Several of our Saturday kids are involved in a school sponsorship program through Oasis Ministries here in Davao. The program provides them with assistance to go to school, tutoring, and parental support. The kids involved are required to attend a certain number of the classes on Saturday, or they risk losing their sponsorship.
Several months ago, we noticed that attendance was waning for a handful of the kids, who are easily distracted by the lure of the beach, other friends, or activities that they probably shouldn’t be involved in. We decided to do “fun days” every eight weeks or so, days where we just get together and watch a movie, eat fun food, and give our brains a break (yes, that includes us teachers!) But, the catch was, only those with perfect attendance the previous period were invited to join. We saw attendance improve some, bribes work!
This past March, God generously upgraded our party spot. We now have unlimited access to a private pool. So, every couple of months, we load up all our perfect attendees in whatever transportation we can get our hands on, and we have a private pool party. We swim, eat, play, and have an absolute blast. We have a couple kids in particular who had spotty attendance at best, that have now had no absences since before March.
One of my favorite parts of these times is the chance to get the kids away from the stifling environment that they are in almost daily, and just watch them relax and be “normal” kids. We can sit and chat without having to yell over the traffic or blaring karaoke machines, and the kids can eat until their bellies are full. As I watch them play and interact, I forget the struggles that they deal with on a regular basis. I think they do, too.
The week before each party, we read off the names of the kids eligible to join, and as we hand out permission slips, it feels a bit like handing out a Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. It really pains me that we can’t include them all, but we clearly established the rules, no absences, and it’s up to them to be responsible. Not only do we teach Bible stories, but we are trying to instill life skills as well. And as we walk out of the neighborhood to our awaiting vehicle the following Saturday, you would think we were parading off to Disney World. The kids loudly tell their friends, “We’re going swimming in a pool!”, a luxury few have ever experienced. However, for the older, pre-teen girls, I think the real luxury for them is taking a warm shower, which sometimes lasts half an hour or longer, until we give them a “countdown” to get out. Ah, some things are the same no matter where you go. 🙂