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I Want A Broken Heart… February 10, 2007

Posted by G in random stuff, youth min.

A friend once told me long ago that when I tell a story I am sure to let you know the color of the wallpaper…  I tried to leave that information and more out of this one… tried is action word in that sentence!!   🙂

My heart has really been challenged lately with how to step outside myself.  I have also been trying to think of ways that would enable the youth to do the same and have a bigger picture of the world.  Yesterday I was talking with Mike about an idea and he mentioned that it would be better to get involved with what other organizations are doing instead of doing something on our own.  I totally agree… this is how we interact in Namibia… by coming alongside those that are already ministering within Namibia. But it’s hard to find organizations that would take 10+ volunteers at a time to work directly with the people… and in my thinking face-to-face contact is important.  (don’t get me wrong… the behind the scenes jobs like stocking shelves and stuff are important and quite necessary, but for the kids to really get their hearts connected to what they are doing… they need to put a face to the people that they are serving).  So, this challenged me to see what is out there and what other organizations are doing.

 While searching on the internet, I found that there are MANY organizations out there focusing on the homeless in New Hampshire.  A few weeks ago I had read a newspaper article that stated that 7 out of 10 children in New Hampshire live below the poverty level… and yes the poverty level is a relative term… While researching, I discovered that as of January 24th, 2007 the poverty level is $20,650 for a family of four.  Manchester has changed dramatically since I was young and has truly become an inner-city.  Children are forced to learn how to just survive.  One of the organizations I found really tore at my heart… the Salvation Army in Manchester… they are reaching out to these children.

Four nights a week the Salvation Army in Manchester holds what they call the “Kid’s Cafe”.  They discovered that there are countless amounts of children wandering the streets of Manchester in the evening and they decided that they wanted to provide a place for them to come and learn, have a hot meal, play and make crafts.  After school they provide tutoring and from 5:00pm – 7:00pm they run the “Kid’s Cafe”.  They also stated that they need approximately 25 volunteers a night.  I immediately sent an e-mail inquiring more information and continued to look and see what else is out there.  A little while later I went in to talk with Mike about what I had researched and when I mentioned the “Kid’s Cafe” he asked me to get the phone number so that he could call.  The man we needed to talk to wasn’t in, but the woman that answered the phone told us that we could come down.  Once we arrived we were told that volunteers need to go through an orientation training, but once he found out that we run a youth group at a church in Amherst (and we’re not just a couple of wackos off the street looking for community service hours) he allowed us to observe for the evening.

As usual I felt a bit awkward… not knowing what I should do.  Mike & I wandered around a bit and found the game room.  We met a couple of volunteers from the Ameri-core and one of them was giving us the run down of how things work.  They do tutoring after school and then the kids play and dinner is at 5:30pm.  I decided I wanted to play with the kids… and they had air hockey… SWEET!  So, I asked one boy if he wanted to play… and I got the look of “who do you think you are???” I didn’t let that stop me… I moved onto the next boy and he sheepishly said “yea…”  I toned down my competitve instincts and let Cody win… a girl, Alia, had come by and said she wanted to play with me… Cody didn’t want to stop playing so I told her she cold play Cody and I would watch… From that angle I discovered Cody’s cheating ways… 🙂  Soon it was time for dinner.  I walked down the hallway and Mike informed me of how they set up for dinner… 2 volunteers at the ends of each table.  I still figured we were observing so we just sat back and watched.  Then a woman came up to us and told us to find an end of a table… at that moment I was wishing we took that orientation.  I decided to look for a table with either Alia or Cody sitting there and I found the one where Alia was sitting at the opposite end that I was.  I quickly made friends with Kirsten 9, Seth 9, Tony (he is 8 and has safety-orange hair covering the original blonde…) and Omar 10… I already knew Alia 8 and her sister Megan 10, but was not close enough to talk to the other 2 boys.  Michelle was the other volunteer and she took care of all the stuff that the volunteers need to do… Praise God!!  Seth and Omar were telling me that I need to come to the activities that they are a part of after dinner (it’s segregated by age 4 to 6, 7 to 9 and 10 to 13 depending on the evening)  Omar was to be in the game room and Seth in the gym.  I told them that I was just observing and that I was going to go to all the activities. 

After dinner it’s pretty much like a machine… tables and chairs are cleared and the floor is swept so that the gym is back to being a gym.  Seth began to beg me to play dodge ball and I thought I got out of it when another of the volunteers told Mike and I to play.  I soon discovered… I do not like their version of dodge ball…. kids vs. volunteers… and the ball is WHIPPED at the kids… it’s not a fair game at all.  On the way home Mike mentioned that they need to toughen the kids up… awe man… as soon as the game was over Mike asked if I wanted to go check out something else… better believe it… we went into the game room and Megan was in there standing by the foosball table by herself so I asked her if she wanted to play with me.  I learned that she is a bit of a mini-me and gets more upset than I do when I am loosing so I had to try extra hard to loose in foosball… which is usually pretty easy for me to do.  🙂  Omar was acting all cool as he was shooting hoops… and gave me an “I’m the man” look when he finally shot a long shot in the basketball game.

After the games I went to find Mike and he was talking with Bob, the youth coordinator.  We learned more about the ministry and the kids in the program.  He mentioned that many of the kids are refugees from the Sudan, Darfur, Marundi and other African countries.  That they are brought into the country by agencies that don’t help them at all.  They are basically left to fend for themselves and not taught the culture.  As we were leaving I tried to say good-bye to as many of the kids that I met as I could.  I could count on one hand the amount of parents that actually came to pick up their children.  It broke my heart to watch Seth, Tony and Cody walk out the door onto the streets in the dark… in a pretty rough area of Manchester.



1. LeAnne - February 11, 2007

Sounds like a very cool and worth-while thing you all could be a part of. Keep me updated…

and next time I’m in town, I’m gonna kick your butt in air hockey 🙂

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