Compassion is no foreign concept to the children of Family Scholar House. Even if, as is true for many of them, there has often been a lack of it in their lives, they still possess hearts very open to expressing their desire that the world be a more compassionate and kind place. They’ve known hunger and violence and lack of safe shelter and other effects of generational poverty–they know what it looks like when compassion is missing. And we can almost always count on them to also have a vision of what it’s like when compassion is present, all the time, every day.
And it’s important to us at FSH that our children are given opportunities to express that. First, we got involved with Compassionate Louisville. Then, we wrote our own Family Scholar House Charter for Compassion. A couple of months go we had our children participate in the Peace Postcards project. And now, this spring, our children are invited to “sign” (via hand print) a Children’s Charter of Compassion.
You can read more about the Children’s Charter for Compassion here. Our children will be signing a simple version of this beautiful charter with their hand prints–unique to them, and an indication of how special they each are in their own right.
Our children are showing the way–and we know that listening to them will help us all have a better future.
JT Henderson guest posts from his perspective as a regular volunteer at Family Scholar House. JT is the leader of a Missional Community at The Avenue, and, as such, has forged a strong relationship with FSH. We’re grateful–and thought you might like to hear his perspective about “Why FSH?”
I lead a Missional Community that has focused its efforts on Family Scholar House. The partnership between The Avenue and Family Scholar House is natural as we are neighbors separated by two blocks. Our group has done things like host movie nights for residents, help sort clothing donations, write letters of encouragement to residents, bake cookies and help with the fall festival. Each time we serve, I believe that we get more out of it than the organization does- as the group leaves hopeful and encouraged.
Single parents are one of the most overlooked subsets of our society. Looking at it objectively, we do not make it easy for someone to raise a child(ren), have a career, and make a positive impact on the world around them. It becomes infinitely more difficult when you add “full-time student” into this equation. This is why I believe the work that is done at Family Scholar House is so revolutionary. Education is a key to breaking the cycle of poverty and Family Scholar House does this more effectively than any organization I have been in contact with.
I would encourage you to get involved at Family Scholar House. Here are three simple ways you can engage:
1) Pray for Family Scholar House- its residents and staff.
2) Write a note of encouragement for a resident. You never know how a simple thing like a handwritten note will make its way to a resident at just the precise time a pick me up is needed.
3) Give of your time one day per month for two hours. I promise that you will walk away encouraged.
Thanks, JT, for your words–and thanks to ALL the folks over at The Avenue for all the ways you are helping us fulfill our mission!
There’s hope beginning to glimmer behind her eyes.
Those five years–five years between her finding the courage to leave an unhealthy relationship and seek something better for herself and her children and now–they were so often more than she thought she could survive.
Nights wondering where dinner would come from. Days racing against the clock to get to the shelter on time. Having to depend upon others for her daughter’s school uniform and her son’s diapers. The car being home and then losing even that. No tissues for runny noses, no Band-aids for scraped knees, no Ibuprofen for the headaches inevitably born of stress and anxiety. Time marched relentlessly on, but she never could seem to find her place in it, always desperate and constantly on-guard.
During the wee hours she second-guessed herself, questioned if running had been the right thing after all, doubted her ability to be mother enough to the two most precious things in her life, feared that the road to that “something better” was just too long and too hard.
And then she stumbled on a brochure at a community center–bright blue with a smiling mother and child on the front flap, and detailing a program that sounded too good to be true. Still, she called the number, found a friendly voice on the other end, and for the first time in longer than she could remember, felt like hope was possible.
That was eighteen months ago. And now she dances the beautiful grind of college classes and life skills workshops, her children growing in their own educational environments, and all three of them living in a home that is safe, secure and surrounded by a network of supportive friends, staff and volunteers.
And now those eyes, those eyes that for so long cast downward, full of demons and so unsure, they are different. In them you can see shadows of the pain, but that isn’t the whole story. Now, when she looks at you, you can see something else, you can see that all is not lost, and that there is a future so lovely ahead.
Because now…now there’s hope beginning to glimmer behind her eyes. And in that glimmering rests the promise that it will be okay.
At first glance, it’s your typical networking party in a city that does those better than anyone around. Young professionals wearing the latest fashions, business cards discreetly at the ready. Carefully selected music playing. The smells of creatively designed and produced, locally-sourced foods beckoning you further inside one of the grand rooms at the Henry Clay. Artisan ice cream in one corner, baked goods that are nothing less than sheer poetry in another, and all along the sides, tables of sushi-inspired creations by Louisville’s finest chefs.
There’s laughter and chatter and folks moving about in the dance of getting to know one another, making connections, renewing acquaintances, and forging new friendships. It’s Sushi in the City, a Family Scholar House fundraiser designed to show off the very best Louisville has to offer in dining all while helping our city’s younger professionals meet-and-greet and share their support of FSH.
And at first you might think, “Been there. Done that. This looks like all the rest.” Only it isn’t like all the rest–not quite.
