Greetings from Bucharest. My name is Tiago and since October I’m staying in Bucharest (Romania) in an EVS project coordinated by Rota Jovem (Portugal). In this first article I decided to touch the subject of strength the bond of inclusion in the special schools associated with the AICI ACOLO program developed my hosting organization, A.C.T.O.R.
We find in these types of schools children from the ages of primary school to pre-teens, their disadvantage involves learning and motor disabilities and some children haven’t clear signs of struggles on the surface. We volunteers of A.C.T.O.R are responsible for giving them one hour of intercultural activities connected with our own cultures and languages. In the beginning for instance I had to observe and be a part of my colleague’s intervention and already planned activities in which I started to get to know the children and teenagers, plus their environment. After this I planned to give them relaxation and stretch moments through the activities, my plans were motivated and supported by the coordinators and fellow volunteers.
In the Special School nr. 9, I planned to give yoga exercises and breathing techniques because of my experience, interested and passion with yoga and ayurvedic massage therapy. What is about our plans? We always try to do with the children intercultural activities, games with colors, numbers, names of body parts, objects and use their senses to achieve one goal and sometimes we play songs from our native language. It’s important for them the repetition and also having relaxation after with us. Since we are often four or five volunteers visiting them, we most of the time give each other opportunity to do or to plan one activity. My first experience was with yoga exercises after all the games and energy spent, the goal was to show them basic yoga poses related with animals and to copy the movements and poses the best that they could. The following times I tried to improve and give them simpler theme of poses like the words of the alphabet with relaxing/breathing warm-up using vibration and silence. The last time I was there I decided to incorporate the senses, I focused with the hearing exercises with different sounds in which they had to guess and use their imagination.
In the beginning of those experiments I wasn’t expecting total success because was for them as well their first time doing something like that. I was nervous and not very comfortable with the kids and with the communication in Romanian. Therefore was good to know that they enjoyed and the coordinators of the project (Silvia and Antonio) were very supportive of these techniques. So for the well being of myself and the kids I improved the exercises by putting extra effort and diversity because for them all of these things were new and for the teachers too. That said, the progression was subtle but then they expected this type of moment after a while.
For me was important to give them an opportunity to learn a different skill, to learn how to stretch and be silent. My plan now is to give a more complete experience mixing the senses because attracts mindfulness then breathing comes along, then yoga then teaching step by step how to stabilize. For most of them, they are always full of energy and too much of it can be harmful so for this I believe that’s necessary to teach them tools for harness their energy.
In the Special School nr. 3, the children are a little bit older consisting in a class approximately with three or four kids and five or six teenagers. We find in this one not so many learning struggles or it’s not very visible for the most of them. Since they are older was more difficult for them to trust us volunteers in the beginning. We plan for this school more or less the same as Special School nr. 9 but we have more possibility to try different and challenging activities. My part once again was relaxing, stretching and also support them to be more active and to explore their talents given that they have more capacities. My first attempts were good although I felt that they didn’t understood so well the meaning of them so I decided to experiment and so the following activities I tried with another colleague to create a “Special School nr 3 got talent” performance, that day we gave support to everyone of them to showcase their talent or interest, we were surprised to know how many kids like to move and dance! It was a success because we created an atmosphere of support and respect and after that activity we invested more time to improve their skills. My future plans will be linked 3 with energy and mindfulness; I want to teach them how they can act towards each other as well to themselves.
In special schools it’s important to have a sense of continuity as challenging them to improve and to get good results. For my point of view it’s important for them to have people like us that are happy to share moments with and want to see them succeed in different aspects. For a good plan of activities is very relevant the repetition and investment of both sides to have a strong connection in a way that they can see for themselves how much work they did and succeed to accomplish.
Tiago Carmo from Portugal