After the first three days of education and exploring / working in the shelter, we got to experience a bit of the development part of Haven. The team split up into three groups: Resource Room (continuing organizing work of the past few days – see previous blog posts), organizing the development closet, and creating folders. The development closet is a large walk in closet that holds everything from pins and bracelets to stationary to champagne flutes. This was a huge undertaking, so all of us were to end up here once our assigned tasks were done. I was on the 4-person folder team, in which we were assembling folders for the upcoming gala, which is one of Haven’s largest fundraiser. Although putting fliers and business cards into promotional folders does not sound like a great time, I really enjoyed this part of service since it is similar to what I used to do as a volunteer when I was younger and so I got flooded with a ton of great memories.
After lunch we got to focus on more gala planning, which were even more nostalgic, by making calls to previous donors and cutting out birds to be used as decorations. Although this seems both daunting and tedious, it actually became quite a fun time. I always believed that someone on the phone isn’t he acexactly who they are in real life. Whether you sound more confident or a bit more restrained, phone conversations are never identical to talking in person. It was so interesting to see how this group of people, most of which I barely knew a week ago, conversed over the phone. It was even more interesting when I realized they are calling Michigan donors, who are used to a different accent, on behalf of Haven about an even we were just introduced to. I’m not sure if people had an extra cup of coffee throughout the day or if we were all just a bit tired, but the amount of laughing over phone calls and cutting out paper birds was but hysterical in of itself.
Our last part of the day was a part both the group and the Haven clients where very excited about – Pizza Party! Initially we were supposed to take all of the school-age kids bowling but the coordinator of the child programming had a medical emergency. [I need to note how impressed and inspired I am by this coordinator. She is solely in charge of all of the kids activities, possibly simultaneously looking after 15-20 kids of a range of ages, all by herself. In days prior we asked about staffing and she said ideally it would be a 3-person team but the job is very demanding and most people can’t handle it for a long period of time.] Instead of going bowling with pizza, we stayed at the shelter and had pizza in the common room with some board games. This was absolutely one of the highlights of my trip as I got to sit down with families and just talk with them. They weren’t clients (which I need to note that I love that Haven says clients and not survivors/victims/families) and I was a volunteer, we were just people playing board games and eating pizza. One of the families I got to talk to were baking cakes and it turns out that the daughter really loves baking and wants to be a chef when she grows up, and I couldn’t help but think about how when I was her age those were my aspirations as well, but our lives took such vastly different paths. During this time I also got to see how the clients interacted, not just with us but also with each other. All week we had heard about the shelter and how child care wasn’t provided and the moms worked something out among themselves. During this dinner you could tell that moms were looking out for all of the children like they were their own. If a child was misbehaving, any mom would take care of it. When icing was all over a girl’s face, the closest person would grab a napkin and clean it up. The dynamic in the shelter was more of a family dynamic than anything, with all of the clients looking out for the rest of the Haven community. While board games were being played and cupcakes were eaten, one of the moms announced that there were therapy dogs to play with! This was definitely a highlight not only for the clients but also for our group. Watching a baby crawl towards a dog 10x its size was absolutely adorable, but the kids were also so happy to be able to run around and play with the pups.
Unfortunately, due to an incoming snowstorm, we had to cut our trip a day short and today was our last day at Haven. Although I am excited to have more time on campus to do work, it is very bittersweet (emphasis on bitter) because I truly enjoyed volunteering and learning about all aspects of the field and organization. During our debriefing session, I was looking at the Haven slogan which is “Live Without Fear”. Although I had thought this was a great saying all week, it was in this moment I realized how much it truly meant. We had just spent the afternoon with families who had left so much behind out of fear, who wanted a new life where they could live freely. Although Haven is a 30-day shelter, for some it is the first time where they can truly live without some of the fears they used to face just by going home every day. Although programs and shelters cannot completely make their clients fear nothing, they are helping them become more fearless and hopeful in a brighter future.