Last month I went on a hiking trip to Maine with the GHH boys to celebrate Javon graduating from High School. While GHH is proud of all our kids’ academic accomplishments, we are exceptionally proud of Javon. When I met him two years ago, he was so shy that he barely spoke a word to anyone, never cracked a smile, and quite literally remained on the sidelines during group activities. Fast forward to now. He has raised his GPA from a .01 to a 2.5 and has almost nearly perfect attendance, when he used to skip school every week. Receiving his High School diploma (which only 50% of foster kids achieve*) was something that deserved to be celebrated in a big way. Javon loves nature and animals, and asked to go hiking in the woods as his graduation present.
So, we traded palm trees for pine trees and planned a hiking trip to Acadia National Park. Fritzie and I chaperoned the GHH boys for their first out-of-state-vacation. They were excited and inquisitive about all aspects of the trip, but I may have been the most enthused out of everyone. Some of my fondest memories are the trips that I’ve taken with my family and friends throughout the years, and I couldn’t wait to experience this new adventure with them. They asked many questions about what Maine would be like. Are the people different there? What it is like to fly on an airplane? How do you pack a suitcase? Javon was disappointed to learn that he couldn’t bring a 2-liter of Root Beer (his favorite drink) in his carry-on luggage.
Our first day we embarked on a boat for a whale watching expedition and spotted seals, sharks, puffins, and several humpback whales. This was the first time any of us had seen a whale in the wild, and it was a spectacular site. We then spent the next few days hiking trails, eating lobster rolls, and lodged in a cabin where there was no Wi-Fi or cell service – which was really roughing it like the olden-days in the boys’ opinion. We spent the next several days doing everything with each other. Waking up, cooking breakfast, sharing meals, taking long car rides, sitting on the edge of mountains watching the falcons soar beneath us. We had long talks while hiking trails, moments of frustration and annoyance, and encouragement from each other during climbs that were steep and strenuous. However, the mountains, rivers and fresh air were not the most beautiful part. What was an even richer experience was the closer connection we made with as a group. Javon was cracking many jokes and had me laughing the entire trip. He also shared that he was in his element being in nature, and felt more relaxed exploring the great outdoors. After coming back home, the boys were already asking when the next trip would be.
I’m excited to announce that I will be starting the GHH Explorer Program for Genesis Hopeful Haven. Our purpose is for foster children to gain new experiences through travel, forge new friendships, and gain confidence by exploring this big beautiful world.
One aspect of the program will be to participate in a travel workshop course. Topics will include learning about different climates and cultures, how to properly pack a suitcase, applying for a passport, and how to navigate through airports. The program will also help provide things that are necessary for the trip. Hiking shoes, jackets, and water bottles were generously donated for the Maine trip.
If you are interested in contributing in some way, whether it be hosting a workshop, chaperoning, making a donation, or providing trip recommendations, your contributions are welcomed and appreciated. To get involved please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Month’s Blog contribution was written by: Angela Prugh
*Source: http://www.fostercareandeducation.org/ National Factsheet on the Educational Outcomes of Children in Foster Care