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Baha’i volunteers delight kids after school

By Elizabeth Kenny

KITTERY, Maine - Ata Tabesh, 19, wears square black glasses and a winter hat indoors. Under the hat is a wig with long blond braids that bounce against his shoulders when he talks. He laughs when asked if he’s a role model to the 30 or so kids he interacts with every Monday at the Kittery Youth Connection after-school program.

But after meeting him and the other six volunteers from Green Acre Bahá’í School and Retreat Center, any parent would be thrilled to have them working with their child. laughs when asked if he’s a role model to the 30 or so kids he interacts with every Monday at the Kittery Youth Connection after-school program.

"The kids go to them like glue," said Pricilla Guy, the Connection’s chairwoman. "There is just a serenity feeling inside of these kids that you feel too when you’re around them."

The volunteers come to the center every Monday. Their devotion to community service radiates when they say they choose to come each week even though Monday happens to be their only day off from their other volunteer jobs at the Green Acre Bahá’í School. onday at the Kittery Youth Connection after-school program.

At the school, the group of 18- to 22-year-old volunteers helps with maintenance, prepares meals, and does other work in the kitchen and the office.

At the center, the group plays with cars, paints, bakes and chats.

"I like building race tracks with the kids; it’s fun," said Tabesh, who came to the school from Baltimore, Md.

A smile spreads across eight-year-old Jack Tucker’s face when he sees the seven volunteers at his after-school program, preparing arts and crafts and getting ready to play with him.

Tabesh and Tucker quickly establish themselves on the floor, connecting pieces of a plastic road and pushing the miniature cars around.

"We talk about cars and motorcycles," Tucker said. "They’re cool. They do lots of cool stuff with us."

The two laugh and talk to each other about their favorite cars.

On the other side of the room, three of the volunteers squeeze paint onto plates and set up a craft project with a few of the children.

"You can talk with them if you have any problems, like if me and my friends get in a fight," said 9-year-old Tim Appleby. "They bring us back together ... they’re nice."

The Bahá’í religion focuses on the themes of spiritual transformation, race unity, the equality of women and men, and community service. r ... they’re nice."

"Sometimes playing with the kids seems like a pretext," said Eva Lohrasbi, 20, from Washington state. "A lot of people think kids don’t know much, but while you’re playing and talking with them, you start to learn so much."

One of 19-year-old Lindsey Milburn’s favorite memories volunteering was making a surprise visit last Thursday.

"All the kids were so excited," Milburn said. "They all started running around. That was the best."

©Copyright 2003, Portsmouth Herald (NH, USA)

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