The best part about volunteering for Saturday Academy is, of course, the kids. Dragging myself out of bed at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning seems like a chore, until I arrive at 930 a.m. and hear the team leaders describe the activities for the day: indoor kickball, human knots and the favorite old stand-by of kid science projects everywhere: the baking soda and vinegar volcano. Then the kids show up, and the BIG fun starts! My favorite station, to my own surprise –I’ve gotten a bit soft these last few years – is Strong Body. A great problem with childhood obesity exists in Anchorage, so much so that city officials called a town meeting to address the problem. I find great satisfaction in believing that through our program, kids can have the hope of a healthy body in the future. Greg and Dan really work us, and we can't expect the kids to do something we ourselves won't do! So, as I crab-walk, jog, monkey crawl and side-step around the gym, huffing and puffing and sweating, a sense of joy comes over me, knowing that me looking and feeling a bit silly serves a greater purpose.
One of the great things about HOPE worldwide and the Boys and Girls Clubs working together is the judgment free atmosphere. Kids of all ages, ethnicities (Samoan, West African, Cambodian, African American, "Caucasian"), social situations and learning abilities - even a few behavior "issues" (yes, 8 year olds can have serious fist fights) - come together and have a good time. As we work through the activities, a sense of freedom exists: not freedom from, but freedom to. Freedom to learn, freedom to exercise, freedom to be oneself without the pressures and judgments of life.
I look forward to the Saturday Academy evolving, and continuing to reach the youth of one of the most challenged areas of our city. I look forward to seeing the kids and volunteers grow as we learn together what it means to have a strong body, strong mind and strong character.
More about the HOPE worldwide Alaska and the Saturday Academy - In a short period of time, HOPE worldwide – Alaska has grown from concept to action through partnerships with TEAM-WORKS Academy and the Boys & Girls Club of Southcentral Alaska. For the last few weeks, a group of us volunteers have met at the Mountain View Community Center Boys and Girls Club in Anchorage. The program has three simple stations for the kids: Strong Body, Strong Mind and Strong Character. The station leaders create a different activity in their focus area, we divide the kids up by age group and they rotate through the stations. Fifteen to thirty kids, ages 8-12, participate in the program each week; we even have a few "regulars" who have not missed a Saturday Academy!