My first real volunteering experience was in New Jersey, USA. I was studying for a year at The Lawrenceville School thanks to a scholarship from the English Speaking Union. As part of my credits to graduate I had to undertake 20 hours of community service. I signed up to volunteer at a big primary (elementary) school in Trenton and was to help out with classes for 2 hours every week for 10 weeks I was put in a classroom with 40+ five and six year olds with one teacher trying to teach them the times tables. Once I walked in the kids had more interest in playing with my hair, asking me questions about England and laughing at my accent and pronunciations. Very little teaching seemed to be going on.
Now I am not normally a kid kind of person, their constant tugging and questioning and crying and shouting can sent me nuts… but there is something about children I volunteer with, perhaps they are less ‘spoilt brat’ like than the kids I am used to seeing near home. I loved each and every one of them and I could have quite happily let each of them braid my hair and give me hugs all day long, However I knew I was there to help teach and their education would be what would help them in the world, not necessarily their braiding and hugging experiences. (though good hugging is an important skill that all should have!:))
By the end of my first day I had already signed myself up to volunteer at a local soup kitchen too, it was a brilliant way to see different sides of America, meet new interesting people and get off the campus I lived on once in a while, into the real world.
I thank The Lawrenceville School and The English Speaking Union for the opportunity to study in the USA and start my addiction with volunteering. Without the ‘forced’ community service perhaps my life would have taken another turn and I would have continued on my path to become a Barrister and never realised the laughs, lessons and memories I was missing out on.
Sadly I have no photos of my time volunteering in Trenton, but you can see photos of my teaching at a school in Nepal.