Tuesday, April 26, 2011

International Justice Mission...in Thailand

Not too long ago, I found out about the International Justice Mission. Justin Schneider a friend and co-worker of mine who works for CitySquare's Legal Action Works law firm. In the last month or so, Justin was chosen to do a legal fellowship with International Justice Mission at their field office in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The fellowship lasts 12 months and starts in June.

Once we found out about their trip, Imtiaz Haiyoom, our Director of IT at CitySquare, jumped into action and called several of us at CitySquare together to start helping Justin and his wife, Angela, raise the funds needed for their trip. What has resulted is a an excuse to get a lot of cool people together who want to, simultaneously, help good people fulfill a mission that will have an amazing impact.

On Saturday, May 7th from 7:00-10:00 p.m. we will be hosting a fundraiser for Justin and Angela. The event will be held at 511 N. Akard. You can see more (and RSVP) on the Facebook page here: Let's Get 'Em to Thailand. We want you to come, too!! We have quite a diverse group of friends so I am sure that whoever you are and whatever your interests, you will meet some cool, new people...and/or bring your own friends so that we can meet them as well!

Here are some of the facts I found out about IJM:
The International Justice Mission is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. IJM lawyers, investigators and aftercare professionals work with local officials to ensure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to promote functioning public justice systems.
Because of IJM, in the last four years:
  • More than 2,000 children, women and men have been freed from slavery
  • More than 800 women and children have been freed from forced prostitution
  • More than 300 individuals have been arrested for trafficking-related offenses
  • Hundreds of widows and orphans have had stolen property returned to them
  • Thousands have received their entitled documentation of citizenship or elevated legal status
Justice is important to me no matter where it is. After watching the above video and reading about IJM, I was nearly convinced to apply to the organization to be a social worker in one of their locations...and I would, except that for now I know I am needed here. I am so thankful to know there are the Justin's and Angela's in the world who can and are willing to work in the IJM arena. Fighting injustice takes all kinds of careers, fields, and people all over the world.

In addition, here is what I think is super-awesome about Justin, Angela, and the amazing people I work with at CitySquare: I love that immediately, when Imtiaz heard about it, he automatically started figuring out ways to help. I love that our entire "committee" of people planning this fundraiser work for CitySquare or other non-profits. I love that each person on the "committee" understands their own organization's financial constraints, yet are still dedicated to the justice of people everywhere...so much so that they're willing to give up money themselves to see it happen (and those of you who are familiar with non-profits understand people in the non-profit business are not working with bunches of disposable income). I love that in my conversation with Justin asking him if he was concerned about the large gap between what they have raised and what they need, he explained to me without missing a beat or adjusting any kind of facial expression that, if needed, he and Angela would cut into their savings to make it happen.

Please come join us.

However, if you can't come, but would like to support Justin and Angela, you can either go here: http://www.ijm.org/getinvolved/internshipsupport, click on "support an intern/fellow," then choose "Justin Schneider"


Go to http://bit.ly/CitySqDonate and choose "LAW Fellowship" from the dropdown menu.

If you would like to help by donating something cool to the silent auction we will have the night of the party, please let me know.

Let's Get 'Em to Thailand!

Angela and Justin:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Teaching Kids Where they Are and Helping them Discover their Greatness

As I tried to muck through the numerous emails I seem to get on a daily basis, I noticed one showed up only as "Chris." I was right in thinking it was one of our superb Americorps members from last summer.

I can't take credit for the fact that Chris is an amazing person with a gift for teaching. Instead, I wanted to post his email as a reminder to myself (and you guys) of the quality of people we get coming through our programs. I know that when Chris left our summer program, he was determined to start something like our program in Commerce, where he attends school.

What excites me about his letter is that Chris is taking on the challenge of helping inspire kids to be great. It's nothing we have in us that we give to them but, instead, something they have inside of themselves that our job, as teachers, is to help them discover and figure out ways to get them to connect the dots and be as great as we see that they are. Chris did (and is still doing) that even though he's an hour away from us now and working with completely different kids...and that makes me smile. The ripple effect continues.

Here is his email:
Hi Ms. Janet,

I just wanted to share a small story with you that you might find interesting. Last semester (and purely by chance/fate) I took on my first autistic piano student. His name is Sam. He's an extremely bright kid, very quick with numbers, and he is storming through his methods books at a rate I've never seen before...typical Asperger's Syndrome. Of course, with his learning proficiency, there is a communicating deficiency, and after talking to his mother, we think music might be the best way to help him with it.

