Friday, September 30, 2011

Miss Bonnie?

This week has been an interesting week. Its hard to think back to the beginning of the week! I have found myself in so many new things, new feelings, frustrations, good Lord I could go on for hours (but I don't want to be that person who blogs about every little ridiculous thing.. I hate that)

Next to our center was this big, beautiful church. But they tore it down. dumb. Anyways, there is this section where, I am guessing the basement was. Well the rubble has made this sort of cave looking thing. Yesterday, this woman came in. She lives in there with her abusive husband. She has 5 kids, they have been taken away by social services. A near by women's service have this whole plan in Kansas City (of all places eh). However, she needs to get there. She came to us for help in just ordering a ticket, in secret so that her husband doesn't find out. She said that she will have to "get the money first." I'll let you guess how she "gets her money." She went on to tell us a story about her and her life. The sisters of Precious Blood will be buying her ticket to Kansas City to start her life over so that she doesn't have to go, "get her money," and so that she can get away from her abusive husband...
This is where she was living.

I am now tutoring three people! One with math and basic English. Which I have to google multiple times looking up how to do things or what things are. He just sits there and laughs at me. Another with how to write speeches and a persuasive paper. (I HATE writing papers) So that's always fun. Thank God for I did listen and learn SOMETHING in high school English haha. The last is my biggest challenge. She is 26 years old. I am teaching her to read. She has a story that hits so many different issues and have already taught me so many things. She went to school until 8th ish grade, had her first kid at 14. I won't go into her personal story, but here's the different things that we talked about in the first meeting.

Many public schools (especially in Back of the Yards) pass kids to get them out of the school. You would think that reading would be at least some kind of a priority right? no. One of her sons is starting to have problems with reading and she can't help him, because she herself cannot read. She is trying to get some special attention for her son, because she doesn't want him to fall behind like she did. But the school does not provide after school help..... all he wants to do is read... really?

All this time she has wanted to ask for help. But has always been afraid, or people tell her she is dumb and stupid. She didn't think there were any services for, "people her age." Such as classes, she thought she was to old.... again, she is only 26.
1. I hate hearing stories about people that have no support in their life
         Fact: that's every day here
2. Why does she think that there are no services out there for people like her? There are so many!
         Fact: Why would she know? Its pretty hard to get the word out to people around here... and for them  to actually trust .... Trust is a whole other issue...

What kind of an atmosphere does she live in? Gangs. Gang bangers (yes... I totally did just say it... it is almost part of my everyday vocabulary these days).

She is an inspiration to me. Here she is, finally asking for help. Trying to better herself for her kids. She has slowly pushed her way out of what she does not want to be a part of. Yet, still lives in the midst of it all. I will learn from my experience with her... maybe even Spanish! Her hopes and dreams- to learn how to read, further move on to getting her GED, going to hair school...
Biggest aspiration: CNA/Nursing school.
My mission: being a part and doing whatever I can to help her accomplish
SOS... teachers out there please, please PLEASE give me some pointers on "teaching someone to read." (Dear Jesus)

Juvi-- I have officially been going for two weeks now. After this past Tuesday I was dying to go back on Thursday... weird ehh. I have slowly made friendships with some boys on the Omega units (these are the boys that are tried as a juvenile, but will only stay in this facility till they are 17. Then they are moved to the county jails to finish their time. Also, these are the boys that are sentenced for many years... If lucky just 2-5... but others 10-20-30 years..... you can decide what they are there for... I'll let you :)) I have found myself talking with these, boys taking notes on when their court dates are, making them explain "the system," to me (which they love because they totally think I'm this dumb white girl). I have also learned how to successfully play spades, (jail style, smashin it ect) I now know the difference between "people and folk," and new words have been added to my vocabulary. Oh and they call me Miss Bonnie.... ahah

I was talking to one of the boys about Hope. He was almost to tears/wouldn't make eye contact with me during this conversation because he had lost all hope.

