Saturday, July 17, 2010 intense

Wow… we’ve only been at The Samaritan Women project for a day, and I can already tell this is going to be a powerful round.

Now that I have a better idea of what they do, I want to explain it:

The property is 23 acres. There are two homes on the property, one built in the 1890’s and one in the 1920’s; both by rich entrepreneurs and both have rich history with a diverse past. Now, the 1920’s mansion is what we live in, and both buildings are under restoration. When I say mansion, I mean it. The one we live in has a kitchen, dining room, living room, porch area, bathroom, pantry and more… on the first floor. There are 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms on the second floor; and two more bedrooms (at least) on the third floor… MANSION.

The other property, which is still unlivable, is more than 8,000 square feet… I won’t get into the room details.

Baltimore has the third highest rate of human trafficking in our nation… coupled with D.C. Human trafficking includes selling people for labor and sex (among other things). This is a HUGE industry, that largely goes unnoticed by the general public… and our nations capital has one of the highest rates. The average age of humans sold in the sex industry is 12… that’s an average. People are sold for sex, from infants on up. Absolutely disgusting. We’ve already heard some horror stories, and we’ll get to meet families of victims during our time here. It’s a high intensity and anxiety causing subject… which is why I’m writing about it while sitting in the backyard, on a patio, with only the sounds of birds, the 11 free range chickens here on the farm (there were 12, but a snake got one last night), and the 2+ acre farm directly behind me. I feel like I’m camping, and I have a Baltimore zip code.

The Samaritan Women is a work in progress, but the plan is to have it become a recovery center for women rescued from trafficking, those who are recovering from addictions, etc. Vetnor, the 8,000 sq foot mansion will be able to host 16-20 women at a time. It will be not only a residence for them, but a spiritual retreat center and a vocational school as well. The idea is to allow women to recover as long as they need, teach them vocational skills for the purpose of getting a job, or just to survive on their own. The 2 acre farm, which is slated for heavy expansion, will be the source of all vegetables for the cooking.. an all organic vocaitional school. They already have the chickens, and the plan is to get goats in the future, too. They’ll become very self-sufficient. It’s such a beautiful place. The farm actually is actually home to the highest point in Baltimore, so over Easter weekend TSW built a large wood cross at this point (TSW has been founded upon Christian values, but does not force them unto people, rather provides them the opportunity to become a believer). This place is going to be powerful, and SO successful.. you can feel it. It’s largely run by 3 people… they are incredible, and I barely know them.

Day 1 was relatively intense. We went to Wilkens street, which is one of the rougher parts of Baltimore. We found a side street and set up a mini carnival. The idea is to show people in the neighborhood that people do care about them. We have inflatables for the kids, free food, information on churches, etc. There was also free food… there are so many partnerships and things I could write about…

The most powerful part was this: I was cooked hot dogs… haha. I did, but that wasn’t powerful in itself. One of the ladies I worked with told me her story. She has been drug free for 2 years… she was a heroine addict for 11. She lost her husband, her house and all 4 kids. Two of her kids went into what she called “the system.” She gets to see all of her kids now, one still is very upset with her and one is following her footsteps… and she’s terrified. This woman has a great heart, and I never would have guessed this was her story. She still struggles every day to not take any kind of drug. Something as little as an aspirin could set her off into needing that feeling of “nothing” continuously. She already wants that feeling all the time; her self control is tremendous. This women, as an addict, didn’t care about eating, clothing, her kids, her job, nothing. She was also subject to violence and, yes, she was a rape victim. All related to her need to get high. I heard her story… and then saw one in progress.

While we were there, we witnessed one woman stumble in, drunk, and unable to control her body. As we escorted her away from the event she fell and hit her head on the curb… she couldn’t walk or anything. Clueless… her son carried her home.

Just before we left we saw exactly what TSW is trying to stop. A 24 year old woman happened upon us as we were packing up. She is a drug addict, and was more than high. She was confused and in need to say the least. They got her to sit down, bough her food, brought her new clothes, gave her advice and talked with her for over an hour. They tried convincing her to go to detox, but she said “no, because they won’t let me have 20 Zanex a day.” This stuff is real…

TSW is going to be an eye opener. It’s also going to be a relaxing place for us the enjoy the natural beauty that we all take advantage of and ignore on a daily basis. No A/C, no internet, no TV and lots of organic veggies, a compost pile and, soon enough, a human waste compost spot… details to come… I’m excited.

This got long… but there’s just so much to say… I can’t wait.

Check out the TSW website:

Thursday, July 15, 2010


It's been a crazy couple of weeks, and you can definitely tell it is mid-year here in Americorps.

I just got back from my summer break, which I spent in Brooklyn and Manhattan. It was an excellent time. I relaxed with some good friends that I hadn't seen in over a year, and then my brother and sister flew in to spend the 2nd half of break with me touring the city. Another friend, Zac, also came and spent time in the city with us. It was an excellent time - really good to see everyone, both friends and family.

I spent the 4th of July on top of an 18th floor apartment complex in upper Manhattan, only blocks from the Hudson river. Excellent way to enjoy the fireworks... and some beer.

