Monday, November 7, 2011

Teach them how to have fun

Amber Lindstrum walking at Presque Isle
I am now two months into my volunteer work-site, Safenet, a center for domestic violence victims.  People I encounter often ask, “what exactly do you do?,” and I respond, “just about everything!”  In addition to volunteer recruitment, advocacy, and community outreach, childcare has been one of my main responsibilities at the work site.  Tuesday nights in particular, we have children’s group.  Children ranging in ages from 2 to 12 years old, participate in activities based on a healthy mind and body.  Safenet created “40 Developmental Assets,” which emphasize support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, constructive use of time, commitment to learning, positive values, social competence, and positive identity.   In addition to children’s group, childcare is often needed at a moment’s notice.  Just the other day, I was caring for a 10 year old child that I brought into the playroom.  Her first words were, “I don’t play with toys.”  After games of tic-tac-toe and a few crayon drawings, she told me she was bored.  My first thought was “Oh no, what do I do now?”  Instinctually, I reverted back to 13 years ago when I was at her stage in life.  We got creative and made paper airplanes out of the drawings she had made.  Unfortunately, she was bored, yet again.  Then, something told me to ask her if she knew the game, “hot or cold.”  In this game, you take an object and hide it.  The other person has to look for it, and depending on where the finder is in relation to the object, he/she will be “hot” or “cold.”  The 10 year old loved it!  We played the game for over an hour!  What I got from this and other childcare experiences is that it is important to be creative and entertain children, especially those children who may be struggling to smile because of their experiences of violence in their homes.  While they may never forget what has happened to them, their experiences with volunteers and interacting with children of similar backgrounds, may help these victims of domestic violence remember how to, or even teach them how to have fun. 
“Dreary Erie,” as many have described, is definitely a city that encounters much rainfall.  I would say 8/10 people, who come to learn that I originate from the mid-west wish to warn me, “Beware of Erie winters!  We get lots of snow!”   Luckily, the snow has not fallen just yet.  I have been determined since I arrived to make it more like “Cheery Erie.”  So far, it has been pleasant.  Presque Isle is one of my favorite places to go to take scenic walks and get a good work-out in.  Erie also has a decent night-life, not as bad as I had earlier anticipated.  All in all, I feel like I am enjoying myself and meeting many new people has been tons of fun!  For the remainder of the year, I am hoping to continue to grow as a person, as a colleague, intellectually, and of course, live in the Mercy Spirit!
Amber Lindstrum - Safenet - Erie, PA

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your wonderful post. My husband and I, both Mercy Associates, are praying for Elizabeth Minor and the work at Safenet. WE will add you to our list of people to pray for. We would love to have contact with Elizabeth if you would give her our email address: