When I was a boy scout, I involved in few community projects just for the sake of fun. But after my school life, other than organizing some fundraising activities, I never thought about volunteering my time. I recently received a mail at work about a volunteering opportunity to host a coding class at the Durham Elementary school in Houston. Inspired by code.org, I decided to try something I’ve never done before.
The class was about to teach kids how to build a website using notepad and HTML. One of my co-worker did the heavy lifting of teaching. Others and I facilitated the session and assisted kids with their questions. I also tried to capture those special moments. Here are five things I learned by spending few hours with those young, bright minds through the class.
1) Value of Sharing
For most of those kids, that was their first website. I had a chance to experience the kid’s real world through hands-on work. During the lunch time one of them told me, “No one had ever taught me coding, I have learned so much today”. I realized the great deal of human power and potential and how doing even small things can have a big change on kids.
2) Smile is universal
After each assignment of adding and formatting texts, changing the colors, inserting and animating pictures, expressions they had on their faces are priceless. Some of them even had a chance to show their websites to their parents. I can relate those parents’ proud moments being a new dad. I learned that such expressions and moments can be mentally stimulating and take our minds of our own worries.
3) A small act can make a big impact in a kid’s life
Did I make any impact in any kid’s life that day?. I don’t know, but this experience inspired and motivated me to volunteer more in the future. At the end of the session I saw a kid hugging my co-worker and thanking her. These moments are two-way path which could bring joy to both volunteers and the kids. I realized helping kids to learn would engage and motivate them to grow, and also help volunteers to become a source of inspiration. I was close to understand the definition of something psychologists called “helper’s high.”
4) Every kid has a story to tell:
I noticed that working with kids is fun. Actively listening and communicating with kids could be enriching. The project was to chose everyone’s favorite animal, build a website about their animal, do all the necessary formatting and finally link their animal’s picture to the Houston Zoo website so that their visitors can learn more about that animal. They completed adding a header, a picture, a paragraph about the animal, author’s name, and all those fancy animations. Now it’s time to link the website to Houston Zoo. Here is an interesting conversation I had with Serena (if I remember her name correctly). She raised her hand, I went and sat next to her.
Serena: Can you help me adding the link? Me: Sure [I walked her through the instructions] Serena: I can't link my website to Houston Zoo Me: Why not? Serena: Because my favorite animal is Unicorn and Houston Zoo won't have one. [I didn't know how to respond] Me: Why don't we still add the Houston Zoo link so that people can learn about other animals. Serena: No, I don't want to add wrong information on my web page. [I was curious to find out her solution] Me: Make sense. What shall we do now? Serena: [After few seconds of thinking] Why don't we add a museum's link which has a unicorn painting. Can you find me one? [I found a museum link and we successfully finished the project]
I was amazed by her right-brain responses.
5) Connect with others
Working in a consulting firm, we rarely see our co-workers. This was an opportunity to get to know my colleagues and their interests. I found that volunteering could help me find new friends, expand my networks, discover new passion and improve my social skills. I also gained new insight about myself and the world around me. I witnessed the reality of: “Together, we all can make change.”
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
At the end of the session. I texted the picture below to my wife, and her reply was the best thing happened to me on that day.