Hope Place recently celebrated its first birthday! Our “Out of School Block Party” event was the official kickoff in June 2018. This past year has been a blur of activity; the building is full of life and hope. The following is a brief description of a typical week at Hope Place.
On a Friday morning, the rooms at Hope Place are beginning to fill with people.
In the Learning Center, teachers with the C.O.F.F.E.E. English as a Second Language Program assist students from places like Iraq, Somalia, and Cuba.
In the now-vibrant Hope Cafe, refugee women from the MAYA Collection piece together handmade boutique-quality items like handbags and earrings to sell at market. The income they receive will benefit their families. Volunteers assist with their young children.
On the third floor, the Women’s Fitness Center is gearing up for the arrival of mainly African and Middle-Eastern women who will, within the hour, be working out with REFIT instructor Christie.
The weekend brings streams of people in through various doors: a Somali wedding, an East African choir practice, a Myanmar church service. Speakers, microphones, and podiums are set up and broken down, chairs arranged and rearranged. Voices are raised in song in languages unfamiliar to the uninitiated.
When the new week begins, the Hope Place Kids programs pick back up. Volunteers who have been trained to take a trauma-informed approach lead classes in music, mindfulness, art, dance, and recreation. The children, from diverse backgrounds and religions, learn constructive ways to express their emotions through strokes of a paintbrush, the cadence of words, the beat of a drum, physical movement, and teamwork.
In a large, bright, basement room, Elevate Hope dance teacher Rachel instructs a group of tiny ballerinas with their arms outstretched to the side, to run across a tape line on the floor, leaping over a sandal laid on the path.
A few parents wait for their children in the cafe. A couple of Arabic speakers are engaged in intense conversation over the coffee table. They break into laughter occasionally. A mom with a messy bun reads a book with a highlighter in hand, soaking in this momentary calm in her day.
Amy, Jessica, Carla, or another building hostess unlocks the storage cabinet and distributes snacks and supplies to mentors who have arrived for their weekly meeting with students. In the cape cod-style cottage next door, Jo Rae removes her sheet pan of blueberry pancakes from her oven at Hope House in preparation for the teen girl mentor group which is coming over for dinner and conversation tonight.
His job training through the P.A.C.T. program finished for the day, a young twenty-something guy from Somalia meets up with a mentor. He discusses the future of his job and his family. His life in transition, the world is more uncertain to him than to anyone else in the building.
As the sun sinks low, Congolese, Burundian, and Rwandan women in African-print dresses with the ministry Gate of Hope stand in silhouette against the sky, grasping hoses that water the vegetables they will soon harvest. Their flip-flops sink into the cool soil. The garden will produce good fruit. It always does.