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The hundred or so children attending holiday camps this week at Team Durham has brought a whole new level of energy to the already bustling facility. For us DukeEngage volunteers, though, things have been surprisingly calm. Instead of helping coach or facilitate activities for the children (who range in age from four to 12), we’ve spent most of our time so far helping other younger volunteers earn an “award in volunteering” from the NCFE – a certificate that is meant to help those under the age of 18 prove that they’ve acquired certain useful skills while doing volunteer work. The required tasks to earn the certificate seem remarkably straightforward – make a PowerPoint that defines the word “volunteer”, create a list of skills needed to volunteer effectively, name two community service organizations – and it certainly doesn’t feel necessary for all five of us to deliver the instructions to volunteers who are plenty bright and capable. Occasionally, we’ve been left looking over kids’ shoulders as they do what feels like busy work.

While the NCFE work we’ve been doing this week has felt underwhelming, it’s not the only thing we’ve done. We’ve tried to assist in other aspects of the camps when we get the chance, and the coaches and facilitators have been receptive and welcomed the helping hands. We’ve also been tasked with creating short videos to promote each of the camps that Team Durham runs. I think that filming and editing these videos might prove to be a particularly interesting challenge given that I haven’t done anything seriously artistic since the days of high school digital media classes.

Weekends have continued to provide excellent chances to explore areas in County Durham outside of the city itself. Every town and city we’ve visited has been filled with sites older than America itself – the age and heritage of the buildings we see regularly continues to amaze me. I hope that our trip to Edinburgh this weekend will provide a different perspective on life in the UK, particularly since Edinburgh is the largest city outside of the county that we will get to visit.