Learning Through Volunteering!

I have always found myself drawn to the community that I am surrounded by. Life can get hectic- from figuring out how to open my locker freshman year of high school to navigating second floor Swem last year- school is something I always get caught up in. I have noticed here, being at William and Mary, this can happen to a lot of us. There is so much activity and life here on campus, it’s easy to forget about the surrounding area. I knew I needed some sort of escape last year- just a time once a week to get off campus and see the true city of Williamsburg. Luckily, through the Office of Community Engagement, I found the opportunity to volunteer at a local daycare located at Lafayette High School.

After our first initial meetings, I knew this place was different. Amazingly, this day-care provides FREE healthcare for families with low income or children with disabilities. I know- your jaw is probably on the ground. Day-cares can cost upwards of $12,000 dollars a year. The stress that comes from trying to find reliable care for children while balancing multiple jobs can be stressful, but the people at Child Development Resources (CDR) are there to help. Before going, I learned about the rates of poverty (23%, higher than the national average of 14%) and homelessness in Williamsburg, which surprised me considering how well off the city seems to be. The first time I went, I was kind of in shock. It had been a long time since I had been around children, much less babies. The children at CDR range from infants to three years old. A good handful don’t talk yet, so it took me a while to get into the groove of communicating and playing with kids that young. But after the initial nerves of interacting with the children, I couldn't’t believe I hadn't thought of this sooner. It was so nice just to be silly and make someone laugh who wouldn't’t care what you wore or who your friends were.

The innocence of children is something I wish I still had. They always get so excited to see us teenagers walk through the door. The incredible workers there are also incredibly relieved to see energized and engaged young people who were ready to give undivided attention to these babies. Many of these children come from less than ideal circumstances that I cannot get into, but are still so happy and so ready to engage with us. Every week I got to just play and laugh and forget my own stresses for a couple hours. If that’s not amazing, what is? I was so grateful to have the opportunity to help out, even if it was for a couple hours. The experience of getting off campus and interacting with those in completely different situations than me honestly humbled me. Interacting is one of the best parts of being human. I would 1000% recommend that any college student takes time to volunteer in the city. The valuable lessons it taught me, I wouldn't’t trade for the world.