“Thank you, I like!” are the words we received from a participant at the end of a City X brainstorming game, a part of our High Priority Fun program. Coming from a young man who had previously had little opportunity to play games and learn about new ways of thinking – and had initially expressed little desire to take part in such activities – this was high praise. Smiles, laughter, and a willingness to be “silly” are among the many other intangible compliments we increasingly as we progressed through our time serving unaccompanied migrant minors in late August 2014. After traveling more than 2,000 harrowing miles from Central American countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, a small portion of these children landed at St. PJ’s Children’s Home in San Antonio, Texas. Here they are provided a safe, nurturing community to heal mind, body, and spirit as they await the next stage in their journeys.
FIT joined St. PJ’s Children’s Home International Program for a two-week deployment to develop a new, innovative recreational program curriculum. FIT volunteers from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise collaborated with direct care staff to ensure our activities met the needs of the International Program population – we ideated and adjusted the programs real-time to bring the best forward-thinking activities to the children. The curriculum areas include Art, Science, Innovation 101, Spontaneous Village (an improvisation theater-based program), and a Robotics Petting Zoo. Our activities focused on building community, encouraging empathy, learning how to think “loco” and out-of-the-box, developing new non-verbal communication skills, and fostering positive leadership development. Most importantly, we helped the children see that even though they have long been grownups in terms of their decision-making, responsibilities, and actions they can benefit greatly from creative programming.
FIT applied its method of innovation in real time to build a hard copy recreational curriculum for St. PJ’s throughout the deployment. Always concerned with how our work can be sustainable, our fabulous volunteers poured their hearts, sweat, and tears into an initial program, which was pro-typed, tested, and re-iterated into a curricula of 24 activities that is more than just fun stuff to do. The program is also about activating parts of the mind that allow children to make sense of and heal from traumatic events, envision positive futures for themselves, and build communities anywhere along their journey. While created with St. PJ’s staff and residents, we believe our High Priority Fun program can be applied post-disaster, in other humanitarian crises, and with refugee populations around the world. Please visit FIT’s website to view the program and see the list of people responsible for its creation. FIT is humbled and proud to have been able to work with St. PJ’s staff during this incredible journey.