Sunday, October 30, 2011

A little bit about work... and pictures from everything else!

So over the few months we’ve been experiencing some internet problems so even though I have definitely used my procrastination skills in how long it has taken me to write this post, I must say the uncertainty of the internet at the Cabana has also contributed.  But now we have faster internet and a new router and it’s so much more reliable and fast, all of us are VERY excited!

I realized that I mentioned Ben in my last blog but did not explain who he is or what his role is in my year here in Nashville. Ben is the site coordinator for the YAV program in Nashville. This is his first year as site coordinator and I have to say I think he is starting out with one wonderful group of YAVs, if I do say so myself.  Since our “work week” is only Monday through Thursday at our job placements, we meet with Ben on Friday mornings each week and discuss different things and go to different places. Friday mornings are always interesting, or at least they have been so far. So for two Fridays in a row the activity was for us to have written our spiritual autobiography (8 to 10 pages long) and then for us to present it to the rest of our group, with four of us going on the first Friday and then the last four of us going on the second Friday. Of course, being a procrastinator as I mentioned previously, I opted to go the second week so that I could allow myself ample time to prepare. This was more specifically because I had originally planned to rebel against the assignment.  This was not a secret though, considering that when Ben asked us in our Friday meeting a week before the first group of presentations he asked us what we thought of the assignment, to which I answered that I was thinking of rebelling.   He responded very calmly, as Ben always does (no matter what we throw at him) and asked me why I was feeling that way. I have to mention here that I was not the only one that felt this way. However, after a one-on-one discussion with him about possible things to discuss in my spiritual autobiography I felt less rebellious and did, indeed, write mine. I think it was a success.

Okay, so my dad suggested to me last time that I should mention something about what I do at work each day in my next blog, so here it goes. I don’t actually have a typical workday, meaning that I never know what to expect when I walk in the door each day, which I honestly love.  First of all, I work at the CWA/Cayce Learning Center.  The center is actually three apartments in the CWA Apartment complex with the walls knocked out between the three of them to make one big center. So on the bottom floor we have the office area, the kitchen area (complete with an air hockey and foosball table), and then a large room with tables and chairs set up like a classroom. Upstairs there are a few more offices, classrooms, a small library and then the computer lab.  During the morning on Mondays and Wednesdays Mrs. Bonnie, from the Nashville Adult Literacy Council, teaches an English Language Learning or ELL class in the large classroom downstairs. Then on Tuesday and Thursday mornings she teaches a Citizenship class.  The students in these classes are refugees from Somalia right now at least, in the past there have been refugees from the Congo and Sudan.

I started helping Mrs. Bonnie with a few women in her ELL class that need a little more one-on-one time than some of the other students. I am loving it! These two women are so amazing. They think I am hilarious or crazy one of the two, I’m still trying to figure out which.  They even taught me a few Somali phrases during one class, which I could tell they really enjoyed.

My supervisor at work is Kawema. She is awesome. I could not imagine a more perfect match for me for this year. She is so down-to-earth, straightforward and caring all the time. I know that she is a large part of the reason why I love my job at the learning center so much.  However, a couple of weeks ago she caught something and was out sick for a few days. During these few days there were a couple of meetings planned that Kawema was meant to run. In particular, the community meeting was one of these. This is a meeting that happens on a quarterly basis (at least I think that’s right) and serves as a time where the Family Resource Center department meets with members of the community it serves to engage with them about the programs happening and how the community is perceiving them, they make suggestions and learn about upcoming programming plans that they can participate in as well. It’s really a great idea in theory and in action.

Side note: I’ve just had to step away from typing this to help handle a minor stovetop fire in our kitchen. Everything’s fine though, just had something under the burner that caught fire.  Now we’re just letting the smoke out through the back door. You never know what to expect in this house, but Megan, Ashley and I seem to be able to navigate through all of it.

