Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Volunteering with kids Internationally

 Capoeira Adult/Teenager Group (young children not pictured)

Mestre João Kanoa

I came to Rio de Janeiro to do sports with kids while trying to be a positive mentor and teach them some English.  I came NOT knowing virtually any Portuguese or any Capoeira.  Even through these language barriers, I was still able to communicate and have a great time with the kids.  I took the initiative to use my skills to help them in any way possible.  I have been training Mixed Martial Arts for a little less than a year with an obsession.  So each Capoeira class the Master, who is completely blind, allowed me to teach the kids martial arts techniques while I implemented English lessons.  Many of these kids live in a favela so for them self-defense abilities could save their lives. I tried to be very expressive with my body and face in order for the kids to understand, which they were able to.  I also used humor to keep the kids engaged in what we were doing.  I was very energetic and enthusiastic about what I was showing them and the kids mirrored my energy.  It is sometimes discouraging to not know what is going on and not be able to communicate completely but a volunteer just has to roll with the punches and do what they can in order to help.  Expect things to be confusing.  It’s not about the volunteer, it is about the kids.  If the volunteer does not feel needed then they need to think outside the box in order to help.  Be creative.  Figure out the interests of the kids and make it a game.  For example, bring a soccer ball (football) and kick it around with the kids and implement some sort of informal English class.  Smile.  A smile is a universal way of saying that you are happy because you are with those around you.  Everyone has something to offer.  A volunteer should be able to teach something to the kids but the kids can also teach the volunteer.  Have fun!  Sometimes it may feel like work but a volunteer should be having fun with the kids.  
I did pay for this volunteer program.  The money went to my housing, to support the program, and to some administration costs.  However, I believe that there are ways to volunteer without having to pay a cent.  There are even programs where you can get housing paid for by the group that you are volunteering for.  Or just do couchsurfing and volunteer to whoever needs help.  It would just take some asking around.

Check out this article!

Some good groups:

All Hands Volunteers
Peace Corps
Teachers Without Borders
Volunteer Match
Habitat for Humanity

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