I woke up this morning with a bit of a stomach issue. I mentioned it to the country program manager and the driver in case we needed to make a pit stop on the way to Ibny. Naturally, this was the morning that we also stopped at 2 banks, 2 other volunteer drop offs, and dropped off the country manager downtown for a meeting. WHY TODAY OF ALL DAYS?
Made it to Ibny and the bathrooms there are less than desirable, so I went to a coffee shop that is across the street. Imagine my reaction when I frantically stepped inside the stall to a Turkish toilet (basically a whole in the floor with two foot pads where you stand & squat). What a nightmare. Made it through the ordeal in one piece, but then had to pay an attendant just for the use of the bathroom. Wasn't expecting that.
Headed across the street to Ibny for another great day. For the 4 year olds, we repeated a lot of what we had done before, but for the craft project, Carrie had braided some yarn for bracelets that we gave to each child. Then Carrie, who is a great artist, made caricature drawings of each child and we wrote their names on each sheet. While the kids couldn't understand what we were saying, it was obvious they knew we were leaving for good. We took some pictures again, hugged a lot, and got kisses from them before we left for the next class.
For the older children today I had taken some simple images from "The Tiny Seed" - birds, flower, sun, fish - and made pictures for the kids to color. At the top of each page I wrote out the words for the pictures in "dots" so that the children could trace to write. I decided this was the best way to get them to write. Many of the children have barely learned to write Arabic, so they write their S's backwards, etc. We read the book to them, then handed out the coloring sheets, and then I walked around the room and showed them the pictures in the book so they could see they were coloring the same things. The kids get really amped up after coloring for some reason, so we had them all up to the front of the room and did the Hokey Pokey which they LOVED (almost as much as I did). It was fantastic. My favorite little boy, Smaeel, was the first to rush up and insisted on holding my hand until we left the class. We gave kisses and hugs, and blew kisses as we left, and my eyes welled up as we walked to our pickup location.
This, by far, has been the most rewarding experience I could have ever asked for and so much more fulfilling than I could have imagined. We were there to assist the teachers by offering enrichment programs and activities to the kids, and personalized attention they don't get otherwise. I feel so blessed to have met them, albeit briefly, but I will always remember this experience and think about these children and wonder about where they end up in life.
An interesting thing happened later tonight as I was in a taxi to Marjane (pronounced "marjohn" - a mall with the equivalent of a WalMart). We shared the taxi with a woman who is working at the S. African embassy. She asked what we had been doing and I explained the program and the kids. She said that our hearts should be full, and that she was a child who benefitted from volunteers like us many years ago. This brought a smile to my face because she is well-educated and successful. I hope for a similar ending for all of the kids I met on this trip.