It's that time of semester when we are back in Riverside. Today was a beautiful sunny fall day and the first group did their intervention in Riverside. As they usually are, they were a little worried about how it would go; they should not have been, but more on that later.
Today's intervention was about safety: fire, police, and Halloween safety. When to call 911, how to deal with a fire, and how to be safe on Halloween. Our favorite was when one of the social work student's asked, "Why should we know about safety?" and the child said, "Duh, so you can stay alive?"
Here is Firefighter Dr. Suz, ready to rush to the rescue.
Octavia and Susan model some of the masks for the children's Halloween goodie bags.
Policewoman Annie discusses when to call 911.
All in all, a terrific day! We had over 40 children--our largest group ever. Many parents were present today as well as there are new residents in the community. It was great to see the kids and parents with whom we have been working for the past three years, and even greater to meet new parents and new children. Many of the children who know me came to give hugs and say "hello, Dr. Allen, we have missed you." I met the newest police officer who replaced my old friend Greg, whose grandmother is my neighbor. It was wonderful to be able to say we would see them again next Monday, and that we would be back two more times after Monday.
It is impossible for the social work students to know how much of an impact they have on this community as they usually only see it once. But having been there for the last 3 years going on 4, I know what a difference we have made. I believe with all my heart that these kids will remember us and that we cared enough to spend our time with them, teaching, mentoring, tutoring, playing, encouraging, and just being present with them.
As I was leaving today, I met Stacy and her 3 daughters coming home. I stopped and said I was sorry they had missed us, but we would be back Monday. It meant so much to me that the 3 daughters all waved, said hello, and smiled to see me. I feel the same way about them. Stacy has been one of the mothers who has supported us and worked with us since we began. Even though her two older daughters have outgrown us, and her youngest is in an after-school program, Stacy has continued to value the work we do and to encourage us for what it means for the children.
As I usually am, I was impressed with the social work students and the outcome they produced. The program went seamlessly, due to their many hours of planning. They worked together and supported each other. I would declare it a great success for a number of reasons. The children loved it, and kept coming back and going station to station. They hung out to play in the area. More and more children kept coming as the afternoon went on--new families and younger children than we have had before. Most impressive, all the mothers and grandmothers who came out to see what was happening, and help their children complete activities.
I confess, it meant a lot to me to be able to say "We are from social work at Ole Miss, and we have been coming out here several times a semester for 3 years."
So once again, I am gratified at the outcome the students produced. It is hard work, and I was certainly exhausted after the two hours, but once again, proud that these students will soon be my colleagues as social work professionals in Mississippi, committed to making a difference in this state.