By Fien Wallays, Student @Karel de Grote Hogeschool Antwerpen, Belgium
Intern @PS4L February- June 2019, Social work

Pre implementation

Who?

I’m Fien Wallays. A social (and cultural) work student from Belgium, Antwerp. I’m working at Play Sport4Life (PS4L) as an intern for four months before I (hopefully) graduate. Play Sport 4Life is an NGO based in Cape Town. Their main goal is to empower children in the unprivileged neighbourhood while providing sports. During my internship, I’ve experienced and seen a lot. I had the chance to get to know the neighbourhood and the context of the schools before I started with my own project. I decided to focus on themes where the children are confronted with on a daily base. In the project, I talked with them about dreams, ambitions, relationships with family, friends, but also parties, drugs and how you can be more aware of yourself. It was an experience that taught me a lot about who I want to be in the future as a social worker, as a friend, as a person.

Contact details:

E-mail: wallaysfien@gmail.com

WhatsApp: +32487375923

Purpose

  • To collect more background information of the children. (Useful for PS4L as organization: who are the children that we reach?)
  • Teach them about respect, goals, boundaries, relationships.
  •  Improve their English and communication skills
  • Get to know each other in a different way
  •  Life orientation in a fun and active way

How do you pick which children are able to join?

After chatting to the principal and Justin (PS4L coach) of W.D. Hendrickx, I decide to work on my project in small groups of five children. I choose five because it’s a small, safe group. They also recommend to split the girls and the boys because they open up more easily when separated. Justin is getting the children out of their class while I’m busy setting up everything. He asks the teacher which children he can take. Eventually I end up with a mix of loud kids and the very quiet and shy ones. This makes it very interesting to interact with them. I choose to work with the same children over the following weeks so I can build a relationship with them based on respect and trust. During intervals on the playground  other kids are also interested in what I’m doing. Because I don’t want to create a tension between the children of my project and their other classmates, I try to focus on the other children while being on the playground during playtime. In this way, I can separate my attention and affection without causing tensions or fights.

(See appendix for an overview of the children that I worked with)

Background information about the school

The school where this project takes place is W.D. Hendricks Primary School, located in Factreton in Kensington, a neighbourhood ten minutes outside the city centre of Cape Town.

This school is located in a very poor area. Because the people who are living in this area are so poor, also other aspects are playing a huge role in this area. Weekly, sometimes daily there are shootings between different gangs. Children from the age of 8 years old carrying a gun isn’t an unusual thing here. Besides the violence, also hunger, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse causes a lot of problems. You can imagine that children, growing up in an unprivileged community, are in need of extra attention and help. Unfortunately, there is no space for that during school hours because of lack of concentration et cetera, these children are having a huge learning disadvantage so all time is going to control a class of 40 yelling, bullying and hungry children. That’s why I decided to help and set up my project and graduation research as well, in this school.

Planning

Date Subject Grade
15/4/19 Getting to know the children → drawing exercise Grade 7 Grade 5
23/4/19 Using symbolcards to talk about different themes like family, violence, good/bad Grade 7 Grade 5
24/4/19 Getting to know the children → drawing exercise Grade 6
29/4/19 Getting to know the children → drawing exercise Grade 4
30/4/19 By using a game board asking the children questions about their life, relationships, talents, free time… Grade 7 Grade 5
1/5/19 Public Holiday  
2/5/19 Day off  
6/5/19 Using symbolcards to talk about different themes like family, violence, good/bad Grade 4
7/5/19 Compliment jar Crafting to talk about norms and values Grade 7 Grade 5
8/5/19 Elections: no school  
9/5/19 Justin sick: no school  
13/5/19 By using a game board asking the children questions about their life, relationships, talents, free time…   Compliment jar Crafting to talk about norms and values Grade 4       Grade 5
14/5/19 Painting clay & Talking about self image   Grade 7 Grade 5
15/5/19 Using symbolcards to talk about different themes like family, violence, good/bad   Grade 6
16/5/19 By using a game board asking the children questions about their life, relationships, talents, free time… & Clay activity Grade 6
20/5/19 Crafting activity & evaluation Funny Ending day Grade 4
21/5/19 Funny Ending day Grade 7 Grade 5
22/5/19 Funny Ending day Grade 6
27/5 – 31/5 Assignments   
3/6 – 7/6 Assignments  

