So my team and our Christian professionals group got together on Saturday to accomplish the exciting but somewhat scary mission of taking 55 kids from the slum for a picnic to a nearby garden. Most of the kids were from the tuition class I teach at, but some were just kids who live on the street where we teach who hang out with on Saturdays. (Funny aside, kids in India DRESS UP for picnics- they all came in their best clothes with heels and earrings and even lipstick! I guess it's quite the event for them.) This is what I learned:
Having a child to volunteer ratio of 4:1 is a very good idea. About 20 adults turned up to help. Dividing them up, about 4 kids to a volunteer an even better idea. Instead of 20 people herding a wild mob of 55 kids, each of the didis (big sisters) and bhaiyas (brothers) were holding the hands of their little mischief makers, which probably reduced the chaos a zillion fold. Plus we had enough extra adults for food distributors, emergency bathroom break guides, and law enforcement officers.
Kids can think of very creative ways around rules they don't like. The footballs they were playing with very conveniently kept falling into the stream. "Oh no" they helplessly gestured to me, "I guess I'll make the supreme sacrifice of jumping in the water and getting it out." I didn't think so. I started confiscating the ball.
So innocent. Not.
Next I see kids with little plastic cups, practically inside the stream. "No, Miss, we're not playing in the water... We're just catching fish!" Later there was some 'miscommunication' and a couple of the more rowdy ones landed up in the stream (when I wasn't around of course)... with no clothes on except their underwear. Yeah.
A little Hindi goes a long way when it comes to controlling children. I had a few handy phrases which worked wonderfully. "What did I say?" was the top used line, "Don't fight", "If you don't listen, I'm taking you straight home." "Come here", "Do NOT throw trash on the ground!" Actually, hanging out with kids is a great way to learn the basics of a language... it's very simple sentence structures, and there's usually a sense of urgency. Sometimes you just NEED to know how to scream "DO NOT DO THAT!" in another language.
A mixture of not feeling well, kids not obeying rules, and the need to control the chaos turns me into Dragon Lady. I played the Bad Cop and all the other volunteers played Good Cop. I sat by the stream and scared kids away, while the others volunteers laughed and played and ran around with the kids. Hmm, who sounds like they chose the better part?
When I say Dragon Lady, this is what I mean. Yikes.
Kids don't hold a grudge. Even though I played the role of Foiler of Fun Plans, they still seemed to be happy to be with me. I think in India, the 'Discipliner' is a recognized and not unduly resented role, as long as one is not unfair or mean.
Picnics are fun! Even though I think Don Bosco was probably a little disappointed in me (he believed in the preventive method of discipline, not the repressive system , by using 'reason, religion and loving kindness' with children), I think the picnic was a blessing for the kids, and for us. We got to hang out, outside of the little classroom in the dirty slum. We got to be surrounded by God's beautiful creation. And we got to hold hands, push swings, and listen to them chatter about everything.
Plus there's always next time.
More QT at Jen's.