Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Field Service - VBS

I made brief mention in one of my blogs of the fact that I did not, in fact, take part in the building of the latrine.  And no, it's not because I was lazy.  In fact there were many moments when I stepped outside to see what they were doing and wished that I could switch roles.  You see, I was, (somehow) running the VBS (Vacation Bible School).
It all started at one of our planning meetings in Texas, as we tried to learn a bit about what we were getting into, and what was expected of us.  We learned and researched things about the local culture, we were told about the latrine project, and were told that we had been asked to run a VBS.  Then Stephan (the man who was leading our group on this field service) asked questions about who had done what previously.  When he asked who had run a children's program before, myself and Jillian put up our hands.  I can't remember exactly how he worded the question, but in my mind, the Sunday School and Awana leadership I had done was fairly similar to what he was asking about.  I was expecting the teachers (Amy and Kelly) to take leadership with the VBS, but neither felt they had the experience necessary. 
So Jillian and I put our heads together to do some planning.  Picture trying to plan a 5 day VBS in a third world country, with children not used to doing crafts, who may or may not speak english.  No electronics available, and any supplies you want to use you will have to bring with you.  And after planning it out, and buying supplies, we ended up NOT doing crafts, because we didn't want to overwhelm the community with STUFF. 
Sounds a little silly, but I'll try to explain it.  The community is poor.  The school is poor.  They buy one small package of paper, and it lasts the full school year.  There are 176 children enrolled in school.  If they buy a package of 250 papers, that's less than 2 papers per child... in a YEAR!!!  So if we come in with mounds of stuff... we may place the school in a predicament where people start expecting or demanding stuff.  At times, you have to be careful about raising expectations.
Now that I've bored you, let me make this a little more interesting...
Our first day in the village, was a short afternoon where we got to know a few people, got a tour of the village, and generally felt VERY welcomed.  It took no time at all for every one of us to have between 2 and 8 children keeping a grip on our hands, our arms, or any part they could reach.
Pastor Mark (beside his wife, Hawa), is not only the pastor of the church but also the principle of the school.  Along with the leaders of the village, he has been a big push towards helping the people.
Instead of crafts, we did creative games, like getting them pretend to be a snake coming to tempt someone, and the child being tempted rebukes the snake.
Even though the VBS was supposed to be 5-10 year olds in the morning and 11-15 year olds in the afternoon... everyone came, including baby brothers and sisters!
Sometimes when we had downtime in the afternoon, they'd put on a show for us!  These kids are showing us how to dance to the music... they were really wiggling their bottoms!  It seems to be the most important part of an African dance!
Here's a shot of the school, chock full of kids!  We learned quickly that the best way to get everyone quiet was what they called the "scientific clap".  It's what their teachers did to get their attention and silence, and was basically clapping loudly a few times followed by outstreched arms with open hands (jazz hands style) while saying "shhhhhhh".  They would all do it with you and be amazingly quiet after.  Life saver!  We averaged about 70 children showing up each day.... but we never did count. :D
And here's it empty.  We always made them all empty out at lunch times, so we weren't eating in front of them.  It felt cruel, since there was no way we could feed them all, and we weren't about to start a feeding program.
Here we are at the soccer field.  They take the game very seriously, so when we organized a game, only the older ones played and the younger all calmly sat with us to watch.
One of the best ways to make the stories interesting was to act things out.  Andrea is telling the story of the prodigal son, and her husband Stephan and children Jordan and Nathan are happily acting it out for her.
We had a big game at the end of the week with multilple stations, getting the children into teams competing against each other.  They did math, spelling words with popsicle sticks, climbing trees, getting the ten commandments in order, scoring soccer goals, and taking a canoe to an island and finding Renier and Margot who were hiding in the middle of the island.
It was a fun, challenging week.  Sadly, I missed the last day because I was not feeling well.  (I was told that we don't need heros, and I gave in and went back to bed, much as I wanted to be involved in the game.  No worries, I recovered quickly and was back to normal by the next day)

No comments: