Saturday, May 23, 2015

Our Friends from Tampa!

At Harbor House, we get a lot of volunteer groups.  The one we had this past week was wonderful!  Coming all the way from the University of Tampa in Florida, this group of 10 students and one advisor was enthusiastic about everything.  They stayed at Harbor House and immediately endeared my staff to them by offering to clean up the kitchen after each afternoon's snack.

The kids are quite used to volunteers, but most volunteers stay a week or less (sometimes only a day), so the kids were pleasantly surprised when, after a weekend, the same group was still there and remembered their names.  There were some hidden talents such as singing and ukelele playing that we put to good use, and everyone in the group was friendly, open, and wanted to spend time reading to the kids and learning about Oakland.

The groups that are willing to do anything are such a blessing, as there are a lot of random tasks to be done at Harbor House.  From tree pruning to snack making to kitchen mopping to tutoring, the group wholeheartedly embraced our mission and our neighborhood and are welcome back any time!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

An Intern's Testimony

[This is Christina, one of our senior interns, who talked at our fundraiser on Saturday.  She was mature and poised and really touched me.  If you'd like to support her and other other inters, please click on the "donate" button or write to me for how you can send a check.  Thanks!]

Hi.  My name is Christina Saechao.  I’m 18 years old and am a senior at Oakland High School.  I am currently involved in the Polynesian club and am Vice President, was a cheerleader and I work 18 hours each week at Harbor.  I am a first generation American.  I am proud to say that I will be attending Cal State Northridge next Fall and plan to study biology – I would like to be an ob-gyn or a midwife.
I was introduced to Harbor House by my cousin when I was 14 years old – she was volunteering here and told me about a job opportunity.  It was at a time when I was wanting to become more responsible, and start working so I could pay for my own things like my phone bill, shoes that I like and basic things that any girl would want...Little did I know that I had come to Harbor House when I was 5.  My mom would come to quilt and while she quilted, I played on the play ground.  When I walked in to HH for my job interview, It felt as if I had been there before – and I had!  

Working at Harbor House has never been easy.  I am continually challenged in my job, especially by the students enrolled in the after school program.  For example, my first year at Harbor House I was in charge of a Kindergartener/1st grade table.  After bible study time, the students sit down with an intern like myself, and do their homework.  The ratio is about 5 students to 1 intern.  If one student is difficult, then it can ruin the whole group social dynamic and make homework time very challenging.  One of my first graders was one of those difficult kids…she had attitude towards me all of the time.  For some reason she didn’t accept me as her “intern” and she wouldn’t listen to what I asked her to do, and she would give me her mug face no matter what.  This in turn made her an outcast from the other kids at the table. 

The following year, I became a Junior intern and was in charge of the 2nd graders, which meant that I had to deal with the same difficult student from last year.  Again, she made a mug face when she saw me and even said when she noticed me at the beginning of the school year “I have you again?”  What an attitude!  We endured living like this together for 2 month’s until I noticed that she had been gone for a couple days and asked our education director about her.  I was told that this girl’s grandfather, who was a very important man in her life, had passed away.  When I saw her, even though I knew she didn’t like me, I wanted to let her know that I was here for her if she ever wanted to talk about her grandfather.  She started crying – I told her that it was okay to cry, to not hold it in and to let it out.  When she stopped crying she hugged me and said thank you.  Ever since that day, we have been great friends.  And, when the following year came, I had her again.  And this time when she walked in she had a smile on her face when she noticed me.

I love being a role model to the kids at Harbor House.  I have the ability to encourage these kids when no one else does.  I know firsthand what it is like to look for encouragement from others and not receive it.  As a young person I always wanted someone to give me encouragement.  Coming from a big family – 6 older sisters (I’m the youngest) I was expected by my sisters to graduate, not have a kid at a young age, and go off to college.  They were expecting so much from me that they didn’t know how to be there and say that they were proud of me.  I never felt that I had the encouragement that everybody wants, so that’s why I want to be an encourager to all of the kids in my life.

Additionally, it is my desire to instill confidence in each of the kids.  I have been blessed to have been surrounded by people who helped me with my confidence, and It’s now my turn to do the same for the kids at Harbor House.  

Most of the kids at Harbor House are like me – their parents work hard, but can’t seem to get ahead.  Sometimes they work 2-3 jobs to make pay their bills and feed their family. How great it is that I can help each kid who doesn’t receive an adequate amount of attention at home, to develop a positive vision for their future! How great it is that I can encourage someone who needs an extra ounce of courage!  How great it is that I can represent God’s love to these kids when human love can’t always meet their needs.

When I look back on the 4 years I have spent here at Harbor House, I realize that each of my kindergartners have grown to be funny, positive, sometimes sassy, young pre-teens.  I too have grown…I am no longer a typical teenager that thinks only of myself, I care more about the important things like putting others before myself, and I have become more confident and outgoing.  I take ownership of my job, help lead the staff and guide them in their daily routines.  Mostly, I have learned to be a friend and a confidant to the kids and co-workers.

I am and will always be grateful for the opportunity to work at Harbor House. I have been able to use the gifts God has given me, to speak kind words of truth to the kids in our program.  I’ve watched their life skills develop, I’ve seen positive growth in myself and the kids that I’ve worked with, and it helped secure my vision for my future. I am also grateful, for all of you who are here tonight who have and/or will be supporting Harbor House’s vision and purpose.  Without your support, I would not have been able to develop into the young woman that is standing here tonight.  

Thank you.