Hope and Courage for Foster Care Youth

So often many of us, myself included, go through each day taking for granted some of the most simple pleasures in life.  I almost never stop to think about the fact that I get to have toothpaste, a toothbrush, shampoo, soap and so much more; and that truly we are so lucky to get to have these luxuries.  In fact, World Bank projects that as of 2015, based on the poverty line of $1.90 per day, “global poverty may have reached 700 million, or 9.6 percent of the global population.” This statistic alone sets things into perspective.  I spend double the global poverty line in a single Starbucks visit.  What’s even more jarring is to realize that there are kids that live right by us, in neighboring towns, who have been severely abused and neglected.  These kids are worried about their safety, whether they have a home or a family to rely on- let alone the simple pleasures of life that we so often take for granted. 

Some of these kids have found Youth Homes, an organization which for over 50 years has been dedicated to helping provide “a safe place for foster youth to heal and grow.”  The kids coming into the residential treatment programs are often traumatized, scared, insecure and lonely. Youth Homes provides these kids the resources needed “to heal, to recognize their innate strengths, to re-engage with school, prepare for work, and find a path to healthy adulthood.”  One of the ongoing needs that Youth Homes has is to provide their incoming youth residents with hygiene kits filled with basic supplies like toothbrush, shampoo, soap.

Yesterday Mindful Littles partnered with Youth Homes again to help fulfill this need.  This was our second event with Youth Homes.  The first was in my backyard for the inaugural Mindful Littles service project — a pilot event with some friends in the neighborhood to test out the concept of Mindful Littles.  The event yesterday was extraordinary for many reasons.  For one, we got to partner again with my dear friend, Beth Goldberg, and her incredible organization.

Second, in addition to our dedicated Mindful Littles crew (Mary, Molly, Sarah & Maya), we had some amazing helpers including Betsy Shandalov, her daughter Ellie, Ellie’s three Girl Scout friends and Reilly Moran, one of the most thoughtful, mature high school seniors I have ever met. Each of them oversaw some part of our event including leading the group through yoga, manning a mindful games station and even helping assemble our personalized hygiene kits.  With so many different people involved, it truly felt like an entire community coming together- littles, bigs and everyone in between- to work for such an important cause.  It was also the largest event we have hosted with 25 registered families.  And it was pretty special to see how receptive and engaged our broader community is about family community service projects.

During yesterday’s event, we learned about the story of Danny — a Youth Homes resident who had been severely abused as a child. When Danny first arrived at Youth Homes, he was so traumatized that he would sit scared in a corner of the room in a fetal position.  After spending time with some incredible mentors at Youth Homes, Danny slowly healed.  Over time, he gained confidence and inner strength, and now works as a security guard, which is a remarkable transition from his early days at Youth Homes.

One of the things that helped Danny through his healing process was getting a rock from his Youth Homes mentor during hikes. He saved each rock as each one proved to be a source of strength for him.  We wanted to spread this same source of strength for future Youth Homes residents, so in every hygiene kit we personalized and assembled yesterday, we provided a stone with either the word “courage” or “hope” written on them.  As more Dannys arrive at Youth Homes, they will receive our personalized hygiene kit gift.  We want the next group of Dannys to have the basic necessities they need to settle in to their new residence.  More importantly, we want them to have a source of strength, hope and courage as they begin their healing journey at Youth Homes.