Last Thursday’s After School Program started like many others: the kids had answered the riddle of the day, were eating their after-school snacks, and were receiving help from student volunteers and staff on their homework. This pattern continued until 5:00 pm, when the kids excitedly dispersed within the youth building for “Free Time.” Some started playing an intricate game of shop keeper wherein different playing cards represented different monitory values, some played pool or foosball—forming teams and creating their own rules, and some wanted to play dice with the volunteers and staff.
I found myself among the seven individuals whom Skylar, an eight-year-old in the program, had enthusiastically convinced to play a surprisingly intricate dice game he had learned in school, called “Fifty.” The primary rule of the game was that one needed to role fifty points to begin playing (as represented by a five on the die), and after one earned one’s fifty points, one could continue to gain points by rolling more fives or multiples of another number. If one does not role any fives at all, however, one’s turn is skipped entirely. This description sounds somewhat simple in writing, but is slightly less so in practice.
Somewhat confounded by the intricacy of the game, the other adult volunteers and I quickly realized that Skylar was not alone in his knowledge of this game; all of the kids in the After School Program seemed to know some rendition, and caught on with relative ease. Predictably, It wasn’t long before the kids’ scores were almost double those of the volunteers and staff. Although the we did catch on eventually, we sat for the majority of the game with mouths agape, puzzled and humbled by the infinite “Fifty” wisdom exuded by Skylar and the other five through ten year old in the After School Program.
After “Fifty” came to a close (with Skylar clearly proving to be the winner), several of the kids expressed their desire to go outside and play soccer and tag in the sun. After we had all gone outside, however, it became clear that the kids wanted to play another game I had never heard of; a rendition of tag called “Jabooba.” Although “Jabooba” was much simpler that “Fifty,” I still found myself asking the kids for rule clarification three or four times throughout the game, and was impressed by their collective determination to make sure all of the staff and volunteers understood the rules.
I tell these stories because as one who is used to assisting or teaching others, I am continually awe-struck by the amount those whom I am teaching ultimately end up teaching me. While the two instances I have provided above are slightly more quantifiable examples of what I have learned as a Youth Program Intern at the Rescue Mission, I have also gained less quantifiable knowledge—such as better understanding how to positively communicate across age, class, and race barriers—communication skills that can translate into nearly any environment.
Come join us in the After School Program and get to know some of the most valuable teachers you will ever meet; K-12 students whom you tutor or mentor.
Last night about fifteen members of the Rescue Mission’s Teen Program and four staff members jumped into Rescue Mission vans and headed to the University of Puget Sound to explore the campus after-hours. Although many of the buildings were closed, the trip was largely successful with our teens receiving a campus tour through the music and science buildings, the library, and a student residence hall; doing a relay race and playing basketball and other games the university’s Warner gym; and eating pizza in the university’s pizza parlor, The Cellar.
While field trips such as last night’s serve many purposes such as rewarding our teens for their hard work at home and in school, the most important purpose is to motivate our teens to pursue education and eventually attend college. According to our Youth Program’s Coordinator, Raymond Randall, “I do not know whether a field trip like this one will motivate teens to go to college. I do know that it puts the word college into their vocabularies. Being on a college campus may make it seem more real and tangible and thus, perhaps, more attainable. I hope they left [last night’s field trip] with an idea of what college life might be like. It's up to them to decide if that's what they want for themselves.”
Motivating teens to go to college is not, however, the only valuable outcome of our teen field trips. When I asked Raymond to provide what he thought were some of the most important outcomes of Rescue Mission Youth Program field trips, he suggested that field trips “like our monthly Teen Late Night...give teens who are suffering from homelessness an opportunity to have fun, explore new places, interact in positive ways with peers through team building games, [and to] learn things about themselves--such as hidden talents or new hobbies. It also gives them a chance to be a little more carefree (free from having to watch siblings, or other hardships that many accompany homelessness).” In other words, while we hope field trips such as this one will inspire our teens to attend college in the future, it is equally important that the trip serve as a source of fun and personal growth in the present.
As stated by Raymond, “When planning field trips my intent is to provide teens with opportunities to learn about what’s out there in the world and what they can strive for, while also allowing them to learn something about themselves, and...feel more capable of achieving their goals. Their paths don’t have to involve college, but if they do, that's great. My hope is that they draw out some path for themselves; that they begin planning for the future [and have] something to work towards and be hopeful for.”
Within our society, homelessness can be almost solely attributed to a lack of resources (affordable housing etc.) within a given community, as well as the social and political oppressions such as racism, classism, and ableism.
Many forget that homelessness affects not only single, middle aged men (the widely accepted stereotype), but also women, children, and entire families. In fact, the 2005 National Coalition for the Homeless reported that nearly 41% of the homeless population in America is comprised of homeless families (98,452 families), including approximately 924,000 children who are deprived of basic needs such as food, education, and warm clothing.