Explanation of activities

Drawing exercise: to get to know each other

First I want to know the kids that i’m going to work with. I want to know more about their background so in a fun and indirect way I want to explore the children’s family situation, favorite food and dream job. For this exercise I base myself on a book that I found in a local bookshop here in Cape Town.  It’s called the Map of My LIfe. For the first drawing, I ask the children to draw themselves and to write their name and age next to it. The next drawing is a heart and you have to draw or write your favorite food, color and animal. For the third drawing I ask them to draw a house: “In the house you must write or draw the people and animals that you live with”. By asking this, I get the chance to get an overview of their family situation. With how many they live in a house, are their parents in the picture? The fourth and last drawing is  a cloud. In this cloud you have to write or draw your dream job and/or what you would do if you had a lot of money and what you wish for.

After the group finish their drawings, I make some time for the children to explain or talk about what they made. Now it’s more low key for them to explain their backgrounds because they have their drawings to look at. 

Talking with symbol cards

I prepare ‘talking with symbol cards’. I opt for this approach because the pupils are getting the chance to use there own imagination and giving their own meaning to the symbols on the cards.

The exercise:

  1. Pick a card who describes how you felt this morning.
  2. Pick a card that describes what you think is important in life
  3. Pick a card that describes how you felt this (easter) weekend
  4. Put the cards that are important, good, nice in life on the right, blue table.
    1. Put the cards that are bad, wrong, not nice, in life on the left, red table.
  5. Do you think that this approach with the cards is a good way of talking about things? 
  6. Game with the cards: I asked them to give me a card as fast that they could when the cards were turned upside down.

It was interesting to ask questions. Why did you choose this card? What does this symbol mean for you? Do you like..? Why this is not good you think? Are you thinking the same as…? Who thinks that..

(See appendix to see the symbol cards that I used)

Boardgame: talking about different themes

During this game I start a conversation with the children by asking them specific questions. Each child chooses his or her own pion at the beginning. Each child can throw with a dice and move their pion. Each step has another color and each color is focussing on another theme.

  • Pink: Yourself, identity, dreams and ambitions.
  • Red: Relationships with family, friends, boy and girlfriends
  • Orange: Drugs, alcoholism, smoking, partying
  • Yellow: Give a compliment to your neighbour
  • Blue: Describe how you would react on a situation
  • Green: Throw again
  • Light blue: Ask a free question to the group
  • Light green: starting point

While playing this game the children are training to speak about their feelings, expressing themselves, thinking about a different situation and being able to give their own opinion on things. The interaction with the others while playing is interesting and gives ways to focus more on a certain theme.

Compliment Jar

The Compliment Jar is inspired on the previous board game. With the previous game, I notice the children are having a hard time executing the yellow questions (giving compliments). So I decide to do something around that. When the children enter the classroom, they need to collect all the compliments that are laying all over the room. I’m doing this because they are losing their first energy with it and they can already discover what’s on the cards. After that, we put all the compliments on the table. They can choose 30 compliments that they love or think that are nice to give or get. The 30 compliments will be put in a jar. Each kid can take a compliment and give it to someone who deserves the compliment. We will discuss why it’s difficult or easy to give the compliment to someone and why it’s nice to receive compliments. Also the meaning of compliments and why it’s important to give sometimes a compliment we will discuss.

Being creative: Visualisation of what’s making you happy with clay

This activity is building on the compliment jar. Together with the children, we conclude that compliments can give you a great feeling and make you happy. Now I want them to visualize what makes them happy: is it a person, an object, an animal, food, songs, a sport, a game? It can be anything. This activity is asking a lot of attention span from the children because they need to focus on one specific thing. The process to visualise isn’t that easy so it’s also a perfect moment to help each other and think or try things in different ways. If plan A doesn’t work (f.e. the head of your creation keeps falling off), try plan B (make a smaller head, use a stick to make it more steady) 

Self image exercise: me, myself and I

For this exercise I brought a makeup mirror with me. I ask the children to look closely to their hair, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, cheeks and chin. After looking closely to themself I asked them 2 questions:

  • Who did you see in the mirror?
  • Do you think it’s a beautiful, friendly face that you see?

We discuss the answers in group. This group discussion was a perfect way to exercise their listening skills.

