Tuesdays are my busy day. I have a full schedule at school, right after which I take a trip to the outskirts of town to give English lessons to some 2nd-5th graders. And, at the end of the day, I have a 3-hour yoga course (which is quite calming after a few hours with the little ones).
These kids I visit every Tuesday live in the poorest neighborhood in town, "Mondial" (it's named after the ceramics factory located there). The children in this part of town don't have a lot going for them: they live in a poor, dirty, relatively neglected part of town and they go to schools where the teachers are poorly-paid and under-motivated. But, they have at least one thing in their favor: a brand-new after school center funded by the an Italian firm and the Catholic Church.
I'd heard about the Center from the volunteer previously assigned to Lugoj. He told me that his experiences there had been silmutaneously his most challenging and most rewarding. Having been going to the center for about 2 months now, I think I'm starting to understand what he meant.
On the one hand, the kids are very enthusiastic and always really excited to see me. Every time I arrive, I'm greeted by a cacophonous mob of 3-foot tall hugging-machines. They're very touchy, which took me a while to get used to. For example, upon seeing me for the first time, one kid who had apparently never seen facial hair before began tugging on my beard, saying "what's this?"
So, it's nice knowing my presence is appreciated. But, on the other hand, working with these kids can be tough. Firstly, they're full of energy, like any kid their age. If I had a penny for every time I told them to quite down..... Secondly, I have to speak with them almost exclusively in Romanian. I've asked them if they take English at school, and they said yes, "the teacher dictates words and their translations and we write it all down." Sounds more like a factory production line rather than an English lesson. Coming from poor families, these kids don't have the same opportunities that other children their age may have. And, moreover, many have a history of being overlooked simply because they're Rroma.
I'm glad the center is there, at least it lets the kids know that the whole world hasn't forgotten them. And, although we've only been working on the alphabet for the past three weeks or so, I hope my efforts there are making a difference.