My second day of volunteering at the after school program was one that hit home for me in some ways. In elementary/middle school, I was bullied and shunned by my peers for reasons I never fully understood, and I finally observed this heart breaking situation from an adult supervisor’s perspective.
When we took the students out to play on the playground for their free time, they all immediately broke off into their cliques and ran around having a blast. However, there was one young girl, Opal, who was wandering around the play area alone, nervously moving from group to group hoping to be included somewhere. Each group quickly turned their backs and told Opal to go find someone else to talk to. Finally, Opal meandered her way over to myself and one other volunteer worker and asked us to play catch with her.
Because we needed to keep an eye on all of the other children running around, the other volunteer offered to watch the other children if I played with Opal. I didn’t mind this proposition because the other children were a very rowdy bunch whereas Opal reminded me of my younger self, wandering around aimlessly and wishing someone would be nice and offer to play with me.
Opal told me that she hoped to try out for the Junior High Volleyball team next year, so we practiced basic bump passes and setting the ball to one another. As we practiced, Opal began to open up to me about some things troubling her such as fitting in among her peers, and struggling with certain classes. We talked about ways to resolve these conflicts such as talking to teachers outside of class, exploring different teams and clubs the school offered, or talking to a counselor. We continued practicing and talking and our conversations varied from school to sports to pets to arts and crafts. By the end of the day, Opal’s mood had infinitesimally improved. Other volunteers and teachers noticed and were excited to see her so happy for once.
The day after, I received an email from the teacher saying that Opal was eagerly asking “when Miss Grace was visiting again” because she had an exciting story she couldn’t wait to tell me. Hearing this brought a little tear to my eye because suddenly it was obvious what a difference I had made in Opal’s life just by talking to her for a while.
Only two days in, and I’ve already had such a notable impact on two of the children there. I can’t imagine where it could go from here.
**Disclaimer: Names of students have been changed in order to protect their identities.**