I have begun volunteering at the House of Hope this summer which is a transitional housing program for homeless women and their children. It is a wonderful place to be help out because there is always activity happening between babies being born, moms taking big steps forward (and sometimes a few back) and making lots of new friends along the way. Everything seems to happen in this big old beautiful turquoise house with a magnificent front porch. I have decided to collect my research data for my dissertation here by having my students volunteer to run an after school art group for the children while the moms work in support groups near by learning new skills about parenting, continuing education, and other important steps to successful independent living.
In order to help get to know the moms and for them to feel comfortable with me working with their children, I taught a class for the moms first. We made memory boxes (their idea) and they turned out pretty well.
Now I'm in the process of joining the board of directors there next month so that I can continue to stay involved after my semester of teaching ends and my data collection is complete. My topic of civic engagement among pre-service teachers has really blossomed into helping them develop strategies of empathy and advocacy for homeless children in our community.
We had our first art club this afternoon and I learned a great deal more about the moms and their children and watched my students begin to develop relationships with the children as they also learned to deal with some unique behaviors and interesting conversations. I felt like my old self as I was able to convince several children that we are a fun-loving group that they should make art with and had the opportunity to build a clay dragon with a little boy who wouldn't talk to anyone.
I guess I still have it!
Here are a few photos of our work.