"Did you have a good time in Russia?" The question has many forms, but everyone asks it-"what did you do?" " See?" " How did you spend your time?" I have many answers, for the many questions-but I have to say that it was a good experience. I have "volunteered" all my life, in different places--in schools, churches, wherever I chanced to be, and there's always the chance to be helpful to another being.
My doctor asked if I were sure I was up to this and my answer was that there would be children to work with and that would always be possible. Assigned to paint walls, I did. Whenever that slowed down I could explore the big old building and grounds, clean up a bit, talk to other team members, "talk" to the Russian workers, see the goings-on in the Church School.
There were sometimes 60 children, crowded around tables and sitting on wooden stools before their crafts-for-the-day, just like our American children. One day they were given a new t-shirt to decorate with squeeze paints; one boy had an American flag on his back. One had "U.S." on his, one drew a map of the U.S. Micah drew a monkey in a tree-I called him "Micah Monkey." They learned to 'sign' Jesus Loves Me, something I had to learn. There's a playground with basketball goal, volleyball net, equipment for climbing and there were different kinds of balls. Not much actual structured phys ed, but balls would fly thru the air in different patterns. A plastic Frisbee and a beach ball were favorites, and if we joined in we were welcomed. On the last day the kids were allowed to take the balls home and so they were hoarded and deflated to fit in pockets, so that nobody could debate ownership. Each day they enjoyed crackers and fruit, snacks just like kids here and had small toys and crafts to do and take home. Everything furnished, I suppose, by visiting VIM workers, this year or earlier.
A weed-whacker, brought by previous VIM, was used on the dirt playground where there were foot-high weeds, no grass.
Children are children, I find, in states and countries other than mine, and they are happy to be taught new things. One little Hyperactive's hands were constantly in his next-door neighbor's craft making and constantly being restrained from "helping", just like home. Some would sing willingly, some had to be coaxed into participating, some were shy and some outgoing. The language barrier was always there, but our being helpful and interested could overcome any barrier. And watch out for the smiles!