"This place was built to destroy all hope, and all feelings I have ever had. Hope is nothing."
    -- Jail.

How am I supposed to rebound from that? Surprisingly... I came back with the wisest words that I have ever heard come out of my mouth... and it also bought me more time to figure out what to say the next time I went back (yesterday). He wanted to talk again. When I came back he was shocked that I actually came back. However, we had to postpone the convo for next week. The boys got in a fight in their unit and were locked into their cells... oh geeeeze what have I gotten myself into?

I could probably talk for hours about each of these things. I only touched on the "overview," of me week. But... this is just a little update on what I am up to. Wanna hear more... call me. I have zero plans for the weekend. As I head off into my weekend and still await the week ahead mentally preparing myself to teach someone to read, get a lady away from her "cave home" and from her abusive husband, and thinking about "hope."

Oh NO! I have become that person who writes about waaaaaay to much. Ehh at least I didn't tell you what I ate each day.

Good thing I have an app to find happy hours near by me :) 

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Well, I went and I survived and I think I even liked going to the Juvenile Detention center! From here on out, I will be going every Tuesday and Thursday night. Here's the deal, we get there and you go through all these crazy security check points. I have a little badge that says I'm allowed and official to be there. I'm with the church... haha Soon we enter these elevators to take us to the different floors of kids. Each floor is assigned to different kinds of kids who committed crimes. One floor might be minor misdemeanors, others are more serious. (obviously)

You would think I would be scared out of my life, how and what am I supposed to talk to these kids about? I'm just this white girl from Kearney, Missouri. Naive little girl who looks like she is still in the 8th grade half the time. I was challenged the second I walked into one of the rooms with stares from guys that could easily break me physically and mentally om half. That whole intimidation thing. I knew what I was getting myself into. But I walked in smiling and waving, over confident. I had no idea what I was doing, but they didn't know that. So I pretended. I talked to each of them like I would a friend. I think they were shocked. They stuttered and then didn't know what to talk about at first. Then they just started talking, and opening up to conversation; why they were there, how long, do they regret it, what they want to change ect. Everything and anything. Then before I left they asked to pray. Simple as that. I was overwhelmed by the faith and hope of some of these boys.

Its true, those boys that are in Juvi...Truth: they need re-direction and discipline. But those boys are only boys. Scared for their lives, wanting to get out of gang life, wanting to be safe, wanting someone to care. They haven't come across much to be proud of nor any kind of opportunity to better themselves. Maybe they have been to Juvi 6 times. You would think they would learn right? Wrong.... its just a way of life here. Someone deals drugs to feed their family. Someone was at the wrong place at the wrong time. If you were born into this environment, how do you get out... alive? without scares? with someone who actually cares about you? Good luck.....

My hope for so many of these boys.... there are places that can help, but they have to decide and take advantage of whats good. It has to be their choice first. The boys at the center I work at are great. They are here because it is a safe environment for them. They do want to better themselves, they do want to get their GED so that they can get a degree in the future and feed their family. Our walls are only so thick. When they leave, yes they can always come back tomorrow, but they have to make the right decisions out there. Sometimes the difference between right and wrong is a tough one. I too am learning that.

As I mentally prepare myself to head back to Juvi tonight, I have made sure NOT to wear my skinny jeans (big mistake... maybe I'll go wash my makeup off before hand too?) I am sure to walk in over confident and ready for yet... just another Thursday night...

Monday, September 19, 2011

And so my first full week begins.....

Recap: Last week I want to, "Circle training!" I am now 100% certified to lead a circle! It is still hard for me to actually explain exactly what Circle is. This technique can be used for a multitude of things such as: peace, reconciliation, sharing, community, the list goes on and on. Basically it is a way to address an issue, feeling, or even a crime from all angles. By sitting in circle a relationship is eventually established and people talk one at a time on what the issue may be. In the end things aren't always resolved and it may even take more than one circle. But the overall hope and accomplishment is basically pointing out similarities and truth.

