Together Apart | Our pandemic year with youth in foster care
Through the highs and lows of the past year, we've marveled at the resilience and spirit of our youth. In our 22 years, the significance of "Community as Family" was never more clear, highlighting the value of trusted bonds.
Here's a look back through the lens of "The Hero's Journey"
January 2020 An Ordinary World
The year began as every other, honoring the foster care journey, connecting authentic relationships and creating unique learning experiences.
We set new year intentions | Honored Dr. Martin Luther Ling, Jr. by speaking our truth and capturing collective dreams | Engaged in activities designed to build confidence, affirm self and nourish the inner spirit | And of course, we played!
February Climbing New Heights
Youth grew food, prepared community meals and explored artistic and cultural connections.
Teens pushed physical and emotional limitations. Maybe a premonition of things to come...
March Seeking Assistance
As with everyone, life changed significantly, and so did we.
Early in March, Think Of Us hosted a virtual town hall to lift up the emerging needs of Youth in Foster Care. With over 1,400 survey respondents, the feedback was universal as the country prepared for an unprecedented pandemic fight.
Our collective response addressed immediate needs:
FOOD ACCESS: Delivering grocery care packages and gift cards to transition aged youth and caregivers | HOUSING SECURITY: Supporting young adults in securing sustainable housing through Home4LAYouth | TECHNOLOGY: Partnering to supply laptops and iPads to the community
April | May The Departure
We embarked on a new journey in the face of unparalleled adversity, staying connected with our Peace4Kids Family and launching a weekly virtual program "Virtual Sunshine"
We adapted 🤍 hosting 6,234 hours of Zoom connectivity
TUTORING: One-to-one tutoring for grade, middle and high school students
CAREER DEVELOPMENT: Technical and creative computer training
VIRTUAL CLASSES: Fitness, art, writing, poetry and dancing
FAMILY NIGHTS: Games, competitions and hang out time
EDUCATIONAL WORKSHOPS: Educator and professional development
YOUTH SUPPORT: One-to-one connection with transitional youth
GUIDED MEDITATION: Grounding and centering our community in collective practice
"SHINE" | written, produced, and performed by our talented community in partnership with FYR became THE anthem to lift our spirits
It was an honor to celebrate our amazing graduates with a community drive through!
June Trials + Tribulations
In response to the murder of George Floyd, our young leaders took to the streets, activated their voices, and created spaces for communal dialogue. 'The Sanctuary' Town Hall and Healing Circle emerged.
"The Sanctuary", youth share their hope for a way forward
Moving conversation >>>> into action
Peace4Kids alumni are frequently known as mobilizers and champions of change. Under the Peace4Kids umbrella and guided by adults with lived foster care experience, Altura Collaborative officially launched on June 19, in honor of Juneteenth.
Watch Altura Launch Guest Talks:
Founded by P4K alum, Dr. Akin Abioye, Altura Collaborative is a community driven platform connecting people with a lived foster care experience to resources that accelerate educational and professional goals.
Students, graduates and professionals access a like-minded community, share ideas, inspiration, skill build and land dream jobs - all within a network that values their life experience.
Community Clean Up
Co-organized by fashion stylist, blogger and P4K alum, Aalexus Longmire
The first of many events through Aalexus' social enterprise organization, youth and volunteers took part in a day that combined art and community service.
"The support, pure joy and energy at the event encourages our journey to create safe and inspiring spaces for all to engage in outreach, while also uplifting our community voices through arts, spoken words and style." ~ Lex Styles
📙 Social Justice Book Club
The Peace4Kids Social Justice Book emerged out of our Community Healing Circle. The book club provides a space for thoughtful conversation on issues of social justice, race, equity and activism. Volunteers connect monthly and discussions are wide-ranging and include varying viewpoints, which makes for interesting and thought-provoking conversation.
July Facing the Crisis
As the pandemic continued to change our world, many of our youth struggled with their mental health and feelings of abandonment, so we explored every way to anchor our community:
MICRO CLASSES: With health and safety a #1 priority, we hosted outdoor, physically distant classes. Youth were thrilled! | VIRTUAL CONNECTIONS: Weekly virtual classes and connections continued | CARE PACKAGE DELIVERIES: Connecting with the youngest members of our tribe 🤍
August Unveiling the Treasure
Meeting in micro pods, we recognize the power and value of connecting in smaller groups in contrast to our large group gatherings.🧡
September The Road Block
The school year began with reinstated stay at home orders. We partnered with Ebony and Pink Pearls to gift each youth backpacks and school supplies, offering a sense of regularity in our "new normal".
While we weren't able to gather in person, we took this time to partner with Hope Education Research Solutions to deliver implicit bias training to LAUSD educators. Based on P4K pedagogy, participants defined personal and societal biases and cultivated approaches for engaging youth facing adversity.
Implicit Bias Training Keynote
October Master of the Two Worlds
Our youth have shown us that ethical and strength based storytelling can be key in healing trauma and emerging through crisis.
Collaborating with the USC Annenburg JOVRNALISM project, our P4K family created an immersive 360 series, "Finding Home". The series was selected as a 2020 Excellence in Immersive Storytelling finalist by the Online Journalism Awards. Other finalists: The New York Times and USA Today!
The 'new normal' encourages creativity. "Our Trunk or Treat" event with physically distant candy chutes was a BIG hit.
Nov & Dec A New Life
"Thank you guys for always going the extra mile to make sure our youth know they are loved." ~ P4K Caregiver
As stay at home orders tightened, community creativity and hearts expanded to host the most unique holiday celebrations.
We're deeply grateful for all of our extended family:
The National Charity League, Palos Verdes: For baking hundreds of homemade treats and pies, made with love | Well Done Catering: For hosting the most delicious Thanksgiving meal ever | Laguna Fabrics: For purchasing holiday groceries for EVERY P4K Family | For Goodness Cakes: For creating whimsical and delicious desserts | Foster Nation: For ensuring every youth gift wish was fulfilled | Social Justice League: For keeping our toes warm with new socks & our bellies full with fresh produce | Santa Alex: For bringing smiles and cheer to our hearts
🤍 Our Volunteer Tribe: This year happened because of you. You showed up in every way, and we love you, a lot.
🤍 Our Youth & P4K Alum: For 22 years you have informed the way we engage and build "Community as Family," and we're honored to be on this journey together!
2021 Returning Home
"Kasserian Ingera" in Swahili means, "And how are the children?"
The traditional Masai greeting acknowledges the high value the Masai place on the well-being of their children. Even modern Masai with no children of their own give the traditional answer, “All the children are well,” confirming these important values:
- Peace and safety prevail
- The priorities of protecting the young and powerless are in place
- Society has not forgotten its reason for being and its responsibilities
THERE'S A GLIMMER OF LIGHT AHEAD
We continue to connect with youth and young adults in every way safely possible. With most Californians having access to the vaccine by Summer 2021, it's reassuring to know hope is on the horizon.
We recognize that people with a lived foster care experience have learned to emerge from crisis while moving through uncertainty. Together with mitigating difficult circumstances, we honor their journey by uplifting strengths, learning from their insights and ensuring well being as they lead us into the future.