When I was growing up, I always said I wanted to work with children but I never pictured myself being a teacher. As the years went on, the thought of working with children faded away since I wasn’t quite sure how exactly that would appear and honestly, I started telling myself that I may not be as patient with children as I thought I would be. But here I am about to tell you how my gifts brought me to conduct my first Children’s Health Workshop at Urban Youth Impact.
For those wondering what is Urban Youth Impact (UYI), it’s a program that’s on a mission to love, equip and empower inner-city youth and their parents to fulfill their God-given purpose. Most of the children that attend these programs live in areas where there is poverty, low graduation rates, a high percentage of teen pregnancies, and higher crime rates. Through their programs, they seek to reverse troubling trends and fulfill their mission by offering programs designed to develop critical life-skills that result in less juvenile crime, fewer teen pregnancies, less substance abuse, less child abuse/domestic violence, and fewer school drop-outs.
I was connected with UYI through my current job at Chick-fil-A, where many of us volunteer there during the school year. As the school year was ending, and as I was learning more about health and happiness in my life, one day the idea of conducting a health class popped in my head. I contacted one of the leaders that works at UYI and presented the idea. They replied very quickly with much enthusiasm about my health class and wanted me to start in a few weeks for their summer program.
I was thrilled and nervous at the same time because I’ve never conducted a health workshop. Several thoughts came rushing to my head, “I need to plan! What will I teach about? How do I teach children? What if it I fail?” I guess that’s normal to be scared but the excitement that I would be able to teach children about health and even happiness was motivation enough.
My real motivation for wanting to do this, was because of my father. My father had high blood pressure, suffered from a stroke, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and then Alzheimer’s. I know that there was nothing I could do; I can’t help but beat myself up for not knowing more about health when I was younger. Part of me believes that if I would have known as a child that the food and lifestyle we were living was killing us, I would somehow have been able to give my dad a few more years. Maybe that’s just me being selfish. Something in my heart told me that I needed to teach children about it. My hopes is that they can influence their parents to live healthy and that they live longer years to spend with their family.
The class was held every Friday morning from 9:30 AM – 10:30 AM for four weeks. The last class will be Thursday, July 21st, where the students will serve healthy snacks to their parents and enjoy one of there last weeks at UYI before the school year starts. I will briefly go over what I taught them each week.
Week One: Sugar
- In this class, I discussed how much sugar a child is suppose to consume. I presented a few visuals for the children to see. I brought in powerade, coke, honey buns, canned fruits, and cereals to demonstrate how much sugar each item contains. They were all surprised when they found out that all of them contained sugar. I also showed them how to read the ingredients labels when shopping. They learned about other hidden names that sugar is called, for example, high fructose corn syrup.
Week Two: Fruits and Vegetables
- The children learned how many serving of fruits and vegetables they should have each day. I brought in different kinds of fruits and vegetables, the children were able to discuss out loud what each one was and why it’s important for our bodies. To my surprise, several of the children said that they love vegetables!
Week Three: Exercise and Positive Thinking
- In this class, we discussed why exercise is important to our daily routines. We did some exercises in the classroom, one of them was called Animal Kingdom where I shouted out an animal and the children had to go around the room impersonating it, it was quite hilarious. The second part was about positive thinking. We talked about ways we can start the day, some included by being thankful, praying, saying something nice about themselves or someone else, and by thinking happy thoughts. One of the kids, Lamar was very upset and angry that day, but we changed his attitude around but saying things we liked about him and talking about different things we could do instead of being angry. It was a great learning opportunity for them and for me, especially since I rarely work with children.
Week Four: Cooking with Karina
- The kids were asking to cook something for the past three weeks. I looked on Pinterest and found these simple but healthy fruit wraps to make with them. I brought whole wheat tortillas, some yogurt and cream cheese to spread on them, I cut up bananas, strawberries, kiwi, and cantaloupe to place on them. Once we all had the ingredients on the tortilla, it was time to roll it up and eat it! All of them loved it except for one. It was awesome seeing them have so much fun interacting with food and enjoying healthier treats.
Knowing that the health class is coming to an end breaks my heart but at the same time I am also grateful for the opportunity UYI gave me to be present in the lives of these children. The past four weeks have been such a wonderful experience and I hope that I was able to influence one child to live a littler healthier. This group of kids has a special place in my heart.
I sit here thinking to myself, how for years I would tell people I wanted to work with children but I didn’t know exactly how. I eventually stopped telling people that and didn’t picture working alongside kids at all. But here I am working and teaching children the importance of real food and happiness in one’s life. I’ve finally found one of my callings in life and it’s a feeling I cannot explain. I will tell you the truth, I’ve cried many happy tears because of it and it just feels right.
I want to tell everyone that sometimes your callings don’t appear to you right away. Don’t throw your dreams and goals out of the door because you can’t figure out what to do. Just place them aside for awhile if you need to because you never know when they will reappear. God has a plan, just let life takes it’s course and your true calling will find you.
I don’t know what my life has planned for me but I am excited to see where it takes me. I am also looking forward to conducting other health workshops!
May you all have a wonderful week and that you begin each morning with a happy thought. I am sending so much love, appreciation, and happiness your way.