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16 January 2021


Volunteers give young a helping hand

Tuesday 18 July 2017 | Published in Local


Volunteers give young a helping hand
Teacher Amy Koekemoer congratulates a youngster during the programme on Thursday. 17071406

School teacher Amy Koekemoer and occupational therapist Donna Smith have combined their skills to set up a free after-school education programme for young children who need extra help with literacy.

Basic learning, such as the alphabet and reading and writing are fundamental to a child’s education, but some youngsters struggle and get left behind.

Apii-Te-Uki-Ou school teacher Koekemoer, said the goal of the Celebration on the Rock initiative was to work out the areas in which a child needed development and help them catch up with their age group.

“We focus on the basics of education. If the child has missed some fundamental areas of learning for some reason, then at least they can catch up.”

As an assessment, children involved in the after-school programme undertake a basic reading test to see what age level they are at. They are also assessed on how they write.

“If they don’t know three letters in the alphabet, then there are a lot of words they are not going to know,” Koekemoer said.

Smith, from the Te Vaerua Rehabilitation Centre, said it is common for children to get their vowels mixed up so they can’t differentiate between letters and vowels.

“With that being the case, I would then focus on what we call ‘visual discrimination activities’.”

Another key aspect of learning development is spatial awareness, and occupational therapist Smith said they get the children doing physical activities to help them establish a sense of space and direction.

“It’s not activities for fun as such, its more about left, right, up, down – understanding direction.

“If they can get their spatial awareness in tune, then they can write more confidently,” she said.

Koekemoer says they recognise the areas the children need most help with, but they don’t put a huge focus on their weaknesses.

“We want to focus on their strengths. If children who have struggled with learning come here and receive a heap of new stuff to learn, they will be overwhelmed and they are not going to feel successful.”

The idea is to help the children feel like they are achieving.

“We are reinforcing what they know, as well as teaching them the things they don’t know,” Koekemoer says.

“We don’t want them to feel like they are failing. We want them to feel like they are achieving.

The weekly programme has access to a number of volunteers who offer their assistance.

This week five volunteers from the United States and New Zealand have come to help with the programme via the Global Volunteers organisation that arranges opportunities for people to volunteer to help children around the world.

They would like to hear from local people, also passionate about the education of young children, who might want to help.

The programme is available to any primary school-aged child on the island.

Parents who would like to find out more can phone Smith on 58833 or Koekemoer on 56414.

The programme is held at Celebration on the Rock Church on Thursdays from 3-4pm, for primary school ages.