Joyce Meng's Blog

Day #14 - Peace School Students Visit

January 4, 2010

I woke up later than Jia today – the allergic reaction she had to the pineapple kept her awake all night. The swelling looked rather itchy and uncomfortable, but not dangerous, for which we were all very relieved. We ate a breakfast of samosas with a pea filling in preparation for a busy day working with the students from the Peace School who were called back to school from their vacation by Morris and Helen via radio for the sole purpose of spending a day with us!

The students started arriving at 10 AM – at first, in small numbers. To get them accustomed, I played a couple of games with Natasha and Shareen to show the other kids that I’m a friendly person – in no time, they joined in! Jia then came out and we began filming and carrying out the $50 campaign.

We countered many troubles today in the execution of the $50 campaign. First, some of the children got very intimidated in front of the camera because they weren’t given an opportunity to get accustomed to the equipment the beforehand. Second, too many of the adults and teachers were watching and barking out orders – the children tended to freeze up when this occurred, giving rather mechanical responses. Third, we felt very rushed the entire time, as we had very limited opportunity to warm up the students. The teachers would usher in the students that just arrived, and by 11 AM, they came in large groups. I wanted Isaac and Farook to play a game with the kids to keep them occupied, but they ended up just ordering the children around. For the most part, I felt very alone and time-strapped in trying to explain to the kids the project, taking down their name, age, and number, and preparing them for Jia’s video interview in the most natural way possible. We really did the best that we could under difficult circumstances, but even though we collected a substantial number of drawings from students and alumni, we had trouble with the quality of the video.

Jia, at this point, started feeling very unwell, understandable given that she had to smile and laugh despite her mouth hurting. So, I ran out into the courtyard and tried to play games with the kids. We started with two games that I knew – duck/duck/ goose and sharks and minnows. The kids seemed to enjoy the game, but I felt that the group was so large (probably about 50) that there wasn’t sufficient space to fully involve everyone. Thankfully, one of the teachers stepped in to help. We played capa (cat and mouse), and then a fun boys v. girls tug of war game, in which the girls won in a dramatic manner!

[Below is a video of “capa”. It’s very similar to duck, duck, goose, except that you don’t have to run in a circle, the mouse is everyone’s ally so he or she can weave in and out of the circle, while everyone tries to keep the cat away. The “tug of war” game was really fun because each side marches up to the other and declares war, and yells out a name of a child from the opposing team. Then, the selected child from each team walks up to the center and tries to pull the other child over midpoint line.]

Then, Joanita informed us that the children were hungry, so she wanted to hand out snacks. We told her that the $50 campaign and the snacks can be done simultaneously – in fact, we preferred the kids to be engaged in some type of activity rather than waiting around, as we only had limited sets of crayons and drawing space.

In general, Peace School students understand the question much better and have a clearer notation of what they want to buy, may it be dolls, biscuits, cars, houses, phones, laptops, etc. They also appeared much more confident in general with sufficient English comprehension, perhaps a fact of having received education. We didn’t get very much footage of the kids in a very relaxed, casual manner, but we did the best that we could under very constrained circumstances.

[Below is a picture of some kids showing off their drawings. Among the young kids, “biscuits” were a very popular answer, photo courtesy of Jiashan Wu. At first, I didn’t understand why they chose biscuits (cookies), but Joanita later informed me that biscuits are a luxury consumption item. In fact, when she first came to the USA, she couldn’t believe that people were eating cookies everywhere!]


Notably, I had a chance to meet many of the Peace School students that we’ve sponsored on Givology! We recorded an interview with them, as well as collected a letter for posting on our site. These kids come from a diversity of backgrounds, but share a common passion for learning.

[Here is a picture of one of our sponsored Givology students writing a letter for Givology/ She’s very young, so struggled to think of what to write, so I told her that if she wanted, she could draw a picture instead. So, she drew a picture of a house for Givology!]


We had a very late lunch, as we had to finish collecting all the drawings. Given the frenetic nature of the day, lunch had an uncharacteristically solemn atmosphere, as everyone felt exhausted. After lunch, Joanita handed out to the donated clothes, toys, and items given be a local church in Boston. Given the sheer number of kids, pandemonium resulted as the kids clamored to get the best gifts as possible, often hiding their first gift to a second one (alas, a form of cheating that I found distasteful). Even though I shot footage of the process, I don’t think that as a donor, I would have liked to see such a video, as the children appeared very pushy and the dissemination of the gifts very forceful.

[Below is a video of the kids saying thank you for their gifts]

We rested for a bit afterward – Jia was feeling particularly sick, so I wandered about the yard myself. As Medina and Passy had come to me asking for an interview, I used my own videocamera to record an interview with both. After a few hours had passed, I went inside and woke Jia up to complete our interview with Damalie. Afterward, Jia went back inside as I stayed outside with the kids. Barbara, Sharifah, and the kids were playing all sorts of games, from jump rope to a variation of dodgeball. Notably, none of these kids own prefabricated toys, so all these games involved a high degree of resourcefulness in building the necessary items from scraps. I joined in on the fun! At this point, Isaac, Sula, and Bashir arrived and asked whether I wanted to play basketball. At first they were dubious that I knew how to play (in fact, I do…), but it turned out to be very fun once we all got into it.

The night ended very uneventfully with a quiet dinner, a shower, and then sleep. Jia’s condition caused quite a concern, but frankly, a food allergy just needs some time to dissipate. I’m slowly realizing that my trip is coming to an end – being here, I enjoy myself so much that I know that when I leave, I will miss the community here tremendously. Not coming from a large family myself, I’m discovering the joys of having a really large extended family. Very rarely do you get to meet someone, learn a lot about them, and then leave with the realization that perhaps, you won’t ever see them again in your lifetime. Our two world collided for three weeks and then inevitably, they separate.

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