As a year-long volunteer addressing racial, economic, and social injustices, my main focus in Philadelphia…
This year, I’m spending my days as a preschool aide at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries (MNM) in Philadelphia. As I sat in traffic on my way home from work, typical for Philadelphia, I reflected on the past 8 months and compiled a list of the top 5 things I have learned about serving in a preschool:
1) Be silly! Life doesn’t need to be so serious all the time and I’ve learned this from my group of 3-year-olds. Before starting my year at MNM, I wouldn’t dare be caught acting silly in public. Now, I just embrace it! Before this year, I would never have imagined I would walk around a neighborhood pretending to be a penguin or dance to a song about gummy bears, but that is exactly what I do with my preschoolers. Enjoy life, be silly!
2) Never wear white after Labor Day. Or at all if you’re working with 3-year-olds! I had never given this idea much thought until lunch time many months ago when one of the kids dropped his chocolate milk and it splattered all over the table and stained my shirt. Preschool is messy and fun and, for the most part, everything is washable!
3) Empty your pockets! I come home with an inventory of the kids toys every single day. My community members can attest to this because it all ends up on our kitchen table for a night. To date, I’ve come home with Legos, hair clips, gloves, toy cars, Play-Doh, scissors, and a magnifying glass. (I’m still working on this step myself.)
4) Love is important. The outpouring of love I’ve received since my first day has been so rewarding. I never knew that I would enjoy spending my days with a bunch of 3-year-olds as much as I do. Every morning when I greet the kids, they all come running with hugs! Every hug makes all the headaches and stress worth it! Mercy Neighborhood Ministries has such a close community and since my first day they have welcomed me in with loving arms!
5) Preschool education is so important! Preschool helps kids socialize and develop critical thinking skills. Every day my kids are learning through their environment, their interactions, their teachers and most importantly through play. It’s true when they say that children’s brains are like sponges! The things my kids have learned at the age of 3 is truly incredible. My kids can tell you who the first African American woman in space was and they can tell you who the president of the United States is (the list goes on and on)! The education that the children receive at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries is unlike any other and I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to help these children on their journey!
Fiona O’Hara: Mercy Neighborhood Ministries, Philadelphia
Photo featured above from left to right: Mercy Volunteers Katherine, Hillary, and Fiona with MVC alumna Grace. Grace served at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries in 2014 and has continued at MNM on the teaching staff!