Back to the meeting though, since Kawema was out sick and the community had already been informed about the meeting, it had to go on. So, Leslie and I had to step up and fill in for her. Leslie is Kawema’s intern from Vanderbilt for the semester and she’s a lot of fun. We get along really well and have spent many afternoons on the floor in Kawema’s office talking, laughing, and story-telling. In the end, Leslie and I were able to have a productive meeting (after receiving instructions from Kawema over the phone) and had great notes to share with her when she returned.

A lot of what I do every day is based on being a constant positive presence in the community at CWA. Along with that, I am supposed to form relationships with the people in the community and make them feel welcomed at the center.  This way, the residents of the neighborhood feel that they can come to me with almost anything. Many community members come to talk about different issues or situations they are experiencing and need help with (including applications for state and federal programs (like food stamps and Medicaid), resumes, and even legal problems). My relationship with the residents is also so that they can come to me with ideas or suggestions for programs at the center, and also so that I can share information with them about ongoing programs or events happening at MOB or CWA for them to get involved in.

One example of an ongoing program is the fresh market grocery store bus. The area of Nashville that I work in is known as a food desert, for more information on what that is, click here.  Transportation is also an issue in this area.  Not everyone living in this part of town owns a car, or can afford to.  There is a transit system in place in Nashville.  However, in order to reach the closest grocery store (a few miles away) by bus, you would have to catch the bus on the main road which is a few blocks away into downtown where you would have to change buses to get to the grocery store that is only a few blocks away from your home in the first place. But, add to this scenario a very hilly terrain within those two blocks (or the entire way to the store, should you choose to walk the whole way), add on a few children (as most households in this area house more than one child), or your choice of disabilities (most people in this community have a variety of them, and when I say disability, I mean the kind that affects your capability to walk and get around).  Now imagine this scenario on the way home with your arms full of grocery bags. I’m not ashamed to say it’s not an outing I would look forward to. 

All of this build up is to explain the reason behind the fresh market grocery store bus. Due to the difficulties involved in getting to and from the grocery store for the people living in this community, Martha O’Bryan has a school bus that has been painted green with Martha O’Bryan on the side that is used every Friday morning to take the residents to and from the grocery stores so that they have access to fresh groceries and produce, etc. This program picks people up from MOB and from CWA, so to help get the word out about it I created this poster and taped it to the door of the CWA/ Cayce Learning Center. I used the pictures as a way for the Somali women that aren’t very fluent in reading English to be able to understand the concept of the poster.

Another program I am involved on at MOB is called Kid’s Café. It takes place every Monday from 4-5pm at MOB. This is an opportunity for the community (mainly the kids) to come in and get a hot meal, community fellowship, and feel like a guest is hosting them to a meal in their home. We work hard to maintain that community loving and welcoming feeling at Kid’s Café each week.  I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of this yet. I’ll try to remember to take one this week!

On a short note, outside of work, I’ve joined the Outreach Committee at my church, been to a Titans home game, went to a rugby watching party for the world cup quarter final game (Ireland v. Wales) at 1am, carved pumpkins at church, been to the Celebrate Nashville festival, discovered Food Trucks (more on those later), saw a scarecrow display at Cheekwood (Bellingrath equivalent), attended a suicide prevention conference, went to a Halloween party dressed as a Christmas Tree, and gone Trick-or-Treating with the kids from work at the sorority and fraternity houses on Vanderbilt’s campus. Pictures from some of these are below. Until next time everyone! I love and miss you all!!!!
Ashley and I at the Titans game

Me, Megan, Beth (YAV Alum), Ashley, and Nellie (Ashley's friend from Northern Ireland) ready to watch rugby!
Me, Lee, Allison, Sarah, Ashley, and Megan with our pumpkins!

Scarecrow at Cheekwood
Scarecrow at Cheekwood
Scarecrow at Cheekwood
Me as a Christmas Tree

Lee and Sarah with Scary Potter
Me with Scary Potter the scarecrow

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading about the fresh market grocery store bus! I just visited the San Antonio YAVs, who also live in a food desert, and I'm so glad to hear about programs that help get people the nutrition they need and deserve. Also, I love the Christmas tree costume! Very creative.