Tile by Tile

The week had started off really well with the tour of all the campuses Monday. Since I want to become a social worker myself, I really enjoyed the tours and hearing from the leaders of the different campuses of Maryville Academy. However, I was really looking forward to meeting some of the children and adolescents in the Academy on Tuesday. When I found out we would be doing arts and crafts at the Madden home, I was very excited but also nervous. We had met some of the women living there the day before, and one did not seem to be very happy to see us at all.
The day came and our team was split up into two groups. One group did a beautiful job re-painting the walls of the dining room area. My group went into a different room and found out that we had the honor of contributing to the wall of tiles that had been started by the home. Each woman that gets to stay in this shelter gets to decorate a tile with whatever they want, usually an inspirational quote. Then their tile gets added to the growing tile wall, and it gives them a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves.
The women that stay at this shelter are under 21 and have given birth to a child, one that was 15. There were two women with newborns and they were the most adorable things! However it took a while to engage the women to make a tile with us and talk. After we asked some questions they became comfortable with us and told us a bit about themselves. We had an great time and I think the girls did as well. In the afternoon we made Valentines Day decorations with one very energetic and funny girl named Juanna (“you-wanna”). She told us stories of how she wanted to be a nurse one day because the ones she had treated her badly. After that we disinfected a bunch of the babies toys, which were really gross. Marisa and I also got to help do research for the classes our community partner teaches about life and parenting skills. As we were leaving, Juanna asked if we were coming back, which made me sad and happy at the same time because I knew we wouldn’t be, but I was glad that we had given her a little bit of joy that day. I was proud of the work we did, and felt we made a difference and learned so much.

The Rain Never Bothered Us Anyway

Every day I have peered into the art room, hoping for a glimpse of the masterpieces the girls and boys have created. Finally, I was in the right place at the right time, when the art teacher walked into the teachers lounge. When she offered the opportunity to look into her class, the art major in me had to stop myself from sprinting down the hall. I helped her remove the very abstract clay turtles from the kiln so that the third graders could paint them. To be honest, I think I was more excited than the students. Besides the fact art was being made, it was an opportunity to observe them in a different setting. I have played with these children for the past 4 days, and seen how effective Playworks is there. However it was nice to see how the skills they have developed outside translate to the classroom. Today we also helped to prepare a garden for the students to plant later on. The knowledge of all things that our Living Learning Partner, Tim, has came in handy when we casually built an irrigation system. It was tested when it rained soon after. Because of the rain, we played penguin tag in the first graders classrooms, which was adorable. When it was over, I tried to leave and I got swarmed by children and couldn’t move. Naturally the only thing to do in a situation like that is to turn onto an iceberg until Tim heroically used his magical polar bear abilities to save me. Before it rained, I ended with a soccer game of Volunteers vs. Students. We narrowly lost by one, which was impressive because there were 4 of us and 30 of them! Despite the rain, it was another great day of service and I am excited for tomorrow!

Just Add Hot Sauce

After about an 10 hour travel day, we have made it!!! We had some close calls, but my brave team handled them well.  Mary and I battled toll booths and then Luis and I took it a step further and conquered death.  Actually. We went to a Mexican food restaurant and tried a hot sauce called “death”.  It was really only injury worthy though: the real killer was one called “Endorphin Rush”.  The next time we challenged death was when they put me behind the wheel.  After my car learned that animals can love and what gross domestic happiness was through twenty questions, we finally got to Chestnut Ridge!  After dinner, we ended up playing Mafia for probably three hours.  People died from falling off of beds, parked cars, and tripping over pebbles. Others were wrongly incarcerated, some (like me) simply for “looking innocent” or others for moving.  We fought to the very end, but when it was over I felt so close to my team.  Put 15 strangers got in a car, add some hot sauce and some obstacles, and 10 hours later, you get a strange big family!