Because among all those who fit right in are those who normally don’t. Among all those swirling personalities are the men and women of Family Scholar House–full-time single moms and dads who are also full-time scholars, pursuing a college degree. They’ve got stories to tell you of heartache and loss, of poverty and violence, of what it means to have to start over when you aren’t even sure where the starting line is or where you got knocked off the track to begin with. They’ve got perseverance and determination and triumph–and they ARE the reason for the party.
And the thing is? Unless someone tells you otherwise, you won’t know the difference–nor should you. Because the participants in Family Scholar House have dreams just like everyone else in the room. Dreams of a secure professional life that leaves them fulfilled, dreams of a home and a safe family life, dreams of their children soaring into whatever beauty they want to make out of their lives.
Yes–Sushi in the City raises money for Family Scholar House. And yes, at Sushi in the City, networking happens. But even more? The playing field gets leveled a bit–in the very best and most hopeful of ways. And it becomes apparent, if you’re paying attention, that really there isn’t that much difference in us all, after all.
At a recent meeting and “mini-retreat,” FSH staffers had the opportunity to get a little creative (something practiced often around here!).
Empty plastic bottles–all sorts of shapes and sizes–stood ready on a long conference room table. Containers of different colored sand and packages of glitter sat next to them. And instructions were given to choose a color of sand, a packet of glitter, and a plastic bottle that appealed to you (no surprise that FSH Chief Possibility Officer Cathe Dykstra chose the one shaped like a baseball!).
The project was for all the staff members to “layer” each other’s sand in the bottles, using glitter as desired, such that by the time each person’s bottle was full, it served as a visual reminder of the layers of support that it takes for this staff to set about fulfilling the mission of Family Scholar House. No one works alone–and now each staffer’s desk has a sand creation as a tangible expression of that.
The truth is that the sand creations are also expressions of the layers of support surrounding FSH participants on a daily basis. Mentors, tutors, classroom teachers, volunteer office workers, child care helpers, financial donors and donation drive sponsors ALL are regular players in keeping FSH moving onward and upward. Last year alone, 1,081 volunteers walked through the doors of our residential campuses, every single one of them a valuable contributor to the work that happens here.
Layers upon layers of support–provided in myriad ways–all of it working to make our families and our communities stronger.
Ask a child at Family Scholar House, “What do you think peace looks like?” and you will, in response, hear everything from “My family at dinnertime,” to “No more guns!” to a drawing of heart and some flowers. Even our littlest scholars have a vision of peace, and we’re thankful that we’ve had an opportunity to give voice to those visions as of late.
Thanks to Allan Weiss at Peace Postcards, and our friend Mike Mays over at Heine Brothers, Family Scholar House is thrilled to be hosting “A Heart for Peace” from now until February’s end–an art display designed to help our children “speak peace” into the wider Louisville community.
The children of FSH have, more often than not, seen some of the worst life can hand a person,and that they are still able to believe in goodness–the possibility of peace–is testament to their tremendous resilience and their having found a place to call home.
We invite you to visit these Heine Brothers coffee shops to see the peace postcards for yourself (you’ll be glad you did!): Douglass Loop, Shelbyville Road in St. Matthews, Gardiner Lane, Dahlem Center (Schnitzelburg) and the new Northfield store on Brownsboro Road.
Ali Edelstein is an EducationUSA advisor and Fulbright program manager in Brussels, Belgium. She recently inquired about ways to volunteer her time for Family Scholar House from abroad.
Living and working outside of the United States makes you appreciate what we have in the land that we call home. Louisville was recently recognized by Lonely Planet as the number one U.S. city to visit during 2013; the well-known travel site called the city “a lively, offbeat cultural mecca on the Ohio River.” Louisville is finally becoming recognized for the civic engagement and support for local businesses that make it a great place to live.
Recently, I discovered a product of Louisville that I could not put down. Underwired is a magazine for women, by women, in the local area. It features empowering essays on monthly topics and highlights women making a change in the community. While I was home from Belgium on winter break, I picked up the December issue of Underwired and read about Family Scholar House.
I immediately felt the urge to get involved. Many structures exist to help young single parents complete high school, but few empower them to earn a college degree. For these individuals with pre-supposed futures and limited financial options, the message is often conveyed that, for them, “this is enough.” While earning a high school degree as a young, single parent is a tremendous accomplishment not to be overlooked, there is also a huge compliment to be paid to organizations like Family Scholar House which look even further into the future, telling participants they don’t have to be satisfied with minimum wage jobs and high school degrees.
As a graduate of Sacred Heart Academy, where community service is mandatory, I learned it is part of a fulfilling life to serve others using the talents you have. Since I hail from Kentucky and work in higher education, I knew I could help Family Scholar House. I offered to order inspirational quote posters for participants’ apartments and to serve as an e-mail mentor for participants looking to continue their higher education, through internships and studies in the United States or abroad.
People always think I landed my dream job in Europe by going to a big name university or coming from a wealthy situation to begin with, but neither of those circumstances are true. The solitary truth is that I surrounded myself by positive people who supported my aspirations, then asked all the questions and seized all the opportunities that I could.
My advice to Family Scholar House participants and to Louisvillians considering volunteering there is this: always help others – however you can, whenever you can. No matter your situation, you will always have God-given talents that may seem small to you, but may have a huge impact on the life and dreams of someone else.