“If we stick together, we are unbreakable”
A few weeks ago, we welcomed guest speaker Joe Metcalfe, who facilitated a workshop for us during Healthy Relationships Week. To illustrate the importance of relationships, Joe gave each child a pencil and asked them to break it – which they did. However, when given a handful of pencils bound together, it was impossible for anyone to break them in half. He definitely made his point! By the end of the workshop, one of our students used the analogy that if they stick together, they are unbreakable. What an impactful thought for our kids to take away from this week!
In the last 8 weeks of our Life Skills Summer Camp, I’ve witnessed our youth forming close bonds with each other – even behaving like a family unit. Everyone needs a tribe to call their own, especially those who feel unloved, alone, and uncertain of their future. Giving a child more than a family, but a community, in which she or he has a sense of belonging and the opportunity to find themselves is a gift that can change their entire future.
Most foster teens bounce around from group home to group home, rarely staying in one place for longer than 3 months. It’s hard to form friendships, let alone build family bonds.
Like all relationships, building a common trust – a community – requires intentionality, effort, patience, and time. It takes courage to trust others, as well as forgiveness and the fortitude not to run away when they let you down (because they will!). For me, community is not an unattainable ethereal idea or a block party that happens once a year. It is the hard work of sharing our real life and weaknesses with others.
Because I know the difficulty of attaining community, especially for foster kids, I’m so proud of all of the youth that have been with us at Genesis Hopeful Haven’s Life Skills Summer Camp this year. Each one of them has experienced the warmth of family and a sense of hope. They’ve formed their community and seen first-hand what can happen when people come together and offer mutual support.
We’re so thankful to our Friends of Genesis, who have gone above and beyond to support our summer program. Our youth have learned many life skills that can lessen the fears of aging-out of the foster care system and our program has provided them with positive role models and mentors.
We know displaced children have experienced trauma and that their parents have not provided a stable environment in which they could thrive, but what we often forget is that these kids—our kids—have likely not had any positive role models or mentors in their lives outside of school. Every child needs someone to love them unconditionally and encourage them to follow their dreams. While foster and adoptive parent-child relationships can be complicated, divisive, and fraught with confusion (especially in the beginning), sometimes an outsider can find it easier to reach the child and gain his respect and confidence.
With school season just around the corner, we’re thankful for the community that came together to donate school supplies and bookbags to our youth. There’s so much more we can do for them – join us on our journey!
To borrow from the words of our youth, if we can stick together, building a community that can help these children flourish, we will be an unbreakable force that will change their lives forever.
Our hope is that this “unbreakable force” can touch more and more foster youth as we continue building Genesis.
Sincerely: Peaceful Ruler