EVS Series Part 2 – Workshops with Children

Part of the project StArt with your mind is creating workshops for children in their fifth grade at a local school. Here we are provided with the means and the support of Minte Forte to come up with new and original workshops, but also with the unique opportunity to implement these ideas into reality. This isn’t only an exciting process, it also allows us to discover and develop ourselves in addition to teaching us new skills. For example how to create a space for communication between different people, in which these can connect, understand or empathise with each other (regardless of their differences). Or effectively managing the intense bonds formed with our co-facilitators and turn them into enjoyable experiences.

During the workshops we’ve experienced from the very beginning, the limitless energy which the children have to offer. And while some of them receive us with their typical smiling openness, others are more introverted and observant, in any way we love this diversity. It’s really a pleasure to be surrounded by so many different minds.

After a session (where the magic happens) we start to evaluate what we just experienced; noisy engagement, mature intelligence, shy presence of the children in our activities…

Workshops usually surprise us. Just as in real life unforeseen things happen. We try to learn from our experience and improve our approaches. While evaluating the previous session we find the root for the upcoming workshops and start planning again.

We work in teams – one Romanian volunteer and one EVS-volunteer. Normally we gather with our respective co-facilitators once or twice a week, to work on the plan for oncoming workshops. This can be an arduous process, occasionally riddled with doubts and obstacles. For instances, integrating our learning objectives with those of the project, and these reaching the many different personalities that cohabitate on a classroom can prove difficult. And lets not forget that for a workshop to be successful, it needs to be dynamic and amusing enough for the children to engage into. However the satisfaction obtained at the end makes this worth it – after seeing how the combined efforts and minds of the facilitators have created something beautiful, with the potential of opening a child’s mind forever. On a more personal level we also discover how to establish functional working relations, which might flower in stimulating, energetic interactions and bonds of trust. All in all, it is about respectfully combining our minds. And not even in our mother tongues, but in English.

Being still in the process of learning, one may find him or herself shifted between the happiness of understanding and implementing new discoveries, and the feeling of not yet being able to contribute to the challenge of fostering personal development. At times our job can be as much a source of frustration and confusion as of growth. For those who already had a little experience in the field, expectations are a risky concept. While we might feel confident at first, facing a whole new range of obstacles is sure to cause some uncertainty on one’s abilities, knowledge or even goals. However this teaches us that circumstances change every time – for the better or for the worse – that’s inevitable, however gaining trust in ourselves and our co-workers is sure to improve these experiences. Although this might require to free oneself of fear – no easy feat. Building a mutually respectful and trusting relationships with the children is also a time-demanding task, but it’s limited by the weekly hour that the school provides us. And although we’re grateful for it, we believe a little time longer would have a great impact on these bonds we’ve spoken of. In addition the language barrier is also sometimes problematic, and it grows, while in workshops we deal with more complex topics, such as emotions or one’s values in life.

Although you cannot help but smile while looking back at certain moments, like when Francisc enthusiastically showed his smooth dance moves to Cécile, when Alex complimented Zarja’s “Russian” English, or when Georgiana out of shyness asked Alma for permission to ask Pepe a very personal question: “Do you like sarmale?” Also at the occasion in which Christina’s and Deea’s workshop nearly turned into a Kendama (Japanese ball and cup game) competition.

Stay tuned, for this promising new year will certainly bring us many more new and exciting experiences !