Eleanor Roosevelt once said that, "People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built." This quotation sums up my summer experience and how it has affected my outlook on life.
I had the opportunity to work at PACT Therapeutic Nursery this summer and it was a remarkable experience. PACT Therapeutic Nursery: Helping Children with Special Needs is an independent affiliate of the Kennedy Krieger Institute located in the Windsor Mill section of Baltimore. It serves families whose children suffer from pediatric developmental disabilities which come in both physical and cognitive forms.
There are many factors that contribute to the homeless problem in the Baltimore City area. The most predominant ones observed during this internship were unavailability of housing, substance abuse which correlates with lack of or ineffective health care and unemployment. One of the most outstanding features of Baltimore City was the number of boarded up houses that sometimes extended over whole blocks. In a city where homelessness is a pertinent issue, it does not really make sense that the number of boarded up houses seem to outnumber the number of people who are actually homeless. As the homeless shelters overflowed with occupants and others closed down due to lack of funds, it would seem sensible to restore some of these homes so as to find some form of solution to this problem.
For over 10 years, the city has faulted on gentrification and has not been able to proceed with its projects. I am sure that all those in power who do live in the area are very much aware of this problem but as to why no one is making an effort to correct the situation is absolutely mindboggling. Many a times, I was very overwhelmed with anger because of this situation. Poverty is as a result of societal decisions and I personally think this is one of the areas that authorities can invest more money and time so as to correct this problem. Instead of constantly trying to eradicate poverty in third-world countries, we can start right here in our own backyards by launching campaigns to eradicate poverty within the 50 states.
Though there were some negative issues we dealt with, the experience was indeed a humbling one and it will be engraved in my life forever. Through the nursery, I got the opportunity to come into contact with two mothers who opened up to me within my last week and gave me a preview of what was going on in their personal lives at the moment . Though I could not be in their shoes, I tried my best to empathize with them and give them encouraging words. At the end of the day, though I might not have given professional counseling, it felt good to know that maybe what I said to them alleviated their worries.
This service has definitely shown me that the parents of these children have a lot of potential to make a better future for themselves and their children if, and only if, they try. I think what is holding them back is that they know that there is a system in place where they will be taken care of. Therefore, they are not motivated in to look for a job to even try and get out of the shelter. I learned that the shelters have a rule whereby the parents have to be out of the shelter for a certain number of hours every day, looking for jobs. This was not the case in my short experience as most of the parents just roamed the streets for the day, pursuing things that were not beneficial to them or their children. Sometimes when they dropped of their children, they would stay on the computers "in search of jobs" but there were times when I have observed them surfing social networking sites instead of job hunting.
The life lessons, the opportunities and the relationships I have gained through this Shepherd internship are ones that I will not trade for anything. Today I sit down and I am thankful for how everything has worked out in my life, be it good or bad.