My presumption that all children are naturally happy and easily triggered to smile was blew up in my face on my 3rd day volunteering at ARI. Armed with paint, puzzle pieces, brushes, musical instruments, balloons and unconditional love, off we went to Hope Home, a residence for children with severe physical and mental disabilities.
Some of the children at Hope Home have such weak muscles or no trace of muscle at all, that smiling is quite a difficult task, let alone making sounds of laughter. And so, while providing an outlet for creativity and triggering physical exercise were valuable objectives, our main goal was simply to make them happy. Determined, we used everything at our disposal to make them smile, from singing and clapping, peekaboo games, to simpler ‘tricks’ like making funny sounds or just hugging.
During my previous part-time experience with infants, or even during my goals-oriented job in Marketing, never did I have to face such challenge; a child that struggles to express joy. I can go on and on about the tricks I’ve learnt from the incredible volunteers or about how it felt when a kid snuck a smile or released sounds of joy, but I think the pictures speak louder than words.