Acadia’s S.M.I.L.E program is a worthwhile experience at Acadia that goes beyond volunteering, as time flies by spending sessions with your Buddy. S.M.I.L.E stands for Sensory Motor Instructional Leadership Experience, and based on your Buddy’s needs, each week leads to new motor and cognitive goals. S.M.I.LE. leaders instruct volunteers to set new goals for their Buddies every week and monitor their log sheets with comments to ensure each Buddy ends up with the care they deserve.
Although students may see volunteering as blips in their busy week, their Buddies look forward to the experience and count on them. For me, my Buddy always brought a smile to my face and gave me a cheery persona that I looked forward to seeing as soon as I finished class. I always sprinted back to Residence to shower off the chlorine from the pool before my next class and felt recharged for the rest of the day. Seeing a Buddy once a week who lights up as soon as you show up at the pool boosts your emotional well-being more than you could imagine.
My Buddy especially loved dancing, so to incorporate her love for not only swimming but dancing, we would take turns coming up with dance moves in the water that the other had to mimic. She always giggled while watching the silly dance moves that barely worked while the weight of the water anchored our lower bodies from letting out the exceptional dancers that we are. Eventually, we dipped into math games in between laps. Slowly but surely, my Buddy would improve not only in her impressive math skills but with coming up with new dance moves for our favourite game. Each time we met up we would ask each other about what we ate for breakfast that day (I often slept through breakfast); however, she always tried out new bagel flavours that made me wish I had woken up early.
All around, S.M.I.L.E. enriches people’s lives with happy mornings and afternoons, depending on which program your S.M.I.LE. Buddy participates in. The program name suits the experience well, as each visit leaves your mouth hurting from all the natural smiles that your Buddy brings. If you have not had the pleasure of attending S.M.I.L.E, check out the program next year! If you are too busy to be a weekly Buddy, you can always try out being an alternate if someone cannot attend due to circumstances. You gain the chance to see how the program runs and watch the busy excitement as Buddies leap into the Athletics Complex for an eventful swim or play. For Buddies who enjoy less busy stimuli, the Snoezelen room is located near the gym for relaxed playtime. The lights and calm surroundings are enough to make anyone feel at peace.
S.M.I.L.E. not only affects children’s lives for the better, but they have a mature age group as well for Friday nights if volunteers feel more comfortable with an older age group. S.M.I.L.E suits anyone, as the curated environment is full of love and happiness that feels contagious as soon as you step into the gym or pool area. Stay tuned next year for any releases on S.M.I.L.E programs if they open because the experience is 100% worth it.