Thursday, June 17, 2010

Freedom for Youth

My cousin, Becca, is a Christian Ministry major and is doing a summer internship at an organization called Freedom for Youth.  I'm tagging along with her this week.  Their Freedom Center campus is so cool.  I'm amazed at how beautiful the buildings and everything look; I was assured that God is responsible for the design because he provided the right landscapers.  It is located in a shady part of town, but once you enter the property, it looks like a little old Western town.  It truly is a safe refuge.  
Shops and the Art Studio; These buildings here are used for Freedom Quest (teenagers) classes during the school year, such as pottery, bicycle repair, wood-shop, metal works, gardening, drama, etc. 

Sonshine Kidz is the summer program for elementary aged children.  It is held every Mon, Tues, and Wed from 11am-1pm.  I can't post any pictures of the children, but believe me, they're adorable.  There are mainly African American, Hispanic, and newly immigrated (so far, I've met kids from Kenya and Tanzania).  The kids arrive and we eat lunch (delivered every day by the grace of God), hear a Bible lesson, play games outside, and spend time reading.  I especially like the emphasis on reading and writing.  Today, we played with chalk.
Can you tell which one is me?

After Sonshine Kidz, the teenagers came in the afternoon to earn "Sweat Points" for summer camp.  I think they need to earn 30 points (hours) to go, and they do jobs around the campus to earn them.  I weeded for a few hours with a group of them and got a little sunburned.  Two of the girls taught Becca and me a routine from a workout dvd called Hip-Hop Abs.  I'm working on a dance move called the Washing Machine and I'll leave it up to your imagination as to what all that entails.
Freedom for Youth was founded in 2003 and they acquired this property in 2006.  They meet so many needs, including homework help, mentoring, skills classes, chapels, feeding program, community closet, and even transitional living for 18-22 yr olds.  The kids are given the opportunity to sell the what they make in class (metalwork, woodwork, pottery) a few times a year at a Country Market.  After spending time at the campus, I can tell that the staff and volunteers are relying on God to meet all their needs and keeping him in the center of what they do.  It all seems so simple there.  Do God's will and have faith that things will work out as long as he wills.

I loved being with 11-15 year olds again.  I need to keep my "teacher edge" even in the summer ;-)  We shared stories about our lives, and even talked about the effects of the fall of communism in Russia.  It was awesome.  Even having to reprimand a few girls for bringing a water fight indoors felt so natural to me and not burdensome.

Today took a lot of energy, but I felt like I was exactly where I'm supposed to be.  Even if it's only for this week.  God is at work all over the world.  He really is the best volunteer organizer, with a global network of people moving all the time.  I'm so encouraged to see a place functioning so well and making a tangible difference in a community.  The people I have met here are truly Spirit-filled and have left me longing for more of that in my life.

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