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Volunteering at a Juvenile Center for Troubled Boys by Alice and Jessica


Two weeks ago not only a new project in the Juvenile Center started but also an unforgettable experience! The backgrounds of the juveniles are wide. The project isn’t only about teaching English and IT to the juveniles, it is much more than that. It is about raising motivation, gaining confidence, opening up, working in a team and much more. The main objective of this project is to create motivation and give the juveniles hope to make the best of their future.

When we - two trainees and two volunteers - first entered the room, we all could hardly imagine what to expect. Read about our experience in the last 3 ½ weeks!

WEEK ONE

As an introduction, we started with a game to get to know each other. After that, we introduced ourselves by talking about our countries, which made them all more interested to learn. Later we played an activity game to make them more relaxed and interested. We basically only played games on the first day with the aim of finding out their current English level. Although the students already had a basic theoretical knowledge of the English language, they were not able to use it as they never practiced speaking in school. The boys showed great motivation, enthusiasm as well as willingness to learn English, which was really inspiring for us.

For the next day, we prepared a Tuk Tuk role play. Before we started, we split the boys into two groups and played the telephone game with them. We created a little competition out of the telephone game which made them more motivated to play as they had the chance to prove and show us their skills. That all led to a very positive atmosphere! We continued by acting out the role play and making sure that they understood everything. Then they got started and practiced in pairs their own role play, where the boys could use different props, like paper signs of the places they wanted to go and fake money. As soon as they were ready each group came to the front and showed us what they learned. We all had a lot of fun! We are convinced that learning English in a fun way and learning by doing made it easier for them to remember everything. As all of them love to compete, we chose the winners and they decided that the losing team should dance. What a great end of the second day!

On Wednesday we started again with a game as a warm-up in order to repeat the new words from yesterday. Even though it was the third day in a row they were still excited to learn English with us. This was also a great motivation for us to keep on doing this project. Their ongoing motivation was a sign of the impact we were having on them.

As a result of playing the “Simon says …” game the students became more and more aware of the importance of listening more actively, understanding what is being said and especially thinking about what they do. After that, the students were happy to tell us about their daily routine by showing it. As this new vocabulary was useful for the boys, it also was easier for them to remember as they can associate it with their everyday life. Additionally, we asked them about their visions of their future life and what they want to become. We could really feel the strong desire to make their dreams come true, which truly touched us. We took the opportunity to speak to each individual and get an insight into their current situation by having one to one conversations with them.

For the next day we played a new role play about buying clothes in a shop, which was great fun for all. We even started to make use of their dictionaries so the boy could learn how to use it.

The first week was a unique experience for all of us. When we heard about this new project we all couldn’t imagine what we could expect. Will the boys listen to us? How will they react to our presence? How can we motivate them to enjoy the time with us and learn new things? Well, this week showed us that these young people are willing and motivated to learn more. We had a lot of fun and always a good laughter! To experience great things, we have to leave our comfort zone sometimes. It was totally worth it! Delighted about the positive impact we already could make, we really looked forward to working with them again the next week!

WEEK TWO

In the second week we took five laptops with us to show them how to create a PowerPoint presentation. We really could see how excited they were to work on a computer and we were positively surprised to see that many of them already had good computer skills.

We prepared a PowerPoint presentation about ourselves to demonstrate what we were expecting from them. Each of us prepared one slide about ourselves and one slide about our future plan. After presenting ourselves we explained to them that it is not only about creating a presentation, telling us some information about themselves and their future plans in English but also about the following important three key words: motivation, confidence and teamwork!

We split the 14 boys into five groups. We mixed the groups as not all of them were at the same level so in each group was someone who already knew how PowerPoint works and could help the other team members out. We could feel a lot of energy. They were more motivated than usual as they were all excited to work on a laptop. All of them put a lot of work and effort into their presentation and were working on it non-stop. They looked up all the words they did not know in the dictionary and put them together with the words they knew or could take from our presentation template.

It was nice to see that they had the confidence to just give it a try and ask us the questions they did not know the answer to. The boys also asked us about the pronunciation or spelling of different words. They could show us huge confidence when it came to presenting their presentations and standing in front of everyone and speaking English. They did a great job! It was so lovely to see how some of them really opened up and showed us a grand act of courage, especially when some people asked them questions after their presentation and they had to answer them spontaneously without any preparation.

We noticed their teamwork every day and in every group. They supported each other while working on their presentation without us asking them to do so. It seemed that it would already be like a matter of course for them. Their teamwork was even more obvious when it came to presenting their presentation as one whispered to other certain words they forgot in order to help their team member out.

WEEK THREE

We brought up a new theme for the final week at the Juvenile Center. As we usually do this with all the campers in our camps, we also asked those boys to prepare an infographic about the theme “jobs and technology”. First of all, we introduced them to the topic and explained some keywords like technology, job, education, cause, effect etc. to them. As we wanted to motivate them, we tried to make them familiar with those keywords by playing games where they had to compete with each other. We played games like “Activity” or “Pictionary”. They already knew the meaning of cause and effect and how it works and could even mention a good example in Thai. Hence, we decided to practice their knowledge in that field a bit further by preparing a more challenging game for the next day.

We printed out some pictures which described several jobs and separated them into two groups. Moreover, we prepared two different signs which were saying “job will still exist in the future” and “job will not exist anymore in the future due to technological progress”. They had to decide about each job whether it will still exist in the future or not and explain to us the reason for their decision. This game helped them to develop their creative, critical and analytical thinking as well as to build their own opinion. Furthermore, it showed us that they really understood the meaning of technology, cause, and effect.

We split the boys into five new groups so each group could make one infographic. As a first step in creating them, they designed a draft in their notebooks. As soon as the draft was final, they started to copy their final draft from the notebook onto their poster. They really got energetic and focused on doing their work, which was a real pleasure to observe.

On the last day they could finally present their great and creative work and everyone was very confident and proud to do so. The vibes were amazing, we can tell you!  

We left on the last day with a smile in one eye and a tear in the other. The boys were so thankful that we spent our time with them for the last few weeks and again, we had the strong feeling that we surely made a great positive impact on them.

Reflecting on these three weeks, we absolutely can say that the boys learned a lot. Yes, for sure about English and IT, but what is even more important is that they gained the ability to speak in front of others, are confident and motivated, are not afraid to ask questions and a lot more. The progress that they made is astonishing and we are more than happy and grateful that we got the chance to be a part of this project! The juvenile boys and even we could learn so many important things for our future life. This experience is highly valuable as well as inspiring for all of us.

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