Befre Yu G

Plan the First Visit

Now you have your visit all set up; the home and the volunteers are all ready to go. It’s the week before the big day and you’re probably starting to feel a little nervous, and one question keeps running through your head – ‘What on earth am I going to do?’

To save you from last minute panics, have a look through this checklist. A little planning and attention to some key little things will make sure that your visit runs smoothly.

  • For your first visit, your priority should be introductions and giving the kids and the volunteers plenty of time to get to know each other. Choose games that have lots of icebreaking and introduction opportunities.
  • Do a questionnaire, like the one we have very nicely provided for you *here* (Link). This will let you know what the kids themselves want to get out of the visits and the kind of activities they want to do. Plus, it nicely fills those last fifteen minutes!
  • Consider the number of volunteers and children you’ll have. Preparing intricate small group activities for a group of fifty may be more hassle than it’s worth! Have a look through our Game Ideas – we have suggestions for groups of every size.
  • Also think about the space you have. If you only have a small space available, you may want to avoid big, crazy run-around games. If this is the case, and you have nice weather, why not think about using the great outdoors? Check out our “Special Events” (link) page for ideas on fun visits outside.
  • Try to think well in advance what props and materials you’ll need, so you’re not up until the wee hours the night before, drawing and gluing things together! If you are making a lot of original materials, try and enlist some volunteers to help you –not only will you save time, increasing participation increases volunteers motivation.

Below is one possible model for the timing your first visit

  • 50 minutes of small group games. It will be easier for everyone to be introduced if you work in smaller groups. Think of about having a number of different small activities with different volunteers running them set up around the room, so that kids can move from one station to another. This keeps up the variety and allows all the volunteers and kids to meet each other.
  • 20 minutes of down time. Give everyone a chance to relax, go to the bathroom and catch their breath. Everyone can kick back and chat in a more natural environment. If you’re worried about things getting awkward, little props can break the ice – something as simple as a set of sunglasses or a funny hat can get the kids giggling.
  • 50 minutes of games everyone can play together, to end things on a high note. Games like “Duck, Duck, Goose” and “Bingo” are good, easy ideas and will have the kids really excited about your next visit! Try to leave some space for the kids to do the questionnaire.

Sometimes institutions request that instead of large group games, volunteers focus on teaching English, helping children with their homework, coach a sport, or teach yoga, dance, or a musical instrument. If you have a special skill let them know that it is something you could do with the kids. For smaller volunteer visits, or individual volunteer visits, these activities can often work really well. The process of figuring out what you will do should be one of give and take. You have your ideas and skills, and they have their knowledge of the kids and what they will like and find helpful. Don’t go in demanding to do something, but also don’t agree to something that they request if you cannot actually do it!

Very important note: Please communicate with the home staff before your visit to ensure that at least one staff member will be present throughout the entire visit. It is always best to have support there in case you need it. Smile Kids Japan is not responsible for the actions of individual volunteers and volunteer groups.