One of the primary ways to prevent a homeless child from becoming a homeless adult is through education. The Rescue Mission stresses the importance both literacy and education play in achieving economic and social success through programs such as our March 1st Literacy Event. Further, within the Rescue Mission Youth Program, daily mentoring and tutoring interactions comprise some of the most important aspects of our youth After School Program. These sessions include one-on-one as well as group tutoring, which allow our kids to get the help any child needs to excel in school.
Of course, the more volunteers we have at the Mission, the more kids can receive much needed one-on-one attention. Our volunteers are invaluable to our children here at the Mission, not only serving as educators, but also as positive role models and friends. Any time you can dedicate to our children through mentorship or tutoring contributes to their confidence and happiness, as well as to their short-term and long-term academic success. THANK YOU to those who continue to dedicate their time and effort to our After School Program.
If you would like to spend time volunteering in the program, please click on our “Get Involved” tab above, or contact our Youth Program Director, James Leet, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Breaking the cycle of Homelessness—preventing homeless children from becoming homeless adults—is one of our principal goals at the Rescue Mission. While there are many events in a child’s life that can help to break the cycle in which they’ve been raised, we believe developing and maintaining a child’s self-esteem is the most fundamental building block for future success.
One of the primary ways children can build self-esteem is through excelling in given creative projects such as painting, drawing, and arts and crafts—activities which may seem small but have a big impact on young lives.
Here at the Rescue Mission, engagement in weekly creative projects such as building sustainable model cities and partaking in group art assignments not only contributes to a child’s sense of self actualization, it also helps develop important skills such as team work, communication, perseverance, and relationship building; skills which will not only contribute to enhanced self-esteem in the present, but also to leading successful and rewarding lives in the future.
In order to continue providing our children with the supplies necessary for creative projects, however, we’re dependant upon your continued support through monetary contributions.
Through your donations, you can help us provide our kids at the Rescue Mission with the supplies necessary for both shaping young lives and for laying the foundations that inspire little hands to do big things.
In her 2010 speech at the TED conference, local-yet world-renowned 12-year-old child prodigy and published author, Adora Svitak, emphasizes the subject of being “childish.” More often, adults stigmatize childlike characteristics as immature attributes that have no place in the adult realm. She argues several controversial yet valid points for how much adults can learn from their younger counterparts. The Rescue Mission values this unconventional thinking in its staff and volunteers. We especially try to foster an environment that teaches our homeless children not to lose this divergent thinking as they become older and their responsibilities become more demanding. Comprised are a few ways adults can benefit by drawing from their youthful attributes, and why they should never under estimate the power that youthful intellect, creativity, and boundless thinking brings to the table.
- Children are a work in progress. At some point many adults value education less and focus more on what is expected to live up to the stress of bills, work, and their daily responsibilities. It’s important to never stop learning and continue working to make self-progress. As one of the RM adult clients put it, “as long as you’re living, there’s always room to improve.”
- Creative thinking . . . Think outside the box. Sometimes unconventional thinking, free from the confines of adult limitations is just what a person needs to solve complex adult problems.
- Being too serious can sometimes be seriously frustrating. Adults sometimes put too much pressure on themselves to live up to “expectations.” If we promote a positive work atmosphere that encourages people to do their best, then their best is likely what they will give you. Positive communication that brings interesting and playful new ideas leads to a greater shared passion for accomplishing complicated goals, and a greater interest in helping others to succeed as well.
There is an array of reasons adults and children can benefit by learning from each other. The Recue Mission Youth Program works to ensure that the adult/child relationship is give and take, and that each homeless child that enters our program is given an opportunity to contribute his or her ideas. Allowing children to involve their adolescent ideas to adult problems will better prepare them for adult situations and will promote an atmosphere that teaches them to be innovative thinkers.
If you're interested in becoming a part of this exciting educational experience, consider making a small donation or fill out an application to volunteer with our youth program today!
The New Year brings hopefulness for self-improvement and a greater initiative to right all the wrongs from previous months. There is no better time to turn over a new leaf than the present, and to fulfill exciting new resolutions by making a difference in a homeless child’s life through charitable giving and volunteer work. The Rescue Mission Youth Program does more than offer displaced children a safe place to play. We provide our children vital resources to succeed in school and to overcome obstacles that prevent them from doing their best in their personal aspirations.
For us to continue serving homeless children through out Pierce County, your support is crucial. One of the most frequent testimonies we hear from volunteers is how rewarding it is to impact a child’s life, and especially how much fun it is to play along with them during group activities. If you’re exploring exciting new investment opportunities and resolutions for 2011, consider investing in a homeless child’s future by making a small financial donation or by donating your time.
