Written by Grace Buck, WLLC 2015-2016
This quarter, my partners and I worked with the Bridge Project, a community outreach initiative program designated to helping young children move more seamlessly throughout school by teaching them valuable social skills and extracurricular learning to improve grades and likelihood of graduation. Going into this service experience, I expected to be at the beck and call of the supervisors in aiding the children’s program. Instead, we were thrown into a very lively bunch of young girls, without direction, and immersed in an incredibly unexpected culturally diverse community.
We were assigned the girls of the program ranging between five and ten years old. These beautifully dark-skinned Muslims were hesitant to welcome in our kind, but warmed up very quickly when they realized, although we may look different, on the inside everyone is the same. The diversity was further exemplified with cultural differences; the girls wore brightly colored hijabs to protect their course-braided hair and dressed in many printed layers of pants and skirts. They were enamored with the smooth texture of our hair and the numerous piercings in our ears, touching our heads at every chance they could get. My partners and I quickly learned characteristics of their culture. For example, Muslims are not permitted to pet dogs.
In this experience, we were able to reach the girls in a way they hadn’t communicated with young adults before. Rather than being their supervisors, we acted as their friends and say many behavioral patterns arise. Without establishing boundaries, the girls would hang all over us and intrude on personal space, which doesn’t bother me. It was most interesting to determine the attitude of the girls towards us at the end of the service from the beginning. Being accepted into a different community was truly enlightening. I am thankful for the experience to reach these students and hopefully make an impact on the direction of their future interactions with different cultures.