April 2, 2014
Spring break is always an exciting time for fun and relaxation for students each year. Families often pack up for vacations while others spend their off days at home or doing extra-curricular activities. However, for children who live in area shelters, these opportunities may be a little harder to come by. Lack of transportation, as well as parents’ vacation time, makes travelling difficult, and not to mention area shelters do not offer an appropriate environment for children out of school.
This year, the YWCA’s After-School Enrichment Program (ASEP) made spring break come alive for our students living in area shelters with fun crafts and exciting field trips to the movies, roller skating and the highlight of the week, the Birmingham Zoo. At the zoo, students saw many different types of animals, including a special exhibit of animals from Africa! Students on the trip even got to feed nectar to wild birds, ride trains throughout the zoo and watch a live sea lion show. Trips like these enrich the children’s lives by expanding their view of the world, making it a bigger and more exciting place.
“Our program is very structured, but we work hard to keep the children engaged by presenting materials in an exciting way,” said Delyne Hicks, Senior Director of Child Care Services. “Nothing makes us smile more than to have our children tell us how much fun they are having while they are learning. That only means we are doing something right.”
“I think many of us are guilty of taking the privilege of childhood for granted–that’s something that becomes obvious when you see children who have so many other personal issues going on that they don’t get the chance to just be kids,” says ASEP instructor and AmeriCorps member Kelsey Kimberly.
The need for a program of this nature is great because the children are at a higher risk due to the transient nature of their families. The after-school program gives these children the extra attention and support they need during the school year. This is done through the use of tutors and academic enrichment activities. The YW works as a liaison between parents, shelters and counselors to ensure that the children's academic and emotional needs are being met.
“The children of ASEP normally do not have the opportunity to go on the kinds of adventures we’re able to provide for them, since being able to go to the zoo or skating rink usually isn’t a top priority for a family experiencing homelessness,” added Kimberly. “But during the spring and summer camps here at the YWCA, our kids get to go on the same outings as their peers, all free of cost.”
The YWCA Central Alabama would like to say thank you to all of the volunteers and staff members who chaperoned the children’s spring break activities. To learn more about the ASEP program, or if you are interested in donating to the YWCA, please click here.