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Day 1, 2, 3, FOUR :]

It was fabulous to wake up to the smell of breakfast this morning.  Some very motivated members of our group (Spencer and Kristin) decided to make pancakes for everyone and we even had chocolate chips to top them off!  A little later, our group split up to help out two organizations:  My Sister’s Lodge and The Esperanza Center.  The group that went to My Sister’s Lodge helped out one of the managers relocate her office to a more spacious (and quiet!) area.  They also helped organize the refridgerator for all the residents.  We thought it was really special getting to work with and know this organization, because we’ve spent a lot of time with the men of Chritopher’s Place and it doesn’t seem like there are as many opportunities for women.  Something that we’ve all thought about a lot though is the fact that there is a battered women’s shelter (Ruth’s Place), a shelter for women with a diagnosed mental illness (My Sister’s Lodge), and a family shelter (Sarah’s House) but there is no where like Christopher’s Place for women.  There’s no where for women to go unless they’ve been abused or are ill or have a family.  Catholic Charities has mentioned they would like a program lke Christopher’s Place for women, but it just isn’t in their budget right now.  At the Esperanza Center (Esperanza means hope in Spanish!), our group was able to be paired with ESL teachers and work with Hispanic immigrants.  Two of us even got to lead our own session!  It is hard for the program because the students can drop in whenever and they never know who is going to show up.  All the students are at different levels of English that can be affected by how many years of school they had in their home country, how literate they are in their own language, how long they have been in the country and even whether they are male or female.  It was an interesting method because the teachers are encouraged to use as little Spanish as possible to get their point across and use modeling instead.  This is helpful when recruiting volunteers, however, because this means that almost anyone can be a tutor because you don’t need to know any Spanish.  This program is helpful, not only because it helps Hispanics learn the language in order to get jobs, but because many times the immigrants look for a community when they first come over.  Instead of turning to gangs, they can see familiar faces and receive aid from the Center.  It was sad to learn that Catholic Charities might cut off their support of the Center.

After we regrouped and made sandwichs for lunch (and many of us took naps!), we headed to Sarah’s House, a shelter care center for broken families.  We we first arrived, we were introduced to the mission of the program.  It is actually a place where homeless families can stay for up to 12 weeks and then can apply for a 2 year living program where they move into a permanent apartment.  Sarah’s House has 8 buildings that hold the shelter area and apartment and they are actually army baracks.  It can hold approximately 35 to 40 families at a time and this program is basically the only one of its kind in America.  First, we did some organizing for Sarah’s House and then we were able to eat dinner with the residents.  After dinner, we provided childcare for children whose parents were in GED class.  It lasted about 2 hours.  The kids were adorable!  At first they were very shy, but they warmed up to us quickly and we had an amazing time playing games and watching movies with them!

After a very long day, we came home to our temporary home at the parish and reflected.  Afterwards, some of us played a mean game of spades, caught up on Glee, or watched some YouTube videos to unwind.  We’re all getting pretty tired and its going to be an early morning tomorrow!  Leaving at 7:30 to grab breakfast at Our Daily Bread with the people of Baltimore!  Can’t wait for what’s to come!

That’s all for tonight!

Linda and Mackenzie

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