Anyway, in our last lesson, I had him working on Bach's "Prelude in C Major." He was doing well; he had all the notes memorized, all the dynamics memorized, his fingers were curved correctly. His only problem was that some measures were a little disjointed, interrupting the flow of the piece. So, I asked him a question, "How do I know you're playing the right music?"

He pointed at the music laying on the stand, "Because the notes are right there."

So I took the music off the stand, "But you have it memorized. Let's say you're performing for me without music. How do I know you're playing the right notes?"

He stared at me blankly.

I decided a different approach. "How do you know I'm saying the right words to you right now?"

He thought for a few seconds, "Well, because I know what the words mean. We both know English."

I was impressed with his response. I wasn't sure a twelve-year-old would hit so close to the answer, but then I had to remind myself, this is Sam. I continued, "Right! More precisely, it's because I know what I'm trying to say. If I tell you, 'the cat jumped over the blue fox,' what do you think of?"

"Why is the fox blue?"

I smile, "Because he's in our imaginations. So what do you see in your imagination?"

"A cat jumping over a blue fox...what color is the cat?"

"What's your favorite color?"

"How about purple?"

"Okay, so a purple cat jumps over a blue fox. Now what do you see?"

"A purple cat jumping over a blue fox."

And now I know we're back on track together. I continue, "Alright. So how is it that you see that?"

He thinks again, "Well, because you said it."

"Correct! You see it because I see it first, and then I explain it to you, right? That's how you know I'm saying the right words! And it's the same with music..." And we go on to have a discussion about what music is. A brilliant discussion entailing Bach, John Cage, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Eventually we get back to the Prelude, and I challenge him this time to tell me something with the music.

At first he was rather confused. He wasn't sure what I meant. To him, as long as he played the right notes, rhythms, and dynamics, then he was playing the music. So we tried an exercise. I told him to take the first measure and imagine purple. Then I pointed four measures later and told him to imagine green. Then, in between, I told him to turn the purple color into the green color with the music. He didn't quite understand at first, but we worked on it for a few moments, and I broke it down for him, explaining that when I play, I pretend I am painting; each sound has it's own color and I make a picture with those sounds. So he tries again, and those four bars of music were so...true, raw, and moving. They were perfectly connected. I glanced over at his mom, who was just beaming. Sam was communicating; he was showing us his colors.

After the lesson his mom pointed something interesting out. She mentioned that he had learned the alphabet by assigning each letter a color. Seems like we might be on to a connection here.

I hope things at CityWalk are going well!

Take Care,


Monday, April 04, 2011

April Showers bring May Flowers

I absolutely love going to our After-School Academy! Every time I enter, I get formal handshakes and greetings asking me how my day has been...and then hugs and little ones telling me how much they missed me. It can't get better than that, can it?

Last week when I was making a "drive by" (as our After-School Coordinator likes to call it) to pick up something on my way to the next meeting, I jumped out so I could get a quick dose of hugs. While getting a few hugs, Ms. Shaina's class came out the door for their playground time. When they saw me, they immediately asked, "Miss Janet! Can we sing you our song???" After an impromptu version outside, I had to get the video camera. That's when Ms. Shaina insisted they do it inside their decorated room with their props. They make my day! :)

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Book Review: Evolving in MonkeyTown

Evolving in MonkeyTown by Rachel Held Evans wasn't necessarily the most eye-opening or inspiring book to me. Perhaps that's because I've already started figuring out what she writes about--it's not about figuring it out! It's about the process and the questions...and that's ok.
"The problem with fundamentalism is that it can't adapt to change." ~pg. 18
Being a Christian isn't about biding my time until death. It's not about attending certain religious services. It isn't even about making sure to associate with other Christians. Christianity is about embodiment. It's about living as Christ lived and embodying that spirit with people. It's about messing that up on a daily basis and continuing to work toward that example. It's about having conversations with people...conversations that question and challenge each other in a back and forth seeking of understanding and coming to new realizations about what it means for me to be a Christian or a person of faith.
"...faith must adapt in order to survive." ~pg.212
"What my generation is learning the hard way is that faith is not about defending conquered ground but about discovering new territory. Faith isn'g about being right, or settling down, or refusing to change. Faith is a journey, and every generation contributes its own sketches to the map." ~pg. 220
My faith has been and is still a journey. It's my journey. Faith isn't a set of answers someone can hand to me to prepare for the "test." Faith is my own study, exploration, and discovery. And wherever I am on that point is just fine. It's a continuum that none of us will ever fully achieve. It's not possible. So there is no need to judge or ridicule anyone else for their journey. We challenge and question each other, have the conversation, and aspire to be better people.

See Rachel Held Evans' blog here.