By Yousif Mohamed
With so much free time, many individuals often wonder how they should spend their summer. Imagine a summer that leaves a lasting imprint on both yourself and those you interacted with. Last week, I was fortunate enough to spend time volunteering at a summer camp organized by IDMAJ Foundation for four days. During that time, I made unforgettable memories instructing English lessons and helping foster the growth of young minds through chess and basketball.
In a country as culturally diverse and increasingly globalized as Morocco, English is becoming extremely important. The language opens doors to new opportunities as children advance through life, and being able to adopt a new language at a young age is also great for intellectual development.
Being able to witness the eagerness, enthusiasm, and curiosity of the children to engage in the lessons was extremely rewarding and inspired me to practice enthusiasm in my own instruction. Along with other instructors, both from Morocco and the United States, we were able to engage the children in interactive lessons, language games, and role-plays to develop their communication skills and enjoy the process of language learning.
In addition, we engaged in other activities that played significant roles in fostering qualities such as teamwork and discipline in the camp participants. For example, playing chess granted the children opportunities to practice their problem-solving skills, strategic thinking, and patience. It was incredibly inspiring seeing the children think their way through moves and strategies on the chessboard, improving their understanding of the game with each playthrough.
The children also gave me an opportunity to practice my own Arabic skills and learn some more Darija; some taught me the names of the pieces in Arabic, and others gave me phrases to engage in friendly banter during the games. As well, playing basketball allowed the children to spend quality time exercising and building their skills of teamwork and sportsmanship. There were even professional basketball coaches from Jr. NBA that allowed the kids to refine their in game-skills even further.
Despite my limited time at the camp, it was an adventure of mutual growth. I was able to witness the importance of education and of making sure kids spend time engaged in intellectually stimulating activities both inside and outside of the home. For all of us volunteers and for the staff organizing the program, the difference our time and attention makes in the lives of children was obvious—but what was more subtle was the impact and growth the experience had on ourselves. We improved upon our skills of effective communication, leadership, and organization, as well as gained a deeper appreciation for the similar and dissimilar experiences we had growing up. The introspection, reflection, and knowledge we gained from the children was what made the experience truly memorable.