Katie McCabe's Blog

First Day of Work! (Monday, June 1st)

Today was our first day of work at SOUP! We spent the morning with the children. We’ve decided that before we try any formal or structured programming with them, we’re going to spend this week just getting comfortable working with them and understanding what they need most from us. For about 2 hours, we worked with all 8 children on their English. Michelle has ran a summer camp for Hispanic children and I’ve worked at a summer camp for handicapped children, as well as tutored in high school, so we’ve both had a lot of experience with lots of different kinds of children – but I still don’t think anything could have prepared us for the initial overwhelming feeling we felt as we began to assess how much English each child knew. Each one was at a different place in his or her own reading level – I tried asking one child, Rinki, who is 9, what reading class she was in - but similar to American children I have worked with, I discovered that she couldn’t functionally read at that level. She’s taught to memorize, copy, and recite in school, and so she manages to get by – but when she actually has to recognize words or form sentences independently, she struggles. I finally thought up a good strategy when I learned that she loved to draw – I made a list of words for her to copy and then draw a picture of, to show that she actually understood what she was writing. While she worked on that list, I worked with Kajal, who is 7 and blind. It was so interesting seeing all the different tools she uses – she has a slate with all of the Braille letters on it, so she can practice feeling them out and recognizing them, and then she has a metal ruler/metal stick contraption (what a description, huh?) that she uses to write. I’ll post a picture of it to help it make more sense. It was tricky working with Kajal because she actually is very skilled at recognizing Braille dots with her fingers, but has also figured out that if she pretends not to know them you’ll hold her hand, which she loves. A wonderful thing about Kajal is that knows really good English, because she traveled to the United States for 10 months last year to receive operations to help her eyesight. She can see some shapes, light, and a little color now, and SOUP is still trying to raise money for a second operation that will help her see. It’s wonderful because even though she herself has a handicap, she actually helps Michelle and I overcome our language handicap and will often translate conversations with the children for us.

We spent the afternoon with Joy, learning more about the long history of his organization, and talking about plans for the summer. I am so impressed and amazed by the work Joy has done with these children. Michelle and I were a little skeptical when we had heard that he was temporarily moving the children into his home/other homestay situations, but I am not exaggerating when I say that I have never seen a happier bunch of kids. Each one of them has been through more than I can even imagine, and is still learning and growing as if they were any other child! I think one of the best parts is not only the respect they have for Joy and for the other adults that work with them, but the respect they have for each other. They vary in age, from 13 to 7, and so they all are helping to raise each other, the same way they would if they were brothers and sisters.


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