Wednesday, May 19, 2010

When You Give a Kid a Birthday Present...

...Well, at NPH, you really shouldn't.

There is an unofficial, yet pretty strong policy at NPH that volunteers should not give presents or cake or special outings to a child on their birthday. I know, you're thinking, "How mean! These kids are orphans." So let me explain.

To begin, volunteers have a hard time earning the kids' respect. We think that our year here is such a long time and that the kids are going to remember us forever because we are making such a big difference in their lives. Well, we're wrong.

Over the span of their lives at NPH, these kids see volunteers come and go left and right. After a couple of years, we all blend together. They may be disadvantaged children, but they aren't stupid. They will ask, beg, and plead for things from you, and they'll manipulate you if you left them. And it's hard to not let them. When your options are to a) buy them the 1 Q lollipop and hear them tell you you're their favorite or b) say no and hear them pout and talk smack about you when they think you don't understand their Spanish, of course a) is the easiest way out. Who wants to feel like the kids aren't completely in love with you?

But a) is bad. The kids here think (and who can really blame them?) volunteer = rich = will buy me/make me/give me whatever I ask for = and so will the volunteer after her, and the one after her, and the one after her. Choosing a) does absolutely nothing but reinforce that.

An incredibly important part of being a volunteer here is teaching the kids that I am here to share my time with you and my talent with this organization. If I was only interested in sharing my money with you, I could just as easily write a check from the comfort of my 2-storey, air-conditioned home in the States. That's not why I'm here.

So when one of my girls has a birthday, she gets a birthday note (that stationery set I brought from home really came in handy!) and a big hug haha -- that's it. It doesn't sound like much, but I can remember being 13 and loving personal notes that told me I was nice or smart or mentioned some inside joke with a friend (heck, I still love notes like that).

Celeste is obsessed with asking me about Nueva York (New York City), hence the hand drawn skyline on her birthday card hehe.

So folks, the verdict is that cakes may be delicious, but blue-and-white striped birthday notes last forever -- especially when the girls adorably tape them up to the inside of their lockers. :)

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