This week I felt, not for the first time, how incredibly fortunate we are to have access to a large group of passionate, consistent, inquisitive, energetic volunteers. This summer we began our Martes en el Parque programming to give community members a space to come together and feel connected one evening a week. Parents got to have some time together to socialize while their children could choose to participate in a variety of activities. Volunteers from the Northfield community and the colleges came and played tag, soccer, made friendship bracelets, distributed snack, mediated scuffles, read stories, did puzzles, and so much more to help make those events safe, comfortable places for the children which, in turn, made them more welcoming and convenient for the parents.
As the weather became colder we moved Martes from outside at the playground to inside at Greenvale School. I can honestly say that without the generosity of Greenvale’s staff and administration to volunteer their school as a community space we would not be able to make these events possible through the winter months. With summer coming to an end and the changing of locations, the focus, although still on social connectedness, shifted towards also providing educational opportunities for the attendees. One such opportunity has been to participate in the 12-week pilot program of Anímate, a Positive Psychology workshop done entirely in Spanish. The workshop, we knew, would require a quiet space for the participants to learn meaning that their children should really have their activities in a separate location. Once again, Greenvale came through in the clutch offering us both the Media Center and the cafeteria on Tuesday evenings. The cafeteria is a great space for kids and we could definitely have allowed them to play on their own with minimal volunteer supervision. But we had a feeling that if given the opportunity to do more with that time someone would volunteer to rise to the occasion, and they did!
We put out the word to both Carleton and St. Olaf that we were looking for volunteers to design a health literacy curriculum for children that would take place on Tuesday evenings. Students from both schools responded enthusiastically and have stayed committed even though designing a multi-lingual curriculum for multi-aged children is no easy task. It has been a joy to watch volunteers begin implementing this program, making learning about fruits and vegetables and physical activity too fun for any kid to want to pass up. This past Tuesday parents were surprised and happy to find when, at the end of the evening, they came to get their children that none of them wanted to leave. Thank you, to the volunteers who bring energy and enthusiasm to the kids programming at Martes and all of our events, we could not provide this programming without you.