Kids' Activities - Nienke Kehrer

Two big brown eyes are staring up at me. Someone pulling my shirt from behind. I look around. Ten more pairs of big brown eyes are staring up at me. ‘My friend, my friend’ I hear. Little hands are held up in front of my nose.

I’m holding a bag of cut up straws, in all different colors. Today we are making pasta-straw necklaces during the Kids' Activities under the infamous 'olive trees', the area next to the camp. Kids' activities is one of my favorite things to do here in Samos. I put a little bit of straws in each of the small hands, so they can string it up the woolen threads they have already gotten. Some of them are coming right back, trying to hide the other hand that is already full of colored straws and pasta. When I look them in the eye to ask if they already have some, they giggle and run away again. After that they walk towards the tarp laying on the dusty ground, sitting around in little groups. The bigger brothers and sisters helping their younger siblings, bickering over which color should go on first. They start making the most beautiful necklaces in all different colors. One by one they put the macaroni and straws on the necklace, picked with the utmost care. Pink, green, blue, macaroni, yellow – and the same pattern again.

After half an hour, most of the children have made three or four necklaces and bracelets, walking around proudly, draped with their jewelry. The girls pretend they are grown up, beautiful ladies with fine jewelry, the boys make more 'manly' necklaces and bracelets using macaroni. I also get a necklace from one of the kids.

Some of the children are helping us to clean up the mess, running back to me with hands full of straw-pieces that were left on the tarp. After cleaning up the activity, we go and stand in a circle. Even though that is not the easiest task to achieve with 30 children who don’t have a common language, within a couple of minutes everybody has gathered in a circle. We sing songs about five little ducks who went swimming, do the underwater boom-chica-boom and go bananas. The children know the songs almost better than the volunteers we are with, and love to take the lead when they can. Playing duck-duck-goose, the next activity, can go on for at least 15 minutes, it doesn’t bore them at all, ever. Some of the kids run 15 laps around the circle instead of the intended one, which is good to get their energy out I guess.

When they are finally done with that game, we take turns in making weird walks across the field. Everyone gets to make up their own: jumping like a frog, walking sideways, on one leg or just running as fast as you can. There is a lot of laughing, screaming and energy outbursts. Then onto playing soccer, and the skipping rope. The children make a line and wait for their turns. Some kids reach over 50 skips over the rope, others hang from a tree branch doing pull ups, and the rest is playing tag. At the end of the 'playground' under the olive trees, the boys are taking turns shooting at an imaginary goal. They yell loudly whenever someone scores.

At the end of the session it is a bit of a wrestle to get all the skipping ropes, balls and other stuff back into the bag that the volunteers have to bring back home again. But in the end, all the kids help cleaning up. Two little girls carry the big tarp we sat on back to the container we store it in, happy to help and take another turn, horseback-riding on the back of one of the volunteers. Walking down through the camp, back to the Alpha Centre, there is a whole crowd of kids running around us. As they get to their tent in the camp, some of them say goodbye. Others we have to send back into the camp as they followed us outside to the big road.

See you tomorrow my friend? Yes, see you tomorrow.