For more than 5 years, Lakia Small has been actively engaged in the Playmaker movement, helping to spread the power of optimism to some of Greater Boston’s most vulnerable kids.
In 2008, Lakia started working fulltime in the classrooms at the JFK Head Start Center in Charlestown. She loved her job, and the kids loved her.
It was through the Life is Good Kids Foundation’s workshops and retreats that she learned why she was so good at her job, and how she could intentionally be even better – for herself and for the kids she was caring for.
“I figured out that a big reason why the kids were connecting with me was because of how I was making them feel. Engaging them in a way that brought joy and laughter. I wanted to make my Headstart classroom a place filled with love, and fun, and compassion – a place where kids could actually play.”
Lakia wanted to help shine her “light” in the community where she lived. Lakia began working on the PTA at her daughter’s school in conjunction with supporting the children without homes whose families were temporarily living in the Brockton Hotels.
Brockton’s Coordinated Family & Community Engagement (CFCE) subcontracted with Justice Resource Institute’s (JRI) Early Childhood Training & Consultation Department (ECTC) to develop play groups as well as family supports in the Brockton Hotels. When Lakia initially began her groups in the Hotels she thought she’d just be working with children, but it became clear almost immediately that both the children and their parents needed some support in learning how to really play and connect again.
“I feel like the kids I’m working with now get shoved under the rug. Like their families are invisible. They’re not. They are simply families without homes, and they have been through so much trauma. They deserve to have time to let go, and just play.”
“You know, I would come in with a plan that I thought was awesome, but then realize I had to meet these families where they are. So, we take it step-by-step. My job has to start with helping them access resources so that they can be present with me to play. I’m really helping them by providing them with the resources to get food they need, get their kids registered for school, and continuing to encourage them to know how to keep getting what they need AND play. All their basic needs.”
Lakia not only helps her families get what they need to survive, she uses the Playmaker approach to create environments and relationships where they can truly live. Lakia has built the kind of relationships with her families that last years, as evidenced by the parents & children who keep returning to her play groups years after moving out of the hotels. She has created groups for younger kids, older kids, parents, families, because in her mind: Everyone needs to play. It is a basic need.
Lakia remains an active and awesome member of the Playmaker movement. Always a learner, she has pursued dual bachelors at UMass Boston in Early Education and Care and Administration and Supervision and is pursuing an MSW in the near future. Today you’ll find her making a whole lot of kids and families smile in the City of Brockton.
It’s kind of amazing the amount of laughter a little hotel room can hold.