Afterwards the children get a picture of themself (this is a photo of themselves edited like a drawing on pc). Now they get the freedom to do anything with it they want to. If they want to picture themself wearing a dress, being a teacher or having blond hair, they can make it themselves. Everything is possible. This exercise focuses on how they see themselves in an indirect way.

Painting activity: paint clay and free painting

After the clay activity, I ask if they would like to paint their craftwork. Stupid question: “of course we would like to paint it, coach!” 

I provide paint material and I have only one instruction: take your clay artwork and paint it. They are totally free to choose colors, amount of colors and details. For some of them it is quite a challenge because while drying some of their works where broken (because other children were breaking it).

Afterwards I just give them a empty white paper and say they can paint whatever they want to. By just giving the children literally a white canvas, it was surprisingly interesting and nice to see the results.

Evaluation: Green/Red

I really want to evaluate the children I worked with to end my project in a good way. For this, I choose to use green and red cards. During my training as social worker we are taught to be as original and creative as possible while evaluating. By using green and red cards to evaluate an activity, I use the most effective and simple way of evaluating. But these children never did something like this. So I decide to take the easy path even though it is hard for them.

The statements I ask to which they have to answer with green or red:

  • In the beginning, I was a bit nervous or scared to come to talk about different things.
  • During these activities, I had the chance to get to know my friends better.
  • I think I will remember or use things that I learned during the activities in the future.
  • I loved using the board game while talking about different themes.
  • I think crafting with clay was a nice way to express myself.
  • I think drawing to get to know each other is stupid and childish.

Photobooth & Design your own pancake

To end my internship on a good note, I’m putting a lot of value on finding a good way to say goodbye to the children I work with. The children enjoyed themselves during my exercices and they were very open to me. I experience during interval that the children love to take pictures, specially snapchat pictures. I am inspired by that and create my own, real life snapchat filters. I make different kind of photo booth props out of cardboard (f.e. a pair of glasses, mustache, a beard, a crown). It’s really fun to see the children enjoying and posing while playing with the props. I make a lot of pictures, laugh with them. All of us evaluate this as a perfect  ‘ending activity’. For some of the kids it is also an new experience, a new way of expressing themself while ‘dressing up’.

Apart from the Photobooth, I also want to create a party vibe. I decide to bake some pancakes so the children have the possibility to design their own pancake. The pancake station is immediately a huge success. The children are in heaven when I tell them they can choose whatever topping they want to put on their pannekoekie: sugar, Jam, whipped cream or chocolate sauce. In short; all things that are causing a sugar rush!. It is also a pleasure to watch them discuss what and how to put the sugar and others on their pancake.

Results of activities

Drawing exercise: to get to know each other

During the drawing exercise and the children presenting their drawings, I observe them and make some notes:

Group 1 Girls Grade 7 In the beginning: laughing, insecure Asking to start over again because it’s not beautiful. Interested in me and my personal life 
Group 2 Girls Grade 5 Quiet Whisper to each other & to me Insecure Listen very well Scared to make mistakes They love to be creative
Group 3 Boys Grade 7 Concentration is something difficult Boys are willing to listen So you gotta draw about yourself? Aren’t making a problem out drawing about themself. Enjoying the attention that they are getting from me.
Group 4 Boys Grade 5 Big mouth Following instructions is difficult They can’t draw a heart or write words like mom, dog, sister Je moet Engels praat
Group 5 Girls Grade 6 These girls are the ones wich i’m spending the most of time with during intervals so it was interesting to get to know them better in a different kind of way. They are following instructions very well and make sure everyone is following the rules. They are creative and are asking for a next ‘session’ where we can play games.
Group 6 Boys Grade 6 Oh, i loved it to see how much concentration they had while drawing. Also there drawings are including a lot details.  They were very quiet and behave very well. Asking for help is difficult. To the end they were getting more comfortable. They said they really enjoyed it and would love to come back.
Group 7 Girls Grade 4 While drawing their were very concentrated and focusing on the details. Laughing with each other. Listen well and are able to follow instructions. While drawing they are very quiet
Group 8 Boys Grade 4 They are very interested in the beginning. Don’t mind drawing. Are insecure about their drawing and writing skills. Want to start over again. For some with concentration issues this exercise was already to much. But they participated well.

→ All of the groups ask if they can come back next week and enjoy the extra attention.

