I wanted to share with you how God has answered a big prayer for our team in St. James Town. For the past 1-2 years, we had been praying for acceptance and celebration of individuals in our program. There are always kids who are a bit more shy or are socially different or misbehave which causes others to dislike them. They are often ignored, ostracized, or made fun of by others. The team in St. James Town have it on our hearts that it is important for each child to feel valued and celebrated in order to feel a sense of belonging. To that end, we made conscious efforts to celebrate each kid. Every week, we highlighted two kids by asking them questions so everyone could get to know them. If you're curious, the questions are:
- What is your favourite animal?
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
- What is your favourite movie?
After sharing, each child is given the chance to write encouragement notes to the students featured.
This alone, of course, does not create an environment of belonging. God has shown His faithfulness in answering our prayers in many ways. This year, we have many young kids in our program. This has propelled some of the older ones to step up by playing with the younger kids and helping them out. Even when we had a brand new kid show up who proved quite difficult to work with, the other students were not only tolerant but often reached out to play with him and help him despite the fact that he was being unkind to others. Moreover, kids who were previously ignored are being welcomed into groups. One boy who had struggled in the past with social interactions, was even teaching a younger child empathy ("How would you feel if someone did this to you? That is how it makes other people feel.")
We don't take this kind of atmosphere lightly. We know that God has been working in and among us and our kids to develop this kind of attitude. We root our growth and our continued growth in celebrating kids and creating a safe space in the fact that God made all of these children and He doesn't just patiently tolerate them, but instead, delights in who they are and loves them deeply.