Thursday, May 22, 2008


This week for some reason I have heard so much to bear from the inmates and the families. On a rare week I might have more than one visit to a prison and this was one such week. I went to Charles Bass which I go to every Monday and then last night I went to TN Prison for Women. At Charles Bass I had a pretty positive response from the inmates, but one man wanted to talk to me about his situation. I was open to learning more about his children and how we can serve them but what I heard next was scary. I guess more so the dark, distant look in his eyes sealed the deal. He wanted to refer over his niece and nephew and said he didn’t know his sisters number. I told him, “You could give me your mom/their grandmother’s number and I could get their number from her.” I often do this because some of the inmates have lost contact with their children but the grandparents seem to always be able to reach the grandchildren. So the inmate told me, “I don’t know if that would be the best idea, we are not on the best terms. I shot my dad because he was beating my mom.” I feel like there was more to it then that because he also told me that he was spending hundreds of dollars a week on drugs. He also said he has an eight year old child and this inmate was my age.

Then after following up with one of the other referrals from this week I talked to woman about enrolling her children. The children’s incarcerated stepfather had referred the children over. She told me about her struggles of being disabled and how her brother was killed five years ago and how her mother’s house just burned down. Luckily the children can be exposed to the model of one-to-one mentoring and strive for big things. Poverty weaves its way into every aspect of life. Violence, poverty, health concerns, education are always at the forefront of survival. She was already worrying about her son who had skipped school a few times.
Yesterday at the TN Prison for Women a woman admitted to the group that she is in there for selling drugs and now her own son is dabbling. She was horrified but in a way knew that she had almost facilitated this to happen, that it was the natural course. There was a woman who was also locked up who wanted to refer over her great grandchildren. She was in a wheelchair and I can’t even imagine what she did. One parent spoke of the fact that her children are already involved in the program and all the wonderful activities they did.

I want to change gears a little bit and focus more on the most incredible part of the whole experience. The children we serve!!! A few weeks ago we took children who are matched with a mentor at a few of the local Boys and Girls Club to a day camp and they canoed, did tree climbing and rode horses. Basically I was able to be a kid for the day. It made me want to make my living as a canoe instructor or something to that effect. The children were in heaven. They were so PROUD to see what they could accomplish. To see a child learn, to see a child experience, to see a child grow is an incredible experience. Many of the kids have not been exposed to life outside the city so it was pretty special to see wild turkeys when we drove in. You will see a photograph of the children getting psyched up to tree climb. I do feel so fortunate to work with children and to hear the different ways that people live in the community I live and to understand that poverty and violence need to be something that we combat especially for the sake of future generations!!!

Monday, May 12, 2008

"Visiting Day"

Amachi Kids Club on Saturday was very meaningful. We tackled incarceration issues head on and no matter how scary it was, it seemed to be so comforting for the children. We watched a video (Reading Rainbow) that included two sections: discussion of a book and then a segment about an actual family dealing with their father’s incarceration. The book is called “Visiting Day,” about a young girl and grandmother visiting the daddy in prison and they just talk about what they are feeling and how they think the father is feeling. The pictures are great but it is a really short book. The really impactful part is the true story. We did not show the whole video because some of the images were so graphic. The father said he shot someone and there were the constant noises of slamming doors. And the sound of prison doors slamming are totally different than a bedroom door slamming. A bedroom door slamming is like a cloudy day with some mist and the feeling one gets when being around a prison door slamming is that of a hurricane. I don’t notice it now but a prison is a place that one should feel uncomfortable and it was significant to create an atmosphere at Kids Club where children felt extreme comfort Mary and Sara brought in blankets for the children to lie on. As the movie began and the Reading Rainbow song came on the kids started singing the theme song. And when I say singing I mean singing, it was like a choir. It was hilarious!!! Take a look it’s in a book, it’s reading rainbow. Come on with me people belt it out. So we watched about a twenty minute section and then got into two groups to discuss what they just saw. We had a younger group and an older group. There were five of us from Big Brothers Big Sisters who did a whole planning session to create the questions and they included the following game plan:

· When children arrive make handprint flowers
· Do Ice Breaker-“Link Up”(Rachel): One person stands and talks about themself. When someone in the group has something in common with something they’ve said, they get up and link arms with the speaking person. Only one person at a time. They declare the thing that they had in common and then begin talking about themself until someone else comes up with the something in common with them. The activity continues until all group members are “Linked Up.”
· Sara G. describes how we are all “linked up,” description of Amachi Kids Club, etc. and let children know what to do if they are uncomfortable with movie, etc.
· At 2:30/2:45pm Watch “Visiting Day.”
· Break into small groups…and use a paper plate to draw how you feel
· Reflect on the following questions: (in no particular order)
1. When a parent goes to prison what do you think changes/happens?
2. How do you think your family is similar and different to the Goodens?
3. Who from the Gooden family do you relate to most (i.e. think you are most like them)? How? Characters include-Nikki, Chris, Malik, Malcom, Holten and Irene
4. Have you ever felt like Malik? Why do you think Malik is angry?
Another thought because they stress family relationship
5. Do you think it helps that the brothers and sisters can talk about what is going on?
6. What do you think will happen to this family?
· Gather back in one group (Mary would you like to lead this?)-to have children come up and write reflections on the big sheet of paper
· Conclusion (Carly) whatever you are feeling is ok…
7. Give out flowers and snack. See you next month for break dancing.