Sometimes when you volunteer to work with kids, there are unexpected little victories that can pleasantly surprise you…happy reminders of why you decided to volunteer in the first place.
As a volunteer for the OASIS CATCH Healthy Habits
in Portland, ME, I hear about these little victories time and time again from my colleagues who say they feel that they benefit just as much as the kids in the program. I had one of those special moments myself, not long ago.
At Westbrook Community Center, I work with kindergarteners through second graders, ages five through seven, in the CATCH program. In my experience, I’ve learned that there are many ways to mentor children, as well as teaching them to eat healthy foods and live their lives in healthy, simple ways.
The CATCH approach does a great job of including all children in cooperative, fun group activities, including a variety of non-elimination games that "challenge by choice," encouraging each child to get their hearts pumping at whatever pace works for them. The games also teach children how to play fair and to work together as a team. One time we played “Sock It to Me,” a game where the children are grouped into two teams and have to work together, tossing rolled-up socks to the other team’s side of the playing field to see which team would have the least number of sock-balls when time was called.
When these rules were explained, a six year-old boy told me that he was concerned that if his team didn’t win, he didn’t want to play. With a little encouragement, he joined the group. When his team had more balls than the other side, he became upset because they hadn’t won. So once again, I encouraged him to join in and see the value in trying his best along with his team, not focusing on "winners and losers." Reluctantly, he did participate and once again his team lost, resulting in another meltdown.
When the entire group later sat down to end the day’s lesson, the boy rejoined us, though still obviously upset. I told the group that “B” was upset because he didn't like losing, but that it is okay to feel sad or angry sometimes. The other children immediately offered him comfort. “Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose,” one child said. And “my mother sings me a song when I’m sad,” another volunteered.
Before I knew it, the boy was laughing and joining the group for a “howl at the moon,” a game we play to wrap-up the day. As everyone lined up to say goodbye at the end of the class, I was reminded how some lessons may be harder than others to learn and how good it feels when you see and help make those "a-ha" moments happen. Such moments make all the difference to the children and those of us fortunate to teach them.
Southern Maine Agency on Aging is OASIS's CATCH Healthy Habits partner in Portland ME. The CATCH Healthy Habits program there is the winner of the 2012 Maine Fitness Award in the Adult Category from the Governor's Council on Physical Activity. Volunteers received the Anthem Community Angels Award in 2013 and 2014. CATCH Healthy Habits is sponsored by Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation.
Sheila Brown was born in Portland and has lived her whole life in the greater Portland area. She is a retired R.N. B.S. but still works part time at Mercy Hospital where she has been for over 50 years. Sheila likes being active physically and mentally. She participates in swimming, yoga, golfing, gardening, Curves and attends classes at USM in the OLLI program. She is married to Bill and they share a family including 16 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. She continues to stay involved with family, church, friends and community.