I spoke with Kim, who runs the Red Shield Summer Camp, and asked her a few questions about the program and about homelessness in general, so that you’d know where the money you are donating is going:
Kim, please give me the basic details of the program.
The Red Shield Family Residence is a homeless shelter that houses forty-two families. Of an average population of 140 usually 90 are children under the age of eighteen.
I work with the kids who are ages 6-12 years. Before arriving, many of the kids have been subjected to being bounced around from place to place, trauma, food insecurity, and early parentification to younger siblings. The program’s goals are meant to address the needs of the kids to stabilize and have the shelter experience be one that is a positive.
We use many activities to achieve our goals.
Art helps the kids express themselves when they may not have the words to do so. The kids volunteer in the community to allow them the opportunity to realize that they too have something to give and are not the bottom rung of the charity ladder. For example we box food for MANNA to help those living with AIDS. The kids have their own garden, which is used to supply the shelter residents with fresh produce in their diets. This gives them the ability to feel that they are able to contribute to their family needs with kid-grown and kid-cooked dishes, as these are kids who want to have a way to help. This year the kids are being taught photography and we will have a gallery show at the end of the summer. In addition, the kids are participating in Capoeira (Brazilian martial arts/dance). They will be a part of the martial arts community ceremony and be belted.
In addition to art as therapy the kids also are participating in therapy groups and conflict resolution and anger management workshops. Academics are a huge and daily focus of the program as well, as are life skills.
2) How long have you been doing it?
It was five years this past April.
3) Do you think there are any wrong impressions the general public has about the homeless?
Absolutely. Most people think that the homeless and poor are lazy people who don’t want to work. Few consider the broader oppressive structural issues that fuel poverty in this country. We as a society have been trained that if you work you get ahead. Not everyone is offered opportunity or can see beyond the inequality they were born into. My goal is to expose the kids to as many things as possible outside their typical experience as possible. People cannot dream about things they cannot fathom. I want to encourage them to realize there is no goal beyond their abilities.
4) How can the money we raise benefit your program?
We need film, money for field trips, art supplies, everything really. We need so much.
5) What the toughest part of your job? What’s the best part of it?
The toughest part is seeing so many kids falling through the cracks. It is hard to see that all kids do not all have the same starting point. It is hard when people don’t treat the kids with respect. In addition, some of the kids have had to deal with so very much, and yet with it all they are so receptive to even the tiniest bit of love, attention and affection.
If you would like to donate your time or money to this program, please contact Kim at email@example.com.