My Time With Horizons for Homeless Children

By Cherai Mills

Horizons for Homeless Children was founded in 1988 as an independent, non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to serving young homeless children and their families. Horizons for Homeless Children touches the lives of more than 2,200 young homeless children each week in Massachusetts through Playspaces (educational and recreational spaces) in shelters and 175 children through its three Community Children’s Centers, Boston’s only comprehensive, full-time early education and childcare centers specifically for young homeless children.  In addition to direct service, we advocate on behalf of young homeless children and their families with policy makers and provide training and technical assistance to related service providers. Horizons for Homeless Children is supported primarily by charitable gifts from individuals, corporations and foundations.”

“Horizons for Homeless Children founded the Playspace Programs in 1990. Playspace Programs staff collaborate with residents and staff of the shelters to design and build age-appropriate, “kid-friendly” spaces that are equipped with libraries, climbing structures, art supplies and more – the all-important tools to challenge children physically and creatively and allow them to have a place to play, use their imaginations and be just who they are kids. A unique aspect of this program includes the recruiting, training, and placement of volunteers, a.k.a. Playspace Activity Leaders (PALs), in the shelter Playspaces to engage the children in fun, educational play so that they can grow and develop, as all children should.” For more information on becoming a PAL click here.

January of 2010 during my sophomore year at Lasell I started a life changing experience volunteering at the Putman Investments Children’s Community Center in Jamaica Plain. At this place there are classroom divided my age and as child grows they move on to the next classroom. I was placed in an infant classroom with kids from 3 months to a year. There was always a maximum of 7 kids placed in this room at any time.  The other classrooms at this center are infant toddler, toddler, and preschool. I started out volunteering on Friday mornings from 10-12 and when I got to the center the kids would play a little before lunch at 11:30 then naptime at 12.

Last May I switched to Tuesdays from 2-4 and when I would get there most of the kids would still be napping and they would wake up around 3 for snack then get ready to go home around 3:45. I loved the kids I volunteered with, if was fun watching them learn and grow. They were unique and definitely put a smile on my face every time I saw them. In December 2011 I decided I could no longer volunteer due to my hectic school schedule. I still think about my time volunteering and how much the kids I interacted with changed my life.

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