What we offer and How Our Children Benefit from Your Help:
- After School Program—Offers socially stimulating activities like our Super Club program, an art class, choir, and fun and games.
- Tutoring—More than just helping our children complete the required school assignments, our volunteers and Youth Coordinators work to ensure that each child has a good understanding of what the assignment expects, so they can move forward in their education without any confusion detracting them along the way.
- Mentoring—Volunteers serve as great role models for displaced children. Sometimes all a child needs is love and a little bit of guidance from a positive adult role model to shift his or her focus in the right direction toward a successful happy future!
- Field Trips—To reward our children for their teamwork and initiative to do well in school, we offer an array of field trip opportunities that volunteers are sometimes invited to chaperon. More recently, our teens visited the Seattle Art Museum to enjoy the Picasso exhibit. Other trips include snow shoeing in the mountains, family skate-night, and a trip to the Museum of Flight.
- Economis Program--Children are monitored by a point system that allows them to earn prizes in our youth store and the right to attend field trips, based on their performance in the After School Program. The objective of the program is to teach children responsibility and the rewards associated with hard work and leadership.
Nearly 1 in 4 homeless children will grow up to become homeless adults. If you love children and you care about fostering a positive atmosphere that prevents them from becoming a victim of “statistics” and the negative consequences that sometimes stigmatize homelessness, then please consider making a contribution today!
Promoting the health and wellness of disadvantaged children seems like an easy sell, but it’s much more complicated to others in the community that may not understand the essentials that come along with such an awesome responsibility.
Comprised in today’s education system is a priority to educate children and to promote critical thinking so that they have the vital components necessary to become independent adults. Each public education entity includes a sports program, an art class, and sex education. When children attend yearly field trips, they visit science centers, zoos, and wildlife reserves to expand their knowledge in different fields of science. While all these tools are vital resources to promote cognitive development and a greater appreciation for how the world works, little is being done to encourage the importance of philanthropy in the community.
Rarely do you see a push for children to reach out and learn more in areas where their community needs them most. By implementing a greater awareness of community activism while they’re young, children will grow up to be more educated and compassionate about the circumstances behind non-profit leadership. Instead of seeing homelessness as a disease, they will be hardwired with the compassion to promote positive changes, and to break the stereotypes that stigmatize poverty.
One can argue that activism is not a vital necessity of the public education system and that it’s parents’ responsibility to teach children how to become involved in the community. While this is a good point, a person can also rhetorically question with equal support why stressing the importance of sex education in schools is so important, but not philanthropy?
Children are impressionable while they’re young and are in a great position to change the future of leadership in America. By teaching them to care, they will likely have deeper core values toward all socioeconomic backgrounds in their community, and will have a better appreciation for preserving vital non-profit programs like the Rescue Mission.
Homelessness is complicated for a child to deal with in any scenario, but when the holidays become involved it ads a different dynamic to a child’s frustrations entirely. As school children through out Pierce County sparkle with glee over the bright holiday lights and the exuberance over Santa’s arrival, homeless children struggle with the reality that they may not have a Christmas. Their frustrations run deeper than what exciting new toy Santa will bring them early Christmas morning. These precious little jewels toil over the anxiety that they are hungry, cold, and confused about why they are put in such trying circumstances.
The Rescue Mission Youth Program works to absolve any anxiety our children are experiencing by providing stimulating activities to entertain them and allow them to experience the fun and sheer joy any reasonable child should during the holiday season. We foster a supportive and fun atmosphere to lift their spirits and to not focus too much on their circumstances. We are excited that we will be holding our first ever Adams Street Family Campus Christmas party. We will be offering our families an invigorating environment comprising caroling, gifts, a meeting with Santa, games, a warm meal, and holiday cheer. We are thankful for the many donors and sponsors that make it possible for us to provide our homeless youth a safe and supportive place to feel at home during the cold winter months.
Thanks to you, many of our homeless children will temporarily not have to stress over the cold weather, their empty tummies, and despondence over hearing the other children at school cheering over a holiday they likely will not get to experience.
Unfortunately, we cannot forget the many young faces we don’t see in the Rescue Mission shelters: The children sleeping in cars, under bridges, and running the streets with nowhere to call home. Our mission is to save these precious little jewels in any way we can. Please take the time to make a small contribution, or donate your time to the Rescue Mission, so that hopefully the “forgotten” children will not miss out on Christmas in the future. Remember, one child saved is a child another one off the streets. Every child deserves a good Christmas. Make a difference today!
