|Volunteer Molly Rudman (left) plays with one of the children at HAC's Angel House shelter.
Living in a shelter can be difficult for anyone, but it can be especially trying for older children, in part, because they don’t have the luxury of inviting friends over to hang out after school.
But a group of local students, led by Francesca Galazzi, 16, changed that the second half of this past school year. Joined by her sister Michela, 14, and their friends Molly, 16, and Halle Rudman, 15, and Joy McCarthy, 14, the group would spend an hour nearly every Saturday, from March to June, playing with children at HAC’s Angel House shelter in Hyannis.
They planned activities in advance, running them by facility director Lin Rohr. On Mother’s Day weekend, they made cupcakes. On other days, the activity was a little less structured with the group playing on the shelter’s swing set and running around outside.
“I’d be upstairs in my office and I’d hear laughing, giggling, the kids yelling, ‘I’m going to get you,’” Rohr said. “It was a positive experience, not only for the kids who live here, but for all the volunteers.”
Beyond that, Rohr said, it served as an opportunity for children outside of a homeless shelter to connect with those living in one. “For the teenaged volunteers, it breaks down any stereotypes they had about what homelessness looks like,” Rohr said.
One of the teenagers living at Angel House said the Saturday play groups were important to him because it allowed him to socialize with his peers. “Instead of having older volunteers, these ones are our age and we can play with them,” he said. For him that meant games of chess, playing cards and showing them his magic tricks.
“Everyone has different paths, but you can all help each other and have fun,” Francesca said of what she has learned from the experience. And despite being from disparate backgrounds, she said, “we always have fun together. They are really cool kids.”
While Francesca, Michela, Molly, Halle and Joy all took the summer off, they plan on renewing their Saturday play dates at Angel House once school begins in September.