By Jenny Rose Anacan, FC 20
Every morning I never fail to do my daily devotionals and pray before heading out to Vincent House. My daily devotionals consist of reading the scriptures for the day along with a reflection on blessedisshe.net and devotions from the book Jesus is Calling. In my morning prayer, I thank our heavenly Father for a new day and ask him for strength and wisdom to help me throughout my day. At Vincent House, which is run by the Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, I work for the after school program. I serve a population of inner-city youth from kindergarten to the age of twelve who come from low-income families of the West Side of Syracuse. Daily, Vincent House serves a minimum of 11 to a maximum of 25 youth. No matter the amount of youth who walk in for program for the day, there is never a dull moment, the youth at Vincent House are such a light to my life as they are filled with so much love!
The first half of my day is pretty much the same. I come in at 10 in the morning and do some administrative work like checking my email and recording attendance. I do lots of planning for in-center activities like arts and crafts or food art and mini field trips. So far we have gone pumpkin picking, watched Incredibles 2 at Hollywood Theatre, the middle school youth went to a Halloween event at Syracuse University, and when it was warm out the younger youth went to different parks around Syracuse. Every other Monday, I go snack shopping with a coworker at BJ’s Wholesale Club to buy and deliver snacks for the youth of Vincent House and another after school program as well as a pre-school site. On a month to month basis I analyze the attendance records to determine the amount of days each child came to program, the average attendance, the lowest and highest attendance number, and the amount of children who came to program at least fifty percent of the time. I also analyze the snack record to determine how many snacks were serve in the given month. From time to time I will do other miscellaneous tasks like organizing and cleaning, washing the blankets and dress up clothes the kids use, sharpening colored pencils and many other things to maintain the center kept and going to run at its fullest potential when the kids come in after school.
The second half of my day is a completely different story than my first half, the after school program is open! Now this time is never consistent, every day is a different day and I never know what I will come across. Well, let me take that back, Mondays are usually the same, Movie Mondays with popcorn and we have a therapy dog name Molly from Paws of CNY come to Vincent House to hang out with the kids. Even if Mondays have the same activity, it can still be different in its own way. We are open immediately after the neighborhood schools are dismissed. There are children who come in as early as 2:05 PM, and we stay open until 5:30 PM. Our children walk, catch the school bus, or get dropped off by car to get to Vincent House. During the first half of program is free play in the living room as the first batch of children wait for more of their friends to come in. The children have so many options during free play: they can color, draw, play various games, build things, play pool, or simply come up with their own game or sit and hang out with their friends. At this time, I may help some with homework or play a game with the children! We love to play UNO, Chutes and Ladder, Connect Four, Candy Land, and more! One of the best things about playing win or lose games is teaching the kids that it is okay to lose and helping them build a sense of sportsmanship. Once majority of the kids show up to program, it is snack time. After snacks, we have several options for the kids. On some days there are scheduled activities, during the warmer days we will go outside to play on the playground, swing on swings, run around, or the older boys love to play basketball. When we can’t go outside they can play in the gym, there is a basketball hoop in there; our recreation room with a foosball table, basketball arcade game, or air hockey; or go back in the living room for more free play–the options are endless.
One of my favorite moments is when I am in the gym with the younger kids and when I get “pulled” in different directions. There can be a couple of kids who want to play a game of basketball with me, and so I do, then 30 seconds later I can start hearing someone crying because of the “she/he is not sharing” story, so I’ll have to help solve that, at the same time, there can be someone who gets hurt, so I’ll have to administer first-aid, and during all this I’ll have others saying “Ms. Jenny let’s play catch!” This actually can happen quite often. Despite all the hecticness, these kids keep me on my toes, I love it so much! I want to share one final story, and one that I will never ever forget. One day I was describing to a few kids that I am from Hawai’i, and so they started asking me many other questions. A little girl, in the cutest voice ever goes “So Ms. Jenny, you caught the plane to come here?” and I replied “Yes I did, a huge one!” At this time I am thinking the kids must just be so amazed I rode on the plane because they probably have not been on a plane yet. Then all of a sudden another kid goes “Wait! You catch the plane to come to work every day? Do you sleep here too when you wait for us?” My heart melted so much for these kids, and all I could do was laugh so hard.
I have only been in Syracuse serving these kids for about five months now and I am definitely not looking forward to day I will have to say my goodbyes to the little hearts I have learned to love. In the meantime, I will enjoy every moment God has given me with these kids; so far serving at Vincent House has been a tremendous blessing!