(As I read through this description I realize it makes about almost zero sense. Hopefully, I will lead a circle soon enough to be able to explain with my own, personal experience)

This past weekend I was blessed by perfect timing of some familiar faces. Some family came in town for adventures to a Cubs game, Solider field for the NIU/Wisconsin game, and ventures throughout the city. I am so thankful for my family. They truly are such a support and rock to keep me grounded. I still think that I might have one of the best families around!

Here I sit my first full week of work beginning. Last week I met with a boy that I will be tutoring. He luckily has avoided being a part of a gang. However, at 18 he's seen plenty of violence related to gangs. I will be helping him get his GED. He does not attend school. However, I am starting to wonder if public high school is even worth it here in, "Back of the yards." The public schools here, in my opinion are just another venue for isolated gang violence. Guns make it past metal detectors every day, there isn't near enough security for the overpopulated school, and teachers.... ha! Good luck, just because they are there you have to ask how they can actually accomplish a lesson in the classrooms when there aren't even enough desks for the kids to sit in. I haven't been to one of the schools yet to see all this myself, I guess you could say this recollection is only word of mouth here at Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. If it were my own personal experience, I am betting mine would be 5x worse.

Back to my 18 year old who I will be tutoring. He is basically homeless, and word is, he has tried to get his GED multiple times in the past but has always given up. If its up to me this kid WILL get is GED in the amounted time given. I will (OK I already have) bribe him. (not really, I just told him I would bake a Carmel cake... if anyone has any recipes I am in dire need... I have no idea how to make a Carmel cake! hah) So we set everything up last week, he was to come in today at 12.... guess what... no show. Here I was all excited, we had discussed everything and I told him that this is his decision, I'll help but ultimately he has to decide and do the work to accomplish this. It's not about me.

Today at 1 he called me to apologise. He didn't make it down here because....basically he's afraid to ride the bus. He's scared to ride the bus in broad day light/middle of the day. I'll let you imagine why. He promised he will be here tomorrow.... so I am praying he makes it here tomorrow..... Because gosh darn it... he WILL get this GED...... done and done....

until tomorrow.....

Last thing, I was just assigned a circle. Me and another co-worker are to set up a circle between a 16 year old and a police officer. The kid robbed this officer. As part of his sentencing, he was given some time with "Project Re-pay," (a service we offer the kids as a community service kind of project) and the option of doing a, "Circle," with us. Now begins the planning... ahhhhhhh time will be a little delayed because he is not out of juvi yet. It may be a possibility that I see him there? Who knows!

It's only my first Monday and from here on out..... game on (I have a feeling there may never be a dull moment in this office..... I love it!)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Still here!

Well... its been quite the whirlwind of emotions and I have only been here for three and a half days! When I was driving into the city I couldn't decide if I should puke or get out of my car and dance... such a toss up I know. As I followed my GPS I ran into a Target! I knew this place would be great! After being welcomed into the city (honked at multiple times), I realized that I needed to become a more aggressive driver I suppose? Such a warm welcome. Then I realized that every street in Chicago is basically a one way street (thank God I can read signs) and that every intersection has a stop sign. cooool.

As I drove around the area I felt at home. I live in the "Bridgeport" area. It's diverse, cute, has a fab coffee shop and of course every kind of food imaginable. I love it.

My little apartment with Sister Donna is small, but homey. My room is similar to Harry Potter and the closet under the stairs... haha no just kidding! I love it! I have my own bathroom, and my closet is down the hall, so that's interesting. Living with Sister Donna is good. I think the lady may have more energy than I do. We watched the Saints, Packers game the other night together and she got so excited when, "those guys started running and their little legs move so fast, its just so much fun." I wake up every morning with coffee already made, its delicious. The other night we went to this Mexican restaurant called mi tierra (I think) for a marg. haha It was an awesome, crazy family style restaurant. Very authentic, there was a crazy mariachi band and I think we might have been the only white people in there. It was awesome. Oh and they had different flavors of margs, had a Guava one... sooo good and the rim was covered in that chili pepper stuff. Very interesting....

