BOJAN'S BLOG

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What we taught a 14-year-old today

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I was going to rant, but honestly what follows just made me kind of sad.

Miss F., who is 14, wants to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award program. The idea is that those kids who participate in the program will have an opportunity to learn about themselves and the world outside of the school environment, serve their communities, and hopefully become better citizens down the road. Part of the program requires them to spend one hour a week (ONE!) volunteering in their community. Miss F. loves books and spends a lot of time in the public library and she felt that it’s only right that she should volunteer with her library. She approached them on her own, which alone is a huge step for somebody who has always been cautious. She was told point blank that the library does not need or want volunteers. To say that she was disappointed, would be an understatement.

We heard several reasons why such response might have happen: the moral within the public library system is at an all time low (that I get, but still); taking volunteers is akin to admitting that volunteers can do the job of a unionized employee (I don’t get that one – why wouldn’t you want to work with a young person who is clearly your potential future member???); it’s difficult to find something for a 14-year-old to actually do… The point is that a 14-year-old was told by her favourite place in this city that she doesn’t have anything to offer that they would be interested in and that there is no place for her in the library other than as a patron. In the end, we helped her find a meaningful and a very exciting volunteer opportunity that she can start in January.

And then we tried to get her a swimming pass. Miss F. is an excellent swimmer. She has passed every swimming course available to her with flying colours. She has level one S.C.U.B.A. diving certificate. She has completed lifesaver program and now that she is 14 she is looking forward to her Bronze Cross certification training in January. She was approached several times by the local swimming club, but she has no interest in competitive swimming. She just wants to swim. Apparently, she is not allowed to do that for another year. At 14, she can only go to the pool during family swims when she cannot swim lanes, which is what she wants to do. She has no interest in splashing in the pool. So today, we had to tell her that there is no way for her to swim unless she joins a swimming club that does not offer anything but competitive program.

As I said, I don’t even have it in me to rant. It just makes me sad that a public library does not have a place for an eager 14-year-old bookworm and that she cannot swim for the joy of it – it’s either compete or don’t do it at all. I have no idea what is that she learned today, but I can’t imagine that it is a terribly useful lesson.

The seawall in the photo is in Bonavista.

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