Investing In A Child’s Future
A few weeks ago I was invited out to join an Afternoon Adventures program at Evans Elementary, to check it out and see what it’s like. After a bit of a tour of the areas used and what kiddos can expect, I got a chance to actually sit down and participate in an activity with some of them for a bit, something I hadn’t done in years – playdough! To be honest, I actually didn’t do it much because I remembered the feeling of the film it leaves on your hands… but I had a great time watching the participants build all kinds of things with it – this one was a cat, that one a house, and this one a monster. But, as you would probably guess when working with kids – the peace wasn’t going to last. At one point, one of the kiddos decided they didn’t like what another one was making and so they smashed it, which, as you can imagine resulted in a bit of an explosion!
There was some yelling and attempts at shoving, but I can say that before either could get really in the other’s face, the amazing volunteers had already swooped in and separated the two. One volunteer led the kiddo who lost their playdough-cat away and I could hear them saying along the lines of “you know what? I really like how you used your breath to calm yourself down to not hit… maybe let’s go check out the soccer game going on?”. Meanwhile, the other volunteer stayed at the picnic table we were at with the kiddo that apparently despised playdough cats and asked something like “what happened for you there, that made you want to smash the kitty? Where did you feel that in your body” and like magic – the fight had ended and both kiddos were calmer and re-engaged in program activities.
For those of you not in the services industry, or if you don’t have a strong handle on child development and the importance of play – these experiences can be a turning point for a kiddo. In the example I mentioned, think of all of the things kids were experiencing in that moment: fostering creativity through play, giving kiddos space to be themselves, how to self-regulate (ie calm themselves down after feeling high emotions), how to resolve conflict, how to be respectful and what can happen when you’re not, that there are caring and trusted adults available to provide assistance, that safe places can exist (because maybe home isn’t safe)… honestly, the perspectives and learning outcomes are endless! When you stack these experiences in someone’s childhood, it shapes who they will be later on… so that one positive interaction at Afternoon Adventures really could be a memory that stops a youth from bullying another, or someone from committing a crime, or it could be why someone goes into social services for a career, or really can’t wait to become a parent – it’s these programs that really share kiddos’ futures.
Afternoon Adventures is a program that provides opportunities like this to all kiddos in Chilliwack, regardless of home life or background, whether they’re flourishing or floundering. The amazing volunteers are trained with the skills to help participants keep their cool, enjoy new activities and try new things. I worked for a different non-profit in Chilliwack a few years ago, with clientele that was often at-risk or experiencing hardship at home, and I referred many of the kiddos I worked with to them, because I knew the quality program they offered, and the support my kiddos would get. Now, having returned to working in Chilliwack in a different role as Youth Services Coordinator, I’ve also gained the respect of how much work and effort goes into coordinating a program like this – it takes energy, compassion and commitment, which the volunteers, and definitely the Director, have a lot of!
Over the last few years of knowing about the program, it has grown way bigger than I’d ever hoped to imagine, with even more growth on the horizon! It’s so heartening to hear of how many people want to give their time to provide these fun opportunities to kiddos, and contribute to their success. I can’t wait for a time where Afternoon Adventures is in every school in Chilliwack, with hundreds of volunteers and kiddos being supported! And truly – it is with the hard work and dedication of the volunteers and Directors that this happens!!
I’m personally excited for the time that I have kiddos of my own, and look forward to sending them to school and participate in the Afternoon Adventures program. Fantastic job everyone! ❤
Nikki D. – Youth Services Coordinator, Chilliwack Community Services
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