by Noémie Cassiau
Still reeling from the thrill of Summer Camp in January, the kids kept asking for more vacation-time learning and fun. Luckily, the EduMais team managed to pull together enough volunteers for the Winter Camp. The kids were thrilled! This time, we welcomed around 20 kids for 3 days per week over the span of two weeks.
Continuing on with EduMais’s work at school, holiday camps are meant to entertain, educate and stimulate socialisation amongst the kids. If EduMais would not have organised a camp they would have been spending their time on devices while their parents are at work during holiday breaks. We create a safe and enriching cultural environment embracing EduMais’s core values, where kids are at the centre of attention. This winter, we came up with the idea to organise the camp around the kids’ dreams for the future. We firmly believe that everything can happen if you dare to follow your dreams!
We volunteers put our heads together to organise a structure so that the kids could use that every day. We know that having a clear program has great impact on children’s behaviour and self-confidence. As the days went on, the kids integrated themselves into the pattern and came to anticipate where to go and what to install. For us it was not only reassuring but also helpful in holding onto their attention.
Each day, we began with our “good morning circle” routine. Sitting in a circle, all the kids and volunteers greeted each other with a big English “Good morning!” to each of their neighbours, one after the other. When they grew accustomed to starting their day this way, the kids were immediately calm, receptive and focused for the day’s activities to commence. They were also more inclined to enforce the guidelines we established together on the first day of Camp.
The first activity each day was a fun and entertaining English class. Right after, we offered the kids a healthy snack and a bit of free time to play- it is vacation, after all!! The snack was composed of water and fruits: we noticed they are real grapes-lovers! Then came the creative corner, when we worked on arts and crafts and put their young, creative minds to work, and finally the sportive corner, to get some of that energy out in a fun and controlled environment. After clean-up time, the kids earned themselves some time to play by themselves.
As volunteers, we give great importance to feedback. So, every day during the “closing circle”, we asked the kids what they liked about that day and what they think could be improved. The kids love when their opinions are solicited- they feel important and cared about! Finally, everybody shared a nice lunch prepared by a mother who runs a restaurant nearby. This provided a great opportunity to strengthen the relationships between the kids and the volunteers. This relationship may be fleeting for some of the volunteers, but has the potential to change the life of a child!
Each day of Winter Camp began with a fun and dynamic English class. We know that in the earlier hours of the day kids are more attentive and their brains are fresh and more receptive to new knowledge. The English classes consisted of games and group activities centred around our theme of making dreams come true. We taught the kids how to talk about their dream jobs, and they learned action verbs by miming what was represented on flash cards.
One of the best ways to have fun and learning is by singing. We spent time working on the song “The World is Ours” from the 2014 World Cup, which the kids already knew in Portuguese. We chose to use a song to help learn because not only is it a fun way to discover new vocabulary and captures the kids’ attention, but it’s also a very good exercise for pronunciation! The kids adored singing competitions: in small groups, with the guidance of a volunteer, they felt more confident and motivated to sing in English.
The kids were not the only ones benefiting from Winter Camp. As volunteers, we had the opportunity to build closer relationships with them outside of our normal classes in school; to learn how to constantly adapt activities to their strengths and needs, and how to manage the occasional tricky situations with positive discipline. Volunteering with EduMais is about giving and receiving in a joyful atmosphere.
During my time with EduMais, I learned about the importance of giving the kids liberty to express themselves freely. During Winter Camp, we had the chance to work with a local artist, Umberto França. With the assistance of the volunteers, Umberto proposed various art activities relating to our “Dare to Dream” theme, and he introduced several techniques such as painting, drawing and collage.
With their dreams in mind, the kids imagined their actual and future self-portraits and created a vision board for 2020 on which they marked important dates to make their wishes come true. It was so interesting to see all of their ambitions. Some of them (unsurprisingly!) wanted to become football players, while many came up with more original ideas such as becoming a vet, writer, biologist, science teacher, stylist, judo instructor and most importantly, they wanted to be happy! The kids were very proud to tell us about their dreams and to take their work home. We were proud of them, as well!
Another activity involved creating canvases for the EduMais classroom. This time, the challenge was to draw all together on the same canvas, reinforcing the dynamic of teamwork. One canvas was reserved for kids’ personal dreams, the other one was dedicated to their dreams for the community they live in, and the two were joined by the slogan “Dare to Dream”. Their call for peace and education in the community was touching.
We were so impressed to see how creative, meticulous and inventive they were! These kids are so talented. They seemed to really enjoy art time, and so did we. Indeed, volunteering with EduMais also liberates the kid we have deep inside!
It’s no secret that kids have a lot of energy to expend. Thus, each morning ended with some kind of physical activity. We put the emphasis on games in teams to reinforce cohesion amongst their peers and supervisors. Of course we played their favourite game from Summer Camp, Dodgeball, but we also proposed new games such as “Side of the Field,” Musical Dribbles and Tomato-Ketchup, which they really enjoyed. Speaking English while they played proved to be a challenge, as naturally Portuguese comes to their minds first, but the kids tried hard to translate their reactions, especially because if they didn’t they had to sit on the ground for a few seconds!
We also used this time to practice our song “The World is Ours” for the final performance. Some kids chose to create a choreography, others wanted to sing, and the rest of the group played the drums and set the rhythm. They were so good at it; to say it was very lively would be an understatement! Performing the song which they’d worked on for weeks was a wonderful way to end the camp! Volunteering helps kids in favelas in Rio de Janeiro but not only that volunteering with EduMais is discovering how fulfilment feels like.
The kids’ enthusiasm towards the activities we propose was the best reward we could ask for! What could be better than seeing them smile? During our time together they made huge progress in improving their English skills and their confidence increased. Both the kids and volunteers alike had so much fun and grew in so many ways, thanks to this multicultural sharing experience. Finally, Winter Camp filled everyones’ hearts with kindness and love, because for EduMais, educating is an act of love!
Have you ever thought about stepping out of the “norm,” expanding your horizons and doing something to give back to the world which gives you so much? Volunteering helps kids in favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Think about joining our amazing team in Rio de Janeiro; help make our kids’ dreams come true!! Contact us with your questions, at email@example.com.