→ Difficulty: They start to speak Afrikaans when they have to wait. For next time: explaining rules in the beginning of the ‘session’ (f.e. we only speak English in this class).

Conclusion

  • The children love to be creative. They are opening up easily when they can talk about the things that they have drawn.
  • The boys are also enjoying the drawing and the moments of extra attention that they are getting from me.
  • They are participating very well and ask if they can come back after we are finished.
  • You got a lot of useful and interesting information out of the children in an indirect way.

The drawing exercise is the perfect way to get to know the children more and they get to know me as well.

Talking with symbol cards

My observations during this exercise:

Group 1 Girls Grade 7 The girls are friendly and were happy that they can come back. You can see that these girls are the oldest in the school in their behaviour and way of talking. They like to interact with each other and are creative with the meanings that you can give to the cards. One of the girls is a very quiet one. She doesn’t like to talk and for her it was very hard to pick a card and explain why she has chosen for that card. Her classmates were trying to assist her but that didn’t worked. Afterwards i went to her and asked what was wrong. It’s difficult to talk about yourself and in english she said. I told her that she always can ask for help if she don’t understand something. Loving is important, friendship is everything Sharing is fun and reminds you to how you are. I’m grateful for my family. I’m coming to school to see my friends.
Group 2 Girls Grade 5 These girls are just loving the extra attention. They really tried to talk in english and that is something i really appreciated. A pen is a bad thing because you can hurt yourself with it. I was really surprised that my mom bought me easter eggs. If i grow up, i don’t want to be lonely. They came up with a game like a kind of memory to play with the cards and they just turned into very competitive players, it was fun to watch.
Group 3 Boys Grade 7 They have a good sense of humor these boys. The cards that they were picking were symbolic and interesting. We had some nice conversations about themes like struggling with yourself, the importance of sharing your emotions.. You need to love the rest of your life. Being hungry and drinking (yes coach, water of course!) are basic rights. A phone isn’t always good because you can bully and do sexting. I want justice in the world. I’m fighting with myself, life is a waste of time. (We talked about this and afterwards life wasn’t anymore a waste but an adventure 😉 )
Group 4 Boys Grade 5   I picked the card with the shopping because I’m looking forward to go to the store and buy food with my mommy. A phone is something important because you can call for help when someone is sore. The Bible is important because it’s telling the story of jesus. I picked the fighting card because i wish that there was no violence. If my daddy hits my mother again i’m going to hit him back. I would love to make a play about the Bible, someone can be god and the coach can play Maria. I would be good as a director.
Group 5 Girls Grade 6  
Group 6 Boys Grade 6  
Group 7 Girls Grade 4 They were insecure in the beginning but like to talk and interact. I could see that the cards were a good way to start a conversation with them. I have chosen the knife and the fork because I was hungry this morning. Did you eat before you came to school? -No Being drunk isn’t good because if you are drunk you can hurt people badly. I’m lonely because my mom and dad died.
Group 8 Boys Grade 4 These boys, you have a 2 very loud ones and the other 3 are more quiet. The quiet ones surprised me in the way that they picked interesting cards and cards that could help them explain what they felt or think in the situation. I was grumpy because my mom was yelling on me this morning so i just ignored her and went to school. A knife and a fork are bad because you could hurt other people with it. ‘It’s good to be happy, don’t be sad!’

When working with symbol cards, you need to be prepared for everything because the thing with the cards is that you can give your own interpretation and explanation to the cards. For the children, it is a new experience to talk about feelings, good/bad while using symbolcards and for me it is an instructive experience because I make the cards myself.

The results are surprising and somewhat unexpected. Sometimes the children give totally different meanings and explanations to the cards than I thought they would give. This made me realize how privileged I am to grow up in Belgium in a safe and loving environment.

I ask the children what they feel or think during this activity with the cards. The answers I get back are mostly about the fact that sharing and talking is important and that this is a helpful way to express yourself while using cards. Coach, i really enjoyed myself today. Next week we can come back, right?

Boardgame: talking about different themes

When entering the room the children see the board and already ask: Oh, coach are we going to play a game?. I love teaching things in an informal, fun way so learning while playing is the main focus during this activity.

Playing with their own pion and throwing with the dice is a big hit. They are really focused on setting steps forward and when someone miscalculates the steps, he or she is immediately corrected. The purpose of this board game is to talk about different themes and get to know more about the themes that are a challenge for them.

