I was asked to write an article about the Children’s House for a Hungarian magazine. Here it is:
As a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Young Adult in Global Mission program I have been working with the Filadefia Evangélikus Egyházközség in Nyirtelek, Hungary and its long-term mission outreach to the nearby Roma village of Görögszállás. The ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission program places 60-something young adult volunteers in 9 different countries for a year of mission service and I was blessed with being placed in Hungary. My primary tasks here are to work at the morning child-care program in the Roma village, teach English, and help with church events.
The morning- time care program at the Gyerekház (Children’s House) runs Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 1:00pm wherein I, along with the 4 other women who work there, minister to the families of Görögszállás by working with the children. Frist and foremost, the House provides structure for the people it serves by posting weekly schedules that list the planned activities and snacks so the children and families know what to expect when they join us. No matter what the day’s activities include, we have a consistent daily structure that gives kids time to play for the first hour they are at the House, then, after washing hands, singing a table blessing, and saying a prayer, we enjoy one another’s fellowship through sharing a snack at 10:00am. After our snack, the kids once again play with the House’s countless toys while we set up for art/craft time. The kids are not only able to exercise their imaginations during art/craft time; they are able to develop their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination through coloring, cutting, drawing, gluing, and painting. Again, after art/craft time, the kids have time to play with one another and us, the staff, wherein the children’s motor, social, and interpersonal skills can further develop.
Whether we bury toys in the sandbox, kick the ball back and forth, or crawl around on the floor, the kids’ motor skills and coordination become more refined, giving them more control over their bodies. Their abilities to make more precise movements not only strengthens various muscle groups, but also allows the children to complete tasks independently, giving them more freedom. One important development milestone we foster at the House is crawling. We have a nice carpet laid out on the floor that provides the little kids with space to lie, roll, sit, or crawl; the time the children spend on their bellies lets them use and strengthen their upper bodies enough to eventually begin to crawl. In addition to building trunk, shoulder, and hand muscles, the mechanics of crawling stimulates different parts of the brain essential for future learning. The repetition of crawling organizes neurons, giving the brain the ability to control the cognitive processes of comprehension, concentration, and memory, and the cross-lateral movements of crawling strengthens and increases communication between both sides of the brain. Binocular vision and hand-eye coordination also improve from crawling, setting the stage for future reading, writing, and sports skills.1
Additionally, play time provides the children with space to develop social and interpersonal skills by giving the kids opportunities to interact with their peers in a socially acceptable and healthy manner. Friendships and the approval of his or her peers becomes increasingly important as a child ages, so at the House we make sure to positively reinforce good behavior and discipline bad behavior so the friendships the children form are as healthy as possible. We, the adults, have an active part in play time because our assistance is needed to solve arguments and problems, but many social skills are developed from our interventions as the children learn to compromise, share, and take turns. Parent involvement is also important and strongly encouraged at the House because it significantly impacts children’s social development; parental interactions let children form strong bonds with their parents, therefore, providing the child with a comfortable atmosphere in which to grow.2
Our focus on development at the House makes it an enriching place for the children and families who come because it gives them all a space to learn and grow together. I have learned a great deal about child development, family, community, and God’s love from my time at the Gyerekház because I have been a witness God’s transforming love. Being a part of the Gyerekház staff and the community of Görögszállás has been a very fulfilling experience for me because I get to see and be active in the work God does in the community every day—it is quite powerful. Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for the incredible people in Görögszállás and the inspiring love of God.