As I sit here reflecting on my early childhood experiences with local community or recreation centers, it almost feels like a distant but blissful memory. Growing up, I was constantly active and engaged with a variety of activities and programs offered at our local community center (the pal). Growing up we would go to the pal during any free time we had, they had a playground structure, a field, a basketball court outside, indoor play area and rooms. I participated in so many structured activities like drill team, cheerleading, karate, I ended up coaching Pop Warner and middle school cheerleading, we also would practice there sometimes when I coached high school cheerleading. So many of my peers also engaged in arts and crafts programs, dance, football, basketball programs, and much more. The recreation center even offered programs at local parks and schools, all summer they would provide sandwiches, milk/juice, and a snack to any child that came. I imagine there were some kids who looked forward to that free meal they received whose families may have been struggling. Food is so intertwined into every day life, functioning, brain health, mental health, and so much more. Something as basic as a sandwich is something I am extremely grateful for receiving, even as an adult.
I developed a strong sense of self, connected with others, and connected with the adults that were a part of the recreation center including the director and manager. It was a grounding experience and even after high school I would go back and check in with them around successes or accomplishments because their pride meant a lot to me, they meant a lot to me because they essentially watched me grow up. When I think about these memories and how so many communities here in the US and abroad, especially in Angola, that don’t have these types of centers and services it makes me really appreciate the opportunities I had but also inspires me to provide those same opportunities to the children in Angola, even in the smallest way. What kids of memories with structured (or unstructured) activities via your community centers do you have? What were some of your favorite sandwiches growing up?
Here was a staple of mine, some of you may not find it appealing but I still love this (Nutella Sandwich) 🙂