Answering the pink cards is easy for them. We had spent the weeks before about questions like your dream job and questions in that trent. The only question they find difficult to answer, is about their biggest quality. This isn’t easy for them. I can see they are really struggling when they have to give one thing that they are good at. Luckiy, if they don’t know anything to answer, their classmates can say a quality about them. This is easier for them, but still difficult.

Now I’m going to evaluate the answers of the yellow cards. If your pion lands on this color, you have to give a compliment to your neighbour on the right. I notice that this is an extremely hard exercise for the children. Most of the time they don’t know what to say. And even if they answer, it’s always about the outside of the person. Interesting material for another activity!

At the end of the activity I ask them which color of questions was easy to answer and which was hard. The answers: red questions about relationships are in general not that difficult. The pupils don’t have issues to talk about their family members. Also, when people are not anymore in the picture or passed away, they aren’t struggling to talk about this. The older children also open up when talking about having relationships and being in love. It is interesting and funny to talk about this subject with them. You realise sexual education is a big need, starting from educate the youngsters. I will remember one boy who he got the question ‘Do you have more than one best friend?’ His answer was: No, because I don’t have any friends. Then he thought about what he just said and asked me: “But coach, you are my friend, right?” 

The focus on the orange cards is about issues around partying, smoking, drinking. The younger children all answer with a clear no on the question ‘Do you need alcohol to party?’. This makes me realize that not all children are into drugs and using alcohol, oef!

Partying is also not always nice because there are a lot of people and there can be fightings. But partying is also nice because you can dance all night!”

The results also show that every child in these groups has to buy tabac for someone else and knows one or more names of drugs (f.e. coke, XTC, weed..) Two of the children are frequently smoking weed. I ask these two learners if they want to share more about it and they tell me that this is the picture of their future, being addicted to drugs. To me this is a very painful quote because I know the chance that this will actually happen is fairly large.
I talk with Justin, the coach at W.D. about this and he comforts me but at the same time confirms my realisations. 

Compliment jar

The implementation of the compliment jar is a huge success. The children are immediately enthusiastic. The positivity, conformation and affection made the children shine. It was interesting to talk with them about the meaning of giving compliments and reasons why giving and receiving is sometimes difficult and sometimes great. The question, what’s the nicest compliment you ever got was a very hard one for them. That’s why I asked them to sort out 30 of the best compliments. After discussing the compliments (Is this a compliment or an assault? Would you be happy by receiving this compliment?) they needed to give each other a compliment (one or more from the top 30). The one who’s receiving had to say loud and clear: thank you for the compliment. It was nice to see how tactful they were when giving the compliments to each other. Also I got a lot of compliments from them, it’s nice to get a confirmation because you can come up with an idea but you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.

I also asked them to write down the compliment that they loved the most from the ones that they received. If they are feeling down they can read it again and realise that they are worth something for someone.

‘Giving compliments is hard because sometimes you don’t know what to say because you want to say a lot’

Being creative: Visualisation of what’s making you happy with clay

They jumped in the air of excitement, literally. The most of them only knew the kind of clay that they could dig in the bushes near to where they live. They never played with pottery clay before. Because the instruction: Make something that makes you happy is very vague I helped them by giving them ideas like: It can be everything: a person, a flower, a sport, a game, food, an activity.

Because it was the first time they experienced touching and playing with clay all of them were playing with it before making something. It was nice to see them trying to visualise the things that made them happy. I offered my help and gave some ideas about how you can make something and provide it will break while drying but most of the time they were talking to each other and me about how fun this was. My heart was filled of satisfaction of the end of the day.

A list of the things they made:

  • Dice (because they love to play games, inspired on the dice that I used for the board game)
  • Friends (because friends make me happy coach)
  • A clay tablet with ‘I love myself’ on it. (It’s important to be happy with yourself, right coach?)
  • Food like: an ice corn with 3 scoops on it, a pizza (with mushrooms), chocolate chip cookies, a hot-dog, a hamburger, a taco
  • a football shoe (with a lot of details)
  • a hockey stick
  • a smiley face
  • a very fast and new car
  • a heart
  • a flower
  • an attempt to create a dog but coach, i think it looks like a mouse
  • ‘an eagle with the sun on his head and a ying/yang sign & a sixpack’
  • a book

I’m so happy that I did this activity because it something they really will remember.

