By Jon Tuttle, Summer 2017
The first day of the Khan Academy math program here at Bolivia 4Ward was slightly overwhelming. I was constantly surrounded by girls shouting “Tío! Tío! Me ayudas?! Tío, aquí!” Despite having worked quite a bit with kids their age before, this was very different. Everyone needed to be seen right away, and they usually wanted help with things they were pretty capable of doing themselves. After the initial shock, it all made sense to me. Coming from orphanages with limited resources that houses a lot of girls, with vastly different needs and abilities, they just needed a little attention. Instead of their neediness being frustrating, it quickly became a joy to share some time with them. Even when they asked for help on questions they already knew the answers to, it made me happy to work it out with them and see them smile when they realized they knew it.
I’m no expert in teaching, and I’m actually kind of bad at math, but that wasn’t really what was important here. The kids just need some attention, to know that they are important and that people care about them. It’s what we all need, and it’s even more crucial in developing confidence in a child that, in many cases, has come from a very scary or sad situation. They have folks at their homes that take care of them, but there’s only so much those good people can do towards replacing parents. I’m grateful to have found myself in a position to chip in a little bit, even if it’s just for two weeks, because kids need every bit of confidence and affection they can get. These past two weeks I got to see the enormous value in sharing time together, in giving someone your full attention, especially for kids who are just beginning to explore the world and themselves.