We learned a plethora about the positive impacts possible through the continuance of this program. Though there was a slight language barrier; in particular with the younger mentees, we learned that this program has value in its ability to teach the mentees teamwork skills, strong morals, and a good work ethic, while affording their mentors with an opportunity for personal and emotional growth into adulthood. With a tweaking of its infrastructure, the Peer Mentoring Program should continue to be a resounding success!
In the coming days we plan to continue the work on our book project by having the children write their stories and illustrate them in order for us late input them into our software to publish them. We intend to continue to utilize our wonderful new resource, Kate, as we continue our work to be sure that we can communicate to the children as best as possible. We also hope to discuss with people here our findings from our peer mentoring focus groups in order to analyze the possibility of making improvements to the program so that it can continue in a sustainable manner. We look forward to updating you again soon!
Kwaheri and talk to you soon!
Brittany, Kate, & Blair