Side note: It was very difficult to stop other children from touching the drying clay works. So a lot of them were ruined/destroyed or broken while drying. The disappointment on the face of the child that had made it, it was hard. But i really did my best to protect the clay. I asked the children literally 100 times a day ‘DO NOT TOUCH IT’. You can’t blame the other children because they are just curious but it was really a pity that almost everything was broken and following instructions was so hard for them.

Self image exercise: me, myself and I

When they saw the makeup mirror, the reactions were divided. Some of them immediately grabbed it and others just waited until I started talking.

It was interesting to see how concentrated they were while looking to themself in the mirror. They took their time to observate themself, standing still with yourself, it’s something important that we forget most of the time. The answers on the questions that I asked are gold, pure gold.

Who did you saw in the mirror?

  • Goh, I see a little girl who is looking into a mirror.
  • I see someone who is tired.
  • Someone beautiful because I’m beautiful and I love myself.

Do you think it’s a beautiful, friendly face that you see?

  • At this moment, yes, but this morning I was angry.
  • No, because I’m kakstupid (we discussed this later and he changed the answer to: No, because I’m stupid to lie to my friends and teacher)
  • Yes, my mom always tell me that I’m beautiful

Painting activity: paint clay and free painting

It was fun to see them having fun while painting. I put on some background music and we had a nice chat while painting. We talked about why they love to come to me and don’t want to go back to class (conclusion: it’s all about attention).

They asked themself if they could paint something after they were done painting their clay. It was interesting to see what they painted without having any instructions. I saw: landscapes with clouds, sun, a big house (this came back a few times), drawings with a lot hearts and their names on it, the south african flag, ‘i love my friends’, ‘ i love coach Fien’..

For me it was a moment that I realised that I just let them be carefree children for one moment. I’m so grateful that I could just do the things that i think are vulnerable or are nice for things to do for children.

Evaluation: Green/Red

In the beginning I was a bit nervous or scared to come to talk about different things.   I was curious because at the beginning of the project I was a bit nervous and I was interested in their feelings in the beginning of the project. I was surprised they all put the red card in the air, without any hesitation.
During this activities I had the chance to get to know my friends better.   I think the result if I count all the groups together, it would be half green/ half red. With the girls of grade 5, I could really see that they had grown more close to each other. Also a boy, who said at the beginning he had no friends, made clear that he has made friends during the activities.
I think I will remember or use things that I learned during the activities in the future.   This question I asked because I want to know how sustainable my project will be. Because I can’t see in the future, asking is the only possibility. For me it was touchful because the children didn’t only answered with green/red card but also with the life lesson or thing that they will remember without asking.
I loved using the board game while talking about different themes.   90% of the answers was yes. This is a vulnerable question because it shows again how vulnerable learning while playing is. Also the talking part is less scared when you put it into a game or story or creative thing.. 
I think crafting with clay was a nice way to express myself.   The clay activity was for the children something new. Being creative while expressing yourself. Discovering new ways of expressing yourself. (not by throwing rocks, hitting each other…). This activity was a huge hit.
I think drawing to get to know each other is stupid and childish.   I think this activity was a good ice-breaker. We talked during the project also about the drawings and for them (quote one of the children) it was a nice way to get to know coach, my friends but also myself. Because it’s important to love yourself and know yourself.

Photo-booth & Design your own pancake

Because pictures are saying more than words. The props made out of cardboard were a hit. The children were having a fun time and I was enjoying myself as well. During this activity, the children could just be a child and laugh, making silly faces and forget about their daily struggles. I think it was a day that they will not forget that easily.

Conclusion and recommendations

Maybe if you just inspire one child, even that is making a difference.

On the whole project I can conclude that I as a social worker and as person made an evolution. In the beginning of this project, when it was still an idea, I’ve learned how important it is to be assertive and effectively do think and not only keep the ideas in your head but also realize them! I realised that attention is a gift. Getting attention from people, who are showing that they are loving you/interested in you/…/ it’s a blessing. And that’s what the children enjoyed the most of the whole project. Getting attention and showing that someone is willing to listen en interested in their life.

Working with the children by using creative methods was a good approach and it helped them to figure out news ways to express themself. I really hope that their dreams for the future (like becoming a teacher, living in a nice house, having food each day, being happy and healthy) can become reality.