Part 1 of our “Preventing Homelessness” blog focuses on the first 5 vital components the community needs to focus on to prevent homelessness from continuing as children mature. The final 5 elements are equally important and continue to emphasize the infrastructure necessary for a child to grow up in a safe wholesome environment. These elements are not only important for homeless children to emphasize, but for all children to grow up valuing success, love, support, and self-sufficiency. While there are many other things the community can do to help foster an environment that prevents circumstances that cause homelessness, these are a few to start. If you can think of important details to add to our list, please feel free to attribute any suggestions:
6. Education—A good grasp of cognitive skills are pivotal for children to grow up with the consistency and logical reasoning needed to approach complex adult problems in ways that yield positive results. With a good grasp of technology, English and math, they will have diverse skills to fall back on if their chosen employment becomes unreliable when they become older. Possessing these skills not only helps them integrate useful information more carefully, it also means that the skills are transferable to many different sectors of the public domain. How do we instill this ethic in them at a young age? We reward them for their hard work and make education fun and worthwhile. It’s important for parents and teachers to be affirmative about how they educate children so they begin to value learning instead of seeing it as a chore. It’s also important not to be too strict about academic thinking and to promote them to use divergent thinking skills for discovering effective and creative new strategies for problem solving. Some of the greatest ideas come from “out of the box” thinkers and it’s important not to lose sight of that.
7. Positive Role Models—The old “monkey see, Monkey do philosophy” sounds silly, but children observe the way their role models conduct themselves, which has a significant impact on the behaviors they socialize as normal. By fostering a positive atmosphere that promotes learning, a good work ethic, and a positive attitude through the adults and other children they surround themselves with, children will develop good life skills and a natural desire to do well in their endeavors.
8. A Safe Stable Environment—Safety is paramount. No child deserves to live in fear. Whatever issues parents are dealing with need to be minimized around their young, so they do not blame themselves for whatever is causing the stressful home environment. Abusive homes also lead to low self-esteem in children, which severely limits them from believing in their abilities to do well in life and in relationships.
9. Hobbies—Children need something to be passionate about. Something for themselves that rewards them for the time they do invest in their families and their education. Whether it’s participating in flag football through an after school program, or engaging in art projects with friends, children need an emotional outlet to promote positive self-esteem and to appreciate the reward that come along with it as they approach more complex goals in life.
10. Discipline—While it’s important for children to remain in a safe loving environment, it’s also important not to let them feel entitled. Children that are rewarded or allowed to get away with negative behavior will continue to retaliate, because they begin to learn that the control is in their hands. Children look to their role models for guidance, so it’s important that the proper discipline is used to teach them to value what they have and to respect their environments and peers.
Preventing homelessness requires more than shelter, a hot meal, and a few extra dollars for a person to get by. Many adults that become homeless do so because they are lacking the love, support, and discipline needed to approach self-sufficiency with positive self-confidence. By fostering an atmosphere that promotes education and self worth, children will be hard-wired with the key components to avoid many of the circumstances that lead to homelessness in adulthood. Below is part 1 of a 2 part blog outlining a few things we can do as a community to prevent homelessness from reoccurring as homeless children approach adulthood.
- Community support—Did you ever hear the old cliché, “it takes the village to raise the child”? Well, this seemingly inane philosophy rings true in many ways. Most non-profits specializing in homelessness agree that it takes more than offering a warm meal and a soft pillow to prevent homelessness from reoccurring. With community support in areas like tutoring, life skills, and spiritual guidance, children are fostered into a safe secure environment that builds character and promotes optimism that teaches them to evolve into self-sufficiency.
- Solidarity—By treating children as our equals, they will not become fixed on the stressful reality that they are homeless. They will feel just as important and appreciated as any other child—as they should be—which will promote a healthy atmosphere and a positive outlook about how they approach goals.
- Positive Self-Esteem—By supporting our children with love, education, and spiritual guidance, they will regain their self-esteems and not focus too much on their circumstances. Building confidence gives them the tools to focus on their educational goals, which will eventually empower them to tackle more complex goals like higher education and successful careers.
- Let Children be Children---Childhood is a very important time for a person’s cognitive development. By not putting too many ‘adult’ expectations on them and letting them learn, play, and make mistakes as children should, they will not feel robbed of the vital components needed to approach adulthood successfully. They will make more wise decisions by not feeling the need to fulfill juvenile regrets later on in life. Even the children that do miss out on a childhood and eventually live successful lives will feel as though they missed out on important part of their youth. Everyone appreciates their fond childhood memories like camping, slumber parties, and after school playtime with friends. These are important experiences no child should miss out on.
- Family Support—There is no substitute for a parent’s love. Anyone can tell a child that he or she did a great job on a finger painting, but it does not carry the same emotional significance as it does if mom or dad says the same thing. Children carry deep emotional attachments to their parents and look to them for love, emotional support, and encouragement. Mom and Dad are the key proprietors of confidence building in their children, so their presence is imperative for them to grow up with good confidence and a positive outlook about their futures.