24 02 2011 (check out Keely's blog and read about all her adventures in Colombia! Pretty soon, she will be on her way to Costa Rica http://superninos.wordpress.com/)
I think that I wrote a quick blurb about an idea that I had for Oscar Scarpetta: provide job/money management training to the adolescents at the same time we provide love/stimulation/play opportunities to enhance development for the little ones. How? you ask… well, this is the birth of ProjectPlay. The adolescents receive hourly payment into a group fund for providing the one-on-one play. The adolescents then get to spend this money on group outings, buying whatever they want for the group.
Thanks to the AMAZING support of donors for this program, we have been working really hard to get it underway the last few days.
I bought tons of toys, mats, climbing equipment for the kids to provide them a safe area to get to play. Play time/floor time in an orphanage is really like a war zone. It is a battle for survival– you either are the aggressor (the victor who keeps the toy and or gets the attention) or you are the weakling who sits in the corner and never makes a peep so no-one ever messes with you. We transformed this area into an AWESOME play space for kids from babies up to 8 or 9 years old.
The room before:
Bringin in the supplies:
The room after:
The adolescents were informed of this opportunity a week and a half ago. They are learning the steps of employment: everyone had to fill out an application and undergo training before they are selected as a “leader of ProjectPlay”. They are learning ALL the ins-and-outs of the employee manual and the expectations of them as an employee. They spent almost 3 hours in a “class” about child development in which we talked about all the aspect of development and how they could enhance each (gross/fine motor, speech, cognition, behavior/social, creative etc) through play. We talked about using creativity and the millions of different ways you can use the same toys. Mostly I helped them understand how important the role of the the Leaders of ProjectPlay is to the success of the program.
I asked them what the difference was between a street dog and a house dog. Their answers were right on– the street dog is wild, he could bite you, etc. The house dog listens to his master, he knows how to behave. I asked them what would be the difference if the “house dog” lived in the nicest house in the world but without an owner. And the “street dog” lived on the street with an owner who cared for him, fed him, talked to him and pet him etc. This stumped them for a minute. But after they all started discussing it, they realized that this “house dog” would be totally wild and the “street dog” would probably by clam and tamed. Then I talked about the new room– with all its toys, mats, bells and whistles. This is the beautiful house without an ownder– the big thing that will make a difference in the lives of these babies/young children is the people: the leaders of ProjectPlay. As Americans, we often hear the word play and automatically think of toys. But the truth is, a child with a rock and stick and a caring, engaging adult will learn WAY more than a child in FAO Schwartz with no interactions with other people. It was such a cool moment. All of them were smiling and nodding… like they even understood for themselves how important this connection would be. And they have been keeping up this awesome energy since.
Training day 2 consisted of reading the employee manual and discussing its content entirely and then making sure everyone knew how to fill out all the forms. One of the older girls commented about her shock in the amount of signatures that a job like this requires “I have to sign this paper too? can’t you guys just remember who I am?” The rest of the week will be observing play sessions. And then next week we start with the real deal.
I started introducing the play area to the little-ones today also. Talk about stimulation… this was totally overstimulation! All the newness. All the colors. All the toys that make noise and light up (because they actually have batteries) All the different feelings– of the squishy foam cushions. We spent the majority of the thirty minutes in a state of shock… them clutching onto me… me slowly working them into playing with a toy or two. One little boy however loved it. He was talking and making more noise than I have ever heard as he played with this light-up bus toy.
Lots of the kiddos looked like this the first 10 minutes:
Followed by a little more confidence and a brief moment of play:
Holy cow… you mean I get to play with this thing for 20 minutes and no one is going to bother me:
Lots of the older girls (5-9 year olds) came in the room in the afternoon as we were cleaning up. They almost died. I think in a ten minute period they played with every single toy in the place.
The ProjectPlay updates will definitely continue. We are starting this project as a 6 month trial and hopefully all will go well and we will see improvement on both fronts: development and job training/money management. But I think there is even more potential than that. I think great relationships will be formed between leaders and babies, leaders and supervisors, leaders and leaders. I hope that the leaders will have a sense of pride from participating. I hope that they will be role models for younger kids who want to participate in the program some day. I hope that they will be better more loving parents (eventually… please let this not happen for quite a while!). I hope this thing works!!