Besides that I think I helped the children aprieced each other more and new friendships have arose during the project so that’s also something valuable. The reactions and feedback of the children during the project were all very honest and positive. Further I’m proud that I could work with plus minus forty children for 4 à 5 weeks. This was interesting because I could see them grow and develop during the weeks. The group hugs on the last day, I will definitely remember.

My personal experience is that there is a lot possible if you just explain your idea. Just start a conversation with PS4L, the coaches, other students/interns and the principal of the school. You can collect a lot of input for your project and research. Like the recommendation to split the boys and the girls because otherwise they won’t open up. I loved that I had the chance to be creative and teach them in an informal, safe way. Playing while learning definitely got another dimension for me. My project made me realise how privileged I’m to have all the chances and opportunities to develop. I really enjoyed my time with the learners at W.D. and I’m sure I will miss them. I had a lot of interesting conversations with them and I feel privileged that they loved talking and opening up to me. This experience is definitely something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life and professional career.

Furthermore I would like to add some recommendations or opportunities that are interesting for Play Sport 4 Life, other students or social workers, coaches and teachers.

As first, try to redefine traditional things like talking about yourself, wishes and dreams but also math classes,.. with a bit of creativity you can do a lot! Use shells to explain how to multiple, let the children make their own handprint to talk about themself by writing something about themself in each finger. Thinking about of the box and challenge your learners as well. It’s also interesting for the children who are having concentration or behaving issues. They can maybe show their talents when you aren’t working in the traditional format.

Also, make sure you take time to listen and ask questions. Children are wiser than you think. They love to create, brainstorm and help. You can philosophize with them about activities and when you try to make up activities, make sure that they are having input in it. Make a flexible planning, if you realize during activity A that they are really interested or talking a lot about C, take in mind that you are taking C to your next activity. They are having a great memory and will be surprised that you actually listen to them, bonus for creating a relationship based on trust with them.

Try to be honest with the children and talk about your ambitions and the purpose of your activity. They will be interested and it’s nice working for you and them when everything is clear.

Finally, I would like to end with my added value to Play Sport 4Life, because what is the value of a clumsy, not sportive social worker in an organisation that is focusing on empowerment while sporting? The purpose of PS4L:

‘’Vision: Enabled, active, inspired, healthier, youth in transformed communities.’’

‘’Mission: Transforming young lives through education & sport.’’

The words in bolt, that’s why I worked as social worker in this organisation. For me, it was important to show that not everything needs to be focused on being sportive. Being sportive in your mind, being mentally fit has the same value as being physically sportive and fit. Like I did with the friendship bracelets on the last day of the holiday program. It’s not the same as playing soccer or hockey but you are being creative and talking about the value of friendship and that’s something special and unique I think.

The importance of someone who is focussing on the mental health, next to the physical health, is especially in the environment where  the children are growing up, is huge. I believe that behaving issues and concentration issues can be more balanced when there is time and affection to give to the children. One of the most beautiful gift is giving your time and energy to them.

So for the future, don’t be afraid. Try to start a conversation, show you are interested, show empathy and don’t forget to be yourself. You will inspire the children, but maybe even more important, you will get inspired by them.

Useful websites & ideas

  • https://www.talkaboutitgames.com/
  • Searching for ‘creative therapy’
  • Go scroll on Pinterest and get inspired. (Crafting with children or other searching terms).
  • Pinterest: searching for: social skills with children/ behaviour management
  • Themes to talk about: Identity, wishes and dreams, family and friends, relationships, stereotypes, role of girls and women, drugs and alcohol, safety, boundaries, compliments, hygiene, sexual education and interests, life goals and bucket lists, importance of being educated, food, recycling,

Appendix 

Symbol Cards

Material list

Pencils (every color and enough that everyone can color)
Paper White and different colors (for the game board)
Scissors   (not for the kids but for cutting cards and stuff)
Glue (board game)
Dice For the board game
Paint They love it and to paint the clay works
Clay (You can buy it in different crafting shops)
Brushes For painting
Camera It’s nice to take pictures during your project
Examples of the activity It really helps the children to get an example like with drawings in the beginning, it was helpful that I showed mine.
List with planning Which groups, when, planning with activities
Attendance list Helpful to get an overview of the children
   

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