For my service learning project, I have been working at the Just ASK Club through the Dublin Christian Mission in Smithfield, just North of the Liffey. I’ve been lucky enough to become quite close with several of the girls there. I have learned a lot about each of the girls and how to handle them. I’ve learned what to say, what not to say, how to get them to settle down when they are all riled up and full of energy. Even more than this, I’ve learned what each girl needs. Some are just there simply to get help with their homework, and use the club as a place to focus and get work done. Others are there because it’s the only place they can go after school. Some are there for guidance, looking for a role model, someone to look up to, or simply a friend that will listen. No matter the situation, the Homework Club provides all of these things for the kids. I’ve come to see that the Homework Club is a community in itself, a place these kids can call home. It serves as many different outlets for the girls and boys, and whatever they come to the club seeking they will find in the open arms and warm hearts of the people who work there. I’ve become just as versatile as the organization is; I go in each week expecting to do anything from homework help to arts and crafts to just sitting down and talking with them. Having an open mind is one of the most important aspects of working here. I always try to motivate the girls to finish their homework, and when I can tell one is getting discouraged and wants to stop, I give her a morale boost and walk her through the problem she’s stuck with. The one thing I’ve found that I can’t help them with is their Irish homework (despite the 5 Irish phrases I know). They know this and always tease me for it or try to trick me into saying bad words in Irish, and I usually just laugh along with them and then tell them to get their work done or else we won’t be able to play afterwards. This kind of structure is really good for the girls, as they get distracted pretty easily. I’ve learned that the girls have been teaching me just as much as I’ve been teaching them. They teach me about the Irish language and the culture, and we discuss the differences between our two worlds.
Many of us take for granted having a kitchen table to sit at after school to work on math problems with our mom or dad while having an after school snack. The Homework Club has become that kitchen table for many of the inter-city kids of Dublin, and in more ways than just helping with school assignments. It is a peaceful escape, a place they know they will always be safe and loved unconditionally by people who have the strongest determination to help them succeed. Even if it’s just for a few months, I feel very fortunate to have had a positive influence in their lives. It has been a very unique experience that most study abroad students never have- to build a bond with a community of people you would not typically have the opportunity to interact with. I am so grateful to have had the chance to build a bond with some of the girls there, and I will genuinely be sad to leave them when my time here is through.