Yesterday, I tried my navigation skills at the public transportation system! I took the L down town. I live right next to the Orange line which takes you directly into the heart of the city. Very convenient. As I went to put my CTA card into the machine, I couldn't figure out how to do it... total newb status.... Some worker man had to show me and then proceeded to tell me that I better run up the stairs because the train is just about to leave me..... I made it haha As I rode into the city i'm pretty sure my eyes were glued to my phone to make sure I didn't leave that little blue floating dot on my route to downtown, (best iPhone app I could have downloaded) I made it to Grant park! Then walked around aimlessly... such a great afternoon.

I'm not for sure what I am going to do today. Sister Donna and I came for breakfast and coffee at this cute little coffee shop called, Bridgeport Coffee House. I think it may be my home away from home (aka The Roasterie). I think I may head to the Northwest side (probably not really what I am supposed to call it) for a craft/art fair... oh la la

Tomorrow I shall be traveling to Dayton, OH for circle training! I am quite excited to see what this technique is all about. I filled out my Juvenile Hall papers, so in a week and a half I will be spending some time in Juvi Tues/Thurs chillin with some gangsters. Be jealous ;)

Through the past few days, though I'm sure I have made it all sound like glamour and amazingness, I have realized more than ever that I live hundreds of miles away from everything that I know. Especially everyone I know. I miss you friends and family. I'm pretty good at being independent I suppose, but I miss having someone to go on adventures with. Buuut i've only been here three and a half days, so I should stop complaining.

Off to some adventure, hopefully I don't get lost! Or maybe I should ..... hmm

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The beginning....

I can't really decide how I should start this whole blog thing. I'm still wondering how I ended up where I am. Never would I have thought I would be running off for a year to some city I know ..... ehh not a whole lot about to volunteer for a year. Here I am less than 24 hours before I hop in my little car filled with the things I "think," I will need for the next year (we'll see how that goes) to head to Chicago!

For starters I will warn you-- Do not judge me on my grammar, lets be honest it sucks. My high school English teachers thought so as well. So bare with me... I had a very hard time coming up with a title for this thing so I asked my nieces and nephew and they came up with:
The Dora Maker (Eme) annnnd
Fart Machine (Creason)
I don't know how I passed up those names....

Ever since I can remember I have loved doing volunteer work. Some of my cousins may call me a "do-gooder." Some may say it was my parents who first started me out volunteering at anything and everything. Maybe it was friends, a youth minister.... who knows. Then I choose to do a year of service work. I cannot tell you exactly when I knew I wanted to do that either. What I do know is that I cannot wait to see how this year turns out.

For a year I will be working for Precious Blood Ministries. There are many different avenues or areas in where I could work and be involved with. So for me to tell you exactly what I am doing, I can't because I don't really know yet. I know that I will be working with kids and teens of all ages, those in or out of juvenile facilities. I will be helping with "Peace circles," (a technique of sorts that I will have to update later on, because I don't know exactly how to explain them yet) mentoring, after school programs, tutoring, ect. (and by ect. I mean... ehhh who knows what else.)

Some of you may know this, some not but I promised a little bit of a paragraph dedicated to my roommate. Most volunteer programs room you with a group of fellow volunteers as your "community living," situation. Well Precious Blood has a little bit of a difference. I will be living with a Nun, Sister Donna. After my orientation, I actually am very interested and intrigued by this new experience. I have met her once, she's awesome. She commented on my purse, so she's good in my book already! I talked to her earlier today and she sounds excited for me to move in and has a pretty intense social calender awaiting my arrival. (More on Sr. Donna in the near future.)

As I wrap this little post up for the day, I will continue enjoying my last beautiful day in good ol' Kearney, Mo sittin under a tree with a root beer float (courtesy of my nephew Creason). Pray I don't get lost on my way up there (even though it sounds like an easy route, lets be honest, I'm kind of a blond sometimes). I'll keep ya posted !!!