Working as a Village: Kijiji Members Enlighten Children of the Future

From: Public Affairs

Senior Annie Smith pumps up the kids at Second Home Child Care Center before a game of kickball.

While strolling on the Quad, visiting the Planetarium and dining at P.C. Dukes are all ordinary activities for students at James Madison University, for the children of Harrisonburg's Second Home Child Care Center their field trip to campus was a unique adventure. JMU students who are involved with Kijiji, an interactive and experiential leadership program, hosted the children's field trip. Their day on campus is just one example of how the JMU students built trust, developed teamwork skills and fostered positive relationships with the children over the course of the fall semester.

Discover. Connect. Action.
Coined after a Swahili term that means “village,” Kijiji was formed during fall 2009 as an outlet for students to volunteer, solve challenging problems and enlighten the community as citizens of influence. Connecting with other like-minded students with a passion for making a positive impact on the world, members fulfill the principles of discovering, connecting and taking action through Change Action Projects each week.

“As an undeclared freshman, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on in college,” said Lynsee Fowler a senior majoring in media arts and design. “Once I saw that Kijiji was developed for students to help them find their strengths and passions, I applied right away. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to discover myself.”

Proactive partnership
This fall the Kijiji students applied their efforts to Second Home as groups of eight to nine students visited the center and interacted with the children each Friday. “Mirroring the significance of the word Kijiji, Second Home is a local, home-grown program that guides and inspires our group of 12 students,” said SHCCC Executive Director Patty Sensabaugh.

Through interactive games and group discussions, Kijiji members provided guidance, facilitated collaborative activities and built trustworthy relationships with students. “Kijiji contributed to Second Home by fostering interaction with children of lower-income families and enlivening their time spent in an after school environment,” said Matthew Cross, a senior art history major.

The children were able to relate to each activity, allowing them to call upon their cultural backgrounds. “We brought a six-foot blow-up globe and played a game where we worked together as a team to keep the globe in the air,” said Fowler. “We used different tactics to keep it in the air for as long as possible and the students pointed to different places on the globe, such as Mexico, El Salvador and Puerto Rico to show where they came from.”

In relation to their Kijiji Change Action Projects, members agreed upon two emergent themes within child development that everyone felt passionate about. “As a group, we discovered that we were all interested in positive self-esteem and body image, which we wanted to promote amongst elementary and middle school-aged children,” said Fowler. “Second Home was a great place to apply our CAP.”

Although members only spent one day at the care center each week, the children were able to bond with their role models by spending one-on-one time together. “By addressing their home life situations and future opportunities, we were able to channel that information to develop positive values and self-image,” said Paul Layne, a senior chemistry major.

Peeking into the future
Aside from fun games and activities, Kijiji members answered questions and walked the children through various options and possibilities for their future. By sharing accounts of their college experiences and personal goals and by accompanying the children around campus, Kijiji members stimulated discussions about the future with each student at Second Home.

“The trip to JMU was such an eye-opening experience for the kids,” said Layne. “Most of them said that they would like to come to college later down the road, but I think it was the food that impressed them the most.”

Engagement and interaction through discussions stressed the importance of school, homework, appropriate behavior and working hard to achieve future goals, leaving a lasting impression on the children.

“The group of JMU students who were involved with the Kijiji leadership program were powerful role models for the Second Home middle school kids and exemplify the fine contributions that JMU brings to the community,” said Sensabaugh. “They gave inspiration and hope for a better life for these children who live in the most impoverished neighborhoods of our city.”

For more information on Kijiji: http://info.jmu.edu/kijiji/
Related Story: http://www.jmu.edu/news/kijiji1.shtml

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By Lisl Magboo ('12), Public Affairs intern
December 20, 2011