This morning we began our week here at the CDC.
We were given a tour of Central Detroit Christian Community Development and learned more about the summer program we’ll be helping out with during our week here.
We were introduced to Kayla, a staff member who instructed us on getting the tables and chairs set up for the kids who were making their way over to the facility. There were at least 12-15 tables, so we knew we were expecting a lot of kids! We were then introduced to Russel, who gave us a walk-through of how everything worked. He gave us an idea of what we could expect and how we should go about interacting with the kids and fellow volunteers if certain situations were to arise. We felt well prepared and very excited to meet these amazing kids. We were broken up into four groups by colour based on the ages of the children we would be working with. Two of us were on “Team Yellow” (insert high five here!) and we were working with a group of seventeen very eager and talkative fourth graders, while a couple of us were on “Team Green.”
Our first task of the day was to get to know the kids a bit better over breakfast. Through the reading materials and videos that we were provided with, we learned that there is a pretty large group of adults and children living below the poverty line, and that many of them don’t have the chance to have breakfast at home. The CDC makes it a point to provide them with a healthy meal to start the day, and with that we exchanged names and many of the kids asked us where we were from. I suppose our accents gave away that we weren’t locals! It felt great to connect with the children and we bonded quickly, playing hand games that we could recall from our own childhoods, which brought back some great memories. We even learned some new ones, it was awesome!
One of our first little friends was Mia who was 9 years old. We met in the gymnasium while playing basketball, which transitioned into a fun little game of volleyball with the kids. We engaged as many children as we could, including two new faces, Jamal and David. We had a blast tossing the ball back and forth and it felt great doing a fun activity with the kids.
Soon after we took a short walk to the gardens where the CDC staff not only grow vegetables with the children but teach them the importance of nutrition and healthy eating.
First, the kids watered all of the vegetable beds and then we read a book about healthy eating and nutrition called Two Bite Gang. We also learned about food nutrition labels (we should never eat a Cheeto again!) The kids were giddy with anticipation when it came to the possibility of harvesting something from the garden. They ran ahead and sat on the corner of a vegetable bed to wait for Cathy who was in charge of deciding what would be pulled and harvested. They were so excited about this part of the program and asked us how they should instruct their moms, grandmas and dads to prepare the zucchini! It was super cute and heart warming to see how thrilled they were.
The kids were full of energy, excited to see us and happy to interact. We made our way over to the park and it was hard not to notice how quiet our walk was. There was no one else on the street except for us, and there were no cars driving by. We were reminded of just how desolate the city of Detroit really is. When we finally arrived, a few of the children asked to be pushed on the swings. We also looked for treasure in a sandbox and played tag while singing “I Believe I Can Fly.” There was something very special about the memories we were creating today and all of us were very aware of the difference we could make for these children.
After playing outside for a good while, we headed back to the CDC where we settled in to do some reading together. There were nine children in our group and each one ended up choosing a storybook for us to read together. This was a really great experience and we felt a wonderful vibe all around. We got on a school bus shortly after story time which took us to a local school where the kids had a hot lunch prepared for them. They were offered cheeseburgers, fries, juice, milk and even a mini salad. Erica of course used her toppings to dress up her burger (genius right?) The children of course followed suit, which was so cute, and after finishing up lunch we were guided upstairs where we had some downtime and watched the children act out a story from the bible. Kayla narrated the story and this part of the day gave us some time to relax and enjoy with the children.
Then it was time for arts and crafts! The children coloured a four-square cube that had biblical words of encouragement on the inside. This was a fun idea that we thought was a brilliant way of providing the kids with reassurance that no matter what they may be going through, God was there to help along the way and that things would always work out in the end.
One of the best parts of our day was when kids asked us to sit with them at lunch. In this moment I think we all flashed back to a time when we were in the fourth grade and someone asked to sit with us, it was like we had made it! And I think we all feel we really made an impact (and new friends) today. Many of the children began heading back home around 2pm and by 4pm we had said most of our goodbyes and started to head home ourselves.
Today was super fulfilling. Seeing children in their element while learning and playing was both rewarding and inspiring, and we are grateful for what was a wonderful first day with our new little friends!
We’re ready to get some rest and looking very forward to the rest of the week here at the CDC.
-Olga & Erica