So in this past week all of the schools were out for what they call “half term.” They have a week break in the middle of their semester. This to me is astonishing because college courses ended over a month ago and most high schools where I’m from ended last week. But because of this, the YMCA hosted a weeklong camp for children to come so their parents could go to work. My schedule was put on hold from rotating through each of the departments to being solely committed to what they call “multi-activity week.”
It was a lot of fun really. It reminded me of working summer camps at the Y in Lakeland during high school. It’s funny because all camps work the same. On day one, in the first hour, all of the kids are by themselves, not really knowing what to or who to make friends with. Of course, there are the few that know each other from school and are immediately drawn to one another. These are the groups that usually start everything. For the boys, they start a game of football (soccer) and all of the other boys join in. For the girls, it’s usually something like tag or simply just socializing. But by the second hour everyone is best friends and having a blast.
For a volunteer, it’s usually the same. You try and force yourselves into the groups, but since you are so much older, they don’t really know what to do with you. That is, until you show them your superior (only because of age and physical difference) soccer skills. Then all the boys want you to be on their team, and the girls always run after you so that you can be “it.” They seriously have an endless amount of energy.
But the best part of the day was the trip. Everyday something was planned for them to go do outside the YMCA. The best day was definitely Friday. A few of them were allowed to go to Southend-on-sea, which is exactly what it sounds like- a “beach.” Now I use the term beach lightly. Before I go on, I must remind you that I am from Florida. Therefore I am probably… no, definitely spoiled when it comes to beaches. Having some of the world’s best beaches within an hour’s drive is just as incredible as you think it is. But in order to understand what England’s beaches are like, I want you to do something for me. Pour yourself a glass of ice water and then go find the nearest gravel parking lot. When you get there, lay down and pour the glass over yourself. The following sensation is exactly what their beach is like. Okay, in all seriousness it wasn’t that bad. But their beach really was made of small rocks, and the water was extremely cold. But again, they are equal to the US-Canada border in terms of global position, so I guess it doesn’t really get that warm here.
They craziest day was easily Monday. If you’ve ever been on the New York subway system, then you’ll understand what I’m talking about. We took 21 children between the ages of 6-11 from Romford YMCA to a park in London. In order to do that we had to first get them on one of the famous double-decker busses in order to get them to the underground station. Then, shuffle them onto the subway in the time-span of 15 seconds before the doors automatically close. At first it wasn’t that hard because we were still in the outer London area and so the trains were relatively empty, but as we got closer to London more people piled on. But that wasn’t the most chaotic part, oh no, we had to switch lines in order to get where we were going… three times. As we were now in central London we had to push the children onto the train in order to get them on before the doors shut. You should have seen the looks on the faces of the already crowded train car when they realized that 21 more people are about to get on. It was humorously fantastic.
But I do say that I rather enjoyed this past week. I learned that if I can move a group of children through the London public transit system safely, I can pretty much take care of children anywhere. As I move back into the normal rotation this week I look forward to working with each department one more time. I’ve got one more week left… leh’go.