2017 Week Six: Youth & Family Wellness
Last week you heard a little bit about my experience in preparing for the Women’s Empowerment Conference and how difficult that was. Although I had a hard time last week, I took the weekend to rejuvenate and do something relaxing so that i could come in this week and do my best as the conference was going to be on Thursday later this week. I was really excited because I had put in so much effort in several different ways. I flyer around the neighborhood a month before the event, called 50+ women 6 or more times, created a program for the event, put together gift bags, and more. After putting all of this work into the conference I was so excited to see how the conference would turn out. I had 20 confirmed women (the number we wanted) and it was very low stress the week of due to all of the work we had put in ahead of time. We even went to the venue the day before and set everything up for the next day so we only had to worry about food the day of the event. It felt very odd to not be running around last minute ensuring everything was running smoothly but I was proud to have been a part of the preparation process.
The day of the event came on Thursday morning when women began showing up at 9:30 in the morning for the conference that was supposed to begin at 10:00am. As I helped check in all of the women that were showing up, they were all very excited about getting to meet other women in the community and everything they were going to learn in the workshops. However, the stream of women strolling in stopped flowing in and no one else came. What we thought was going to be a large crowd ended up being composed of half of the number of people we wanted. Instead of having 20 people from the community that I had confirmed, we ended up only having 20 people out of the two communities we were targeting. I felt like I had put in so much effort in trying to communicate with the community to ensure that there would be good attendance and it felt like it was all for nothing. Even though I felt defeated, I knew that we had to continue to the conference and ensure the rest of the day went smoothly for those that did show up.
Overall, the conference was very successful and I myself feel more empowered to continue moving along in life after this conference and everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. As I was able to sit in on one of the workshops, the attendees really took the opportunity to take advantage of the other women around them and the workshop leaders in order to gain parenting advice, find out how to get their G.E.D. and more. Seeing how much this conference made a difference for the women who did come made me realize that even though attendance was lower than expected, the women who came really benefitted from the conference.
Attendance and commitment has been a constant obstacle for me in my time in community organizing overall. I take time to speak with people individually, ask what they need or want in the community, provide the resources that I can, and then very few people take advantage of the opportunities presented to them. This is something that I will continue to work on and look forward to trying to overcome in the rest of my time in Barclay as well as in my future in community organizing.
One of the things I was most excited about when I got assigned to SquashWise was- unsurprisingly- getting to play squash with the kids. Most of them seemed excited, even impressed when I told them that I used to play squash semi-regularly when I was a kid, and sporadically when I was in middle school. I, however, hadn’t played in years and was also quite nervous at the thought of revisiting a sport I had lost familiarity with.
During the second week, my supervisor invited me to one of the squash sessions and let me practice with two of the girls who were working on their boasts. I felt like I was interfering with their practice more than helping or interacting with them. I was only starting to get to know the kids, which led to extended awkward silences throughout the practice, and sometimes my shots forced the kids to run from one side of the court to the other, trying to hit what should have been easy shots. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to playing again.
However, this week that changed. My supervisor had asked me during our midpoint evaluation meeting if there was something I wish I could do more of in the last few weeks of my internship. I swallowed the knot in my throat and admitted that I hoped to try playing squash with the kids in an effort to interact with them in a different kind of setting that didn’t involve textbooks or calculators. He agreed and a few days later I found myself in a court waiting for a kid to join me.
To my surprise, that was probably the most fun I’d had in the camp so far. Not only were the kids surprised to see me with a racquet and goggles, they seemed excited to play with me. What I had envisioned as a chill session of hitting the ball back and forth turned into a rather intense king of the court match, as three sixth graders joined me in the court. At the end, I was exhausted but I was incredibly happy to have had the opportunity to get to know some of the kids outside a classroom setting. With a lot of deadlines as well as the end of the internship coming up, I won’t have a lot of time to play squash with the kids, but I’m very grateful that I got to spend that valuable time with the kids and revisited my love for the sport.
Earlier this week, a mama (what we call the female adults at Freedom School) asked when my internship was ending. Before I could respond “in about two and a half weeks,” Rev. Brown interjected with “never! He ain’t leavin’.” and that made me smile.
I find it absolutely crazy that we’re currently finishing up week 6. It feels weird to reflect and realize that I have been working for the network for more than a month. During our Bites of Baltimore session this week, I realized that working for the network and freedom school has not felt like an internship at all. The people involved with these organizations treated me as an equal and gave me a fair share of responsibility and I think that is one of the key reasons I have truly enjoyed this internship.
One thing though: I have not spent as much time with the Freedom School as when Rev. Brown was out of the country. I pretty much go to Pleasant Hope to do Network stuff and the kids see me and get super excited and I miss hanging and learning with them. While I’m sure it is not that big of a deal, I am still going to ask Rev. Brown if I can spend more time with Freedom School these last two weeks.
I think one of my favorite moments from this week was when a student at the Freedom School stopped in Rev. Brown’s office (where I was working then) and very inquisitively asked if I was his brother just because we both wear glasses. Since me and Rev. Brown are both in and out of Freedom School, the majority of students have not seen me and him next to each other. So next time you see two people with glasses, they must be related.
Last week was great, but of course it came with its challenges as usual. For the good parts I really felt like I reached a new level of trust with my campers. I also feel like I was able to further be a part of the community. One of the teachers who comes in to teach the kids public speaking each Tuesday invited me to pick kale and basil at the organic garden that she tends to. We went to the garden at 7am on Wednesday morning and we were able to get to know each other outside of the classroom. I was able to hear about her time as a teacher in Baltimore City and her true passion she has for helping children in Baltimore succeed no matter what there situation is. Also, we got the chance to meet with people from PAL who were potential donors. While speaking with them, Squeaky told his story about the rec and why he started it and why it is imperative that we get financial support. While he was speaking he started tearing up and it was so easy to see how passionate he was about the center and the community. I couldn’t help but get choked up as well. After he told his story the people at PAL genuinely said that they wanted to help. I say genuine because there are so many times when people say they are going to help, but it falls through or they provide something that isn’t actually needed. This man felt Mr. Squeaky’s passion and made it clear that he was going to do everything he could to bring the place up. That was amazing to witness and I really do hope that it all works out. Also, I think I am getting more into my groove of being a teacher and a leader. I am engaging the kids more and more each week and I really do think camp just keeps getting better and better! It really just takes a little extra planning and everything turns out so much better!Tags: 2017, Baltimore Squashwise, Barclay, Black Church Food Security Network, CIIP, CIIP 2017, Orita's Cross Freedom School, Ruth M. Kirk Rec Center, Strong City Baltimore, Week Six