For my final semester of high school, I decided to try something different. In place of my fourth period, I now work in a volunteer program called ACTS. No one knows what the acronym means, but it gets the point across.
The program consists of four "sites" where we volunteer on a weekly basis. It breaks down like this:
The first site, "the Villas", is basically a home for older people who aren't all there. I'm still not convinced it's entirely safe as several of the residents classified as "unstable" know the SUPER TOP-SECRET CODE that unlocks almost every door on the premises. Most of the doors are actually in place to keep them in...alot of good that's doing.
But if you can get past the disturbing lack of security, the residents' occasional outbursts of anger and the overwhelming smell of soap, the Villas is the place for you!
The second place is a local elementary school which is truly a refreshing change of pace from the other sites. Most of the staff has it together and they're very accomodating when it comes to our schedules. In fact, they have everything so under control, I could swear they have a hidden surveillance system. From their records, they can tell you each child's full name, blood type, grandmother's maiden name, what side of the bed they usually get up on, and the bathroom stall they frequent the most...it's scary.
"Could you tell me where..."
"Robert Gaton Call is? You're his mother, we know. He is currently in Ms. Jay's room, third row, forth seat from the front writing his name with a blue Crayola marker on the top of his worksheet. Their class is doing a lesson on the lifespan of amphibians, page 83 in Glencoe Science. Do you need him?"
"...actually, you would probably do a better job keeping him than I would."
The third site is a local middle school where the kids from the previous site usually end up when they're old enough. Here however, security is much like the Villas in how there isn't any. Kids come and go as they please, and the teacher's mainly serve as babysitters...very neglectful babysitters who are too busy texting to pay attention to anything.
The drastic increase in freedom from the elementary school to the middle school, I have determined, affects the children mentally. For instance, one of the kids I tutor has a puppet named Peanut Butter that she uses to speak with on occasion. It's supposedly a cat, although I can neither confirm nor deny that claim, and it has a cancerous pink tumor on its face.
She's in the advanced learning program. They're our future, people.
The final site is the Boys and Girls Club. Within the first thirty seconds of our first visit, I was immediately tackled by what appeared to be a legion of children. It's honestly not their fault, and bless their hearts, I know some of them don't get any attention at home...but good Lord. I feel like I need a shower and an inhaler after being there.
In case you've never had the joy of being covered by second graders, let me save you the trouble of experiencing it. It's exactly 234,579 degrees, it usually smells like an ashtray (granted, it's their parents fault), and you will get kicked at least twice on every exposed (and unexposed) part of your body.
In the end, that's what volunteering is. It's doing something that isn't neccessarily enjoyable and most likely painful with no promise of compensation other than the mere feeling of realizing that you're doing something good for someone else.
But honestly, seeing those toothless or dentured grins, those laughing little faces, and knowing that you're the cause? That's more than worth it.