Saturday, March 25, 2017

Reflections of the Students from James Madison University (Go Dukes!) who Spent Spring Break at Sheffield Place

1. I really enjoyed my time volunteering at Sheffield Place. Being able to interact with the mothers and children here were some of my favorite times during this week, especially hearing some of the mothers' stories and how their time at Sheffield Place has helped them to become self-sufficient. Sheffield Place does an amazing job of working with the mothers to help them with life skills and day-to-day basics that are often learned through observing family members when growing up, which many of these mothers did not have. The services they provide here are so important in that they give the women a way out of their previous lifestyle and push them to

really work hard for themselves and for their children. Overall, I'm really happy that I decided to spend my week here working with an agency that works really hard to help women and their children.

2. I wasn't sure what to expect when I came to volunteer at Sheffield place. Once I started interacting with the moms and their children, my anxiety melted away. Each mom has her own story, and upon talking to them, I realized they are a friend, sister, aunt, teacher, mom, person. They could have very well been one of my loved ones. The children at Sheffield place are spunky, intelligent, kind individuals who just want some love and attention. My afternoons consisted of watching the giant smiles of the toddlers as I caught them at the bottom of the slide, listening to the older children talk about their passions with light in their eyes, and watching peace settle on the infants as I rocked them to sleep. I came to Sheffield place, a year away from teaching in my very own classroom, and I walk away from this experience having gained insight into the resilience children have and knowledge about the individuals who could be the future parents and students I will have the chance to work with. 

3. This week at Sheffield Place has been an amazing experience!! We have spent the week serving the community by picking up the trash on the surrounding streets, cleaning the empty rooms and kitchens in the facility, and clearing out the storage unit that had suffered from flooding this past year. The best part about my experience here at Sheffield has been playing with the amazing group of kids and getting to talk to the mothers. The children here are so bright, so well behaved, and so fun to be around. They have so many intelligent ideas and aspirations in life and I pray they get to live out all of their dreams when they get older. The mothers are so devoted to their children and so devoted to trying their best to create a better life for their kids. Getting to sit down and talk with them one on one has been one of the most special experiences ever because each one has such a unique and interesting story. I am so happy that I chose to come to Sheffield for my alternative spring break trip; these women and children have such a special place in my heart and serving them has made this the best spring break I have ever had. 

4. This past week at Sheffield Place, my expectations of the facility and its people were exceeded. The five days I volunteered here I was able to interact with mothers and children with different starts to their journey of life and dreams for their futures. By far my favorite memory was moving a mother and her daughter into a new house Sheffield Place had renovated for a family to be housed in for aftercare just down the street from the facility. Not only was the house beautiful with new flooring, bright colored walls, and quality donated furniture - the woman moving in was beautiful with the smile on her face looking at the house she would call home after experiencing homelessness. Her genuine appreciation for volunteers helping her moving in, the staff at Sheffield Place and its services was evident. I also enjoyed Project Hope in the evenings where we were able to spend time with the children. Their intelligence, politeness, and talents kept a smile on my face! I am thankful for experiencing the authentic Sheffield Place this past week and Ms. Kelley for welcoming our group so graciously.

5. My time here at Sheffield Place truly exceeded all of my expectations. I was nervous in anticipation of what I was walking into, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed almost every second of my time here. I got to witness a mother who had been living here in the shelter for 13 months with her daughter move in to her first & see how excited they were to start their new life that Sheffield Place helped to build. I helped 2 other moms & their children move into the center & see the hope in their as they walked in to the facility that could change their life. It was my pleasure to help out around the shelter in any way that I could, especially in the Project Hope center for the kids. Every single one of those kids is bright & funny & well behaved & I hope that they too are gaining the confidence they need to be able to reach their full potential in life & challenge any stereotypes that may be placed upon them. The staff here is realistic as well as optimistic, giving the women the proper tools & guidance they need to be able to be self sufficient and successful in their futures. It is obvious how dedicated these people are to the task at hand & I admire that. Every person in this building was inspiring in their own way, & I hope that they all continue to grow & develop & succeed in their mission. 

6. This week has been one for the books. With our near 15 hour drive from Virginia we started our Alternative Spring Break off well getting to know one another! I was excepting a week that would pull on my heartstrings and this week with Sheffield Place sure did that. 

The week was spent doing a combination of manual labor needed to improve Sheffield Place and the surrounding community as well as interacting with the mothers and children. Things such as a garbage pick up, cleaning and reassembling of rooms, gardening and organizing all contributed to serving Sheffield Place in the best way possible. 

We jumped right in on Monday morning moving a family in to a Sheffield Place home. The mother was more than appreciative and working right along side us to get her new home furnished. Later in the week we ran into the mother and her child, who had been in childcare during the move in, and she shared with us how much she loved her home and had been enjoying time there. 

Interacting with the women was such a highlight of my week. These women are more than just mothers. They were something before they arrived at Sheffield Place and they will be something after they leave Sheffield Place. They are caring, capable, intelligent, beautiful women who are providing so much to their children. They have come to Sheffield Place to lead themselves and therefore their children to a better, safer, and healthier life. We were able to have lunch with a few women and interact with them in passing and as they moved in to Sheffield Place. 

Each afternoon was spent in Project Hope, the child care center. Throughout the week we formed incredible bonds with the children through playing outside (it was an exceptionally warm week in March) doing crafts, reading, journaling, snacking and playing games. These children are all intelligent, well mannered, enthusiastic, energy filled young humans. 

This week was eye opening, inspirational, and heartwarming among other things. These children and mothers are exceptional in unique ways and I feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to serve Sheffield Place through the James Madison University Alternative Break Program. 

Sheffield Place far exceeded my expectations. This facility provides many resources for women and their children who are experiencing homelessness. Not only do they provide a place for them to sleep, eat, and bathe, they also provide many different groups that teach them how to be self-sufficient--anywhere from coping skills to exercising and cooking healthy meals to fixing their cars--they are helping these women and their children build a life full of independence and self-sufficiency for themselves. They go far beyond their call to duty by buying and fixing houses on the same block as Sheffield Place so these families can transition into a life of their own. It's creating a community where they will never feel out of place but can still have this sense of pride because they're building a life for themselves in a place they can officially call their own. My favorite part of my week volunteering here was of course getting to play with all the children, but also being able to talk to the mothers and hear their stories. They all have been on such different and amazing journeys, I felt so honored that they wanted to open up and share them with us. The children here are like no others, they are so full of light and intelligence and have so many goals and aspirations for their lives. Despite where they are now, they still manage have mostly positive outlooks on life. Sheffield Place will always be in my heart, I could never forget the mothers and children I've met here and I could not be more grateful to have spent my Spring Break helping this facility.

8. Volunteering at Sheffield Place has been a great experience. As a current social work major, it has been so neat to see everything that goes on behind the scenes. It's one thing to learn about concepts in a classroom, but it's another to actually see them implemented in real life. With that said, the executive director, Kelly Welch, is a superhero. From running the business, to interacting with clients on a personal level and being involved in every aspect of the program, she really does it all. With help from other great staff members, including therapists, case managers, an intake specialist, and the program director, Kelly has truly made Sheffield Place a successful program. 

While I really enjoyed being exposed to social work, I also had a blast getting to know the clients and children of Sheffield Place. It was such a great opportunity to have lunch with clients and attend Project Hope with the children. It was awesome to see the many different demographics of the families who come to Sheffield. I will never forget the people I was able to meet through this program. The women are so humble and welcoming, and the kids are very well-behaved and smart. I loved getting to know the residents and hearing their stories. I will never forget my time volunteering at Sheffield Place.