Arsh is five years old. The first time I met Nilofer (who told us she wants to volunteer) and Arsh were at our second round of board game session. I always encourage all volunteers to visit the school or meet the students before embarking on a volunteering project with us to set the right expectation.
Arsh cheerfully walked in and joined our board game session right after he found out we were playing Ludo. I haven’t been playing a lot of board games growing up as a child, and I was not very familiar with the rules. Every time Arsh throws a dice, his reactions tells me more about him. He is genuine, loving and brilliant. If you don’t already know, Ludo looks like this:
I never knew you could choose to break down the step for x amount of token that you have. He was the one who taught me that, and he selflessly gives tips to every player on the table. He is never upset by the result, moving slowly but steadily. Eventually, I won the game. Well, that’s because I have to see that I am the eldest and I joined in with a playful attitude but then I got ‘serious’ halfway, but it was only achievable because he taught me the tricks and strategies.
By now, every kid at the centre calls me ‘teacher’, and he soon called me one although I was the one learning more from him.
In a book named “Three Cups of Tea”, Greg Mortensen wrote about his conversation with Haji Ali. ‘The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honoured guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family, and for our family, we are prepared to do anything’.
I wished social integration at every level was this easy. It is about sitting down and talking to each other without assumptions and judgements imposed on one another. It is about being present and open.
You wouldn’t be surprised why he was so good at this if you knew Nilofer. His parents have the biggest hearts. After the first session, Nilofer introduced me to the community of the homeschool parents and a few of them expressed their interest in joining the next ones. She then gave me a lot of constructive feedback to improve the sessions, and I have gained so much parenting insights from her to design the game better. Nilofer, our volunteer cum customer, has slowly become our ambassador.
The third time encountering with them, Nilofer told me how Arsh wouldn’t stop mentioning about his best friend, “RoKim”, 3-years older than him and studying in that learning centre. He looks forward to all the board game sessions in the learning centre because he was going to meet his best friend. Only from my chat with Nilofer I then understood this was what she has been looking for — an activity that allows their children to meet people from a different social circle, it was an empathy exercise to them.
All moms share one universal nature — they care about their children. This fact reminded me of an incident during a home visitation where the parent expressed her uncertainty of her kids to me.
“He loves schooling, I hope he can always go to school,” she said.
That is why we are working on building a sustainable model for learning centres, to not fail any child and to bring only quality education to them.
So if you have some spare time and looking for something special to do during the weekends, join us in July?