It was the last day of summer camp and the children were experiencing mixed emotions. The farewell programme, comprising plays, tableaux, songs and dance, that they had been preparing for all this while was finally going to take place but that would also mark the end of summer school, which meant saying goodbye to their new friends, the volunteers, who had worked with them and taught them so many new things in the three moduled weeks.
One by one all of the volunteers came on to the stage to introduce themselves and say a few words about how working with the kids was for them. Fifteen-year-old Aimen Shaikh of Mama Parsi School said that she was wondering on her first day how she was going to teach anything to the little ones. “But I realised soon enough that I could also learn from you all and that there was hardly any difference between us. We both enjoy playing badminton, which you call chirhi chakka, and that is the only difference between you and me,” she announced.
The Citizens Foundation’s (TCF) annual summer camp is an opportunity for the school students to build on their existing skills as well as learn new ones while the volunteers gain experience and knowledge. Running successfully into its fourth year now, the programme enrolled 2,500 students from various primary TCF campuses all over Pakistan and registered more than 400 volunteers to mentor the students this year. According to the TCF manual, the thought behind the 2012 camp was to provide “three different avenues of learning to students of class three, four and five.” The camp ran across Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad for five days a week for three hours each day over a period ofthree weeks during the children’s summer vacations.
Each hour was dedicated to a specific feature of learning such as enhancing English speaking skills, developing and building confidence through theatrical performances and playing indoor and outdoor games.
The volunteers all hailed from the elitist schools, colleges and universities. Therefore they were asked to follow a code of conduct which included things such as punctuality, dressing up decently, demonstrating good manners, being sensitive to the culture and background of the students at the school. Hence all young people were looked up by the little ones as role models. They called them ‘Sir’ and ‘Miss’.
At TCF’s campus at Khuda ki Basti, some 130 children participated in the 4th annual TCF summer camp with 20 volunteers working with them.
“Miss Sobia and Miss Marina were my favourite volunteer teachers. I enjoyed playing cricket, badminton and kho kho and learnt English and took drama class, too. That’s why I wanted to come to school every day during my holidays,” said little Saba Mohammad Arshad.
Mohammad Farjad of class four said that he even got scolded for making too much noise but they were allowed to vent all that extra energy during the games class. “Playing football and cricket was so much fun. I will really miss summer camp now that it has come to an end,” he said quietly.
Meanwhile, one of the volunteers, Hashir Shahid of Generations School, said that he had just completed his AS Level and was getting bored sitting at home when he got to know about the voluntary summer camp programme at TCF. “It was fun teaching the children music, English and games,” he said, “I’m looking forward to doing this again next year as well,” he added.
“My school, the Mama Parsi, got me involved. I had been volunteering at SIUT [Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation] and NICH [National Institute of Child Health] since the start of my vacations but this has been a fun experience. I have little siblings and I don’t have much patience to teach them but the children here are just adorable. They are very talented, too, coming up with ideas to make interesting things and props for the show,” said Aimen Shaikh.
Sobia Rahman, a student at the University of Karachi, was one of the senior volunteers and supervisors in the programme. “My work involves managing the volunteers and assigning them duties. They are kids, too, so they need guidance as well. We make sure that they don’t behave in any inappropriate fashion, but also allow them their space in working creatively with the children,” she said.
“The children gain a lot of confidence and build on their social skills during the summer camp,” said the campus principal Shahnaz Siddiqui. “Considering that we operate in less privileged areas, these summer camps give good exposure to our students and also serve as a very good example of breaking the class barriers by bringing together children from two different worlds into a single platform.”
Following beautiful performances by all the children who took part in the three-week long programme, the principal gave away the certificates. The children, too, had made beautiful cards for their young volunteer teachers. Saying farewell was something that none of them wanted to say to each other. Some of the little girls couldn’t hold back their tears when saying goodbye to their volunteers. But all good things, too, have to come to an end some day.