Shirley came over at 10am to fetch Susan, Sean and i to the Rainbow Home. Even though i have been there twice, i still cannot figure out how to get there - unfortunately, Cheras is indeed an alien planet to me.
Rainbow Home is the home chosen by the SIPJ (Soroptimist International Petaling Jaya) as a project to impart good and moral values to underpriviledged kids. This isn't considered as an orphanage as there are only two orphans there. The rest of the kids come from single mothers or parents who can't cope because of various problems including drug abuse. Ages range from six to eighteen, and a few of the kids are slow in development and go to special schools.
The kids greeted us from inside the house when we were just outside the gate – calling out ‘teacher’! ‘Hello teacher’! It was quite heartening to have such a warm welcome!
When we entered the home, we found a bit more than we bargained for. Sheila (the lady in charge of the Home, who is a pastor's wife) had told Shirley that there would be 12 kids but when we arrived, there were 20 or thereabouts! i think Shirley looked quite panic stricken at first! But the kids settled down quickly without much ado and sat on the floor in front of Shirley who was doing the reading this time.
Jas Bir, IPP (immediate past president) of SIPJ, had conducted the first reading/story telling a couple of weeks ago and did a great job of it so it would be a tough act to follow. But follow Shirley did and excelled in her own way.
Shirley started off by telling the kids ‘no, we’re not teachers, we’re aunties’ and introduced herself and the rest of us – Carol, Kim, Susan, myself and even Sean, who came along too. She got all the kids’ names down and then proceeded with the recall session as we discussed last Weds. I had brought along a couple of fluffy toys to add some interest to the "Ali and the tiger" story (the Malaysian version of the shepherd boy and the 'cry wolf' story)- an old dusty sheep and a leopard. Yes I know it’s supposed to be a tiger, but I didn’t have one. Aside from the spots vs stripes issue, they do look alike, right?
Anyway, since a lot of the kids weren’t there at the first session when Jas Bir told the 'cry wolf' story, Shirley went through it again and added another dimension to the story – what friends are for, which is to care for each other. After that, we had a brief ‘get to know you’ session – where Shirley asked the kids what their favorite subjects were at school and their interests. That was quite fun – the boys were especially excited when she asked if anyone liked football! The kids also shared that they tended to like the school subjects which were in each kid's native language, or language they understood best. The chinese educated kids liked chinese and some others liked English. It was great to get to know what they liked and why. Some of the kids are so bright it breaks my heart that they don't have the opportunities other kids take for granted.
The last half an hour was spent telling the story of Rapunzel – using the pictures from Anna's book to illustrate it. Anna is a fourteen year old girl who seems slightly challenged, but from the first session, she continues to show such a love for hearing English being read that is so touching.
The kids seemed to be enthralled by the story and inched closer and closer to Shirley and ended up practically crowding round her at the end! They really enjoyed the ‘story telling’ part. Later, Kim said that she observed that the kids were actually quiet and seemed mesmerized by Shirley’s spoken English, and that may be what the kids find most fascinating. We also realized that the kids really liked the pictures and Shirley said she had some books with big pictures in which she can bring at the next session.
All in all, I thought it was a great job done by Shirley, so kudos for that. when Shirley first brought up this reading project to me several months ago, i was very clear and adamant to her that i did not share her passion to read to the kids and that i did NOT wish to take part in the actual reading. I would be very happy to help brain storm, plan lessons and do whatever preparatory activities etc. but definitely NOT do the reading because i’m simply not very kid oriented! However, saying that (and i still feel the same i.e. I am not keen to do the readings), i have told the team that i WILL of course do so if the team is short handed and if i am available at that time.
I do think this is a really great project and hope that it will benefit the kids in more ways than we anticipate. Shirley will do a good job leading it as this is her brainchild and her passion – I remember her saying she couldn’t wait to get started and she was so excited about it! So now it’s started – i look forward to helping in whatever small ways i can.
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