New York City is definitely one of my favority places that I've been to. I saw so much while I was there... and it's incredible that you can literally take a train everywhere, including the beaches of Coney Island. Made that venture twice over vacation. It was so nice to sit back and relax.

Now, I'm back into the groove. I work with some incredible people here in Americorps. The Team Leaders (Team Green) are so frick'n hilarious. We started our week off with an all day training, just TL's. We had a blast... I was NOT mentally ready to sit in a room and listen to talking all day... that was made clear when the next day, at our first meeting of the day, I spoke up and said "I wasn't really listening yesterday, what is up with this whole composite team again?" My boss was pleased with that...

We also had some trivia questions that TL's had been asked to respond to, then we did a Jeopardy-like game where the Unit's competed against each other. Badger's won (duh), and it was brought up at least twice about my American Flag shirt. I think I was chosen to be on a desert island (because we could raise my shirt as the flag and be rescued), and... I'm not sure, but I may have been someone's Favorite American when wearing the shirt... so ridiculous.

My team came back Monday, and I gave them a pretty chill week. They continue to impress the socks off of me. I literally just inform them of what needs to get done, and they do it... and they do it SOOO darn well. We had to give our project brief, we do this every round (a presentation to staff to inform them on what we are going to be doing), and they make it VERY educational, funny, exciting and they always have something "go wrong." After informing staff that we feel "wild, magical, dainty" and much more, Steve knocked over the paper pad pedestal (that he should not have been anywhere near) and brought 3 people on the team to tears during the presentation. The team is rock solid... I'm very proud of them, and excited that I get to call them Badger 1 along with myself.

Unfortunately, yet so awesome, Ramona has left the team. She applied for and received another TL position within a different unit. One of the other TL's stepped down a few weeks back, and my CM applied for and was offered the TL opening. She is going to do SUCH a great job... My team had no clue she had applied for it, and Ramona told them after our brief that she accepted it... aside from being surprised, they all praised her and congratulated her... she's so deserving of this. I couldn't tell you how many times throughout today she received rounds of applause and "congratulations" from people all over campus. It's a quick transition...she shows up in green tomorrow, so she is officially... official! People keep on telling me "Congratulations, she is a product of your leadership." I understand the thought process behind that, but she is such a natural leader, that I honestly believe she had this down pat before she was placed on my team. Some of my CM's are a little anxious with her leaving because they relate so well to her, but they're overall happy for her. We are also down Jamie this round because she is on firefighting composite... so we're down to 8 instead of 10.. for the rest of the year. When Jamie gets back, Steve will leave for firefighting... Badger 1 is forever split... kinda sad... really.

There are 4 other composite teams this round, too. Two teams are going to Massachusettes to aid with the flood recovery efforts from this spring, one team is going to NOLA to assist families that have fallend victim to the oil spill (helping out at recovery and assistance centers), and one team is going to Pensacola, FL to help spread the word on the oil spill in an informational way. No one from Badger1 is going to any of those locations... whew!

We leave tomorrow afternoon for Baltimore. We will do a quick intro tomorrow night, and get right to work on saturday. There is a festival of sorts going on, so we'll help with that, and then have Sunday off... I think Ramona is giong to come down and visit since we won't really have the chance to say good-bye to her while we're here.

Also found out today that not only was B1 the first team to be done with all of their ISP hours, but we currently lead the corps in having the most ISP's of any team... and we have 2 of the top 10 highest hours on our team... well 1 really, because Ramona is a TL now. That was a nice little cherry on top of our overflowing Sunday (everyone in the corps knows B1... but we keep our cool...). Also did the PT assessment this week... almost, more than half the team scored 300... that's the best you can score! So Steve says our new goal is to be the most physically fit team in the corps... we might already be there.

I can't ask for things to be going much better. I'm going to be working with the team to get resumes in check so they can start figuring things out for after Americorps... I LOVE DOING RESUMES. I've already been helping some of them quite a bit, and they've said they're very excited to have a "resume expert" as their TL... I told them that might be a longshot, but I'll take the credit. haha

As for me, I'm waiting to start applying for Teach for America and other State Teaching Fellows programs... the applications don't open until August. Crossing my fingers.

I'm having fun here... I really like what I'm doing, and I'm seeing great benefits/results. It's been a big week for me on a personal front, with family and such. Lots of good communication. I might be getting back to WI in a couple weeks for a wedding, which will be a nice change of pace and a welcomed visit. Some of the faces I'd want there the most won't be, but you work with what you have. I'm learning that daily.

I'm living life right now... I can honestly say that... and it's great.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Big Apple

The last 3 days in Perry Point were some of the fastest. The team has been more than on top of getting their work done, which has left us all in a great position to sit back, relax, and enjoy the summer break.

It was nice being back with all of the TL's and catching up with everyone; going out for drink, dunk'n donut runs, and, of course, being submerged in the humor that is team green. We had 2 days of work, and one day of fun which was the Amerilympics. It's the competition between units over several sports... suprisingly the Badgers did not do all that well. I ran the 2 mile relay and my team kicked some butt. We did a 2 mile relay in just over 10.5 minutes. Wish I knew I could run like this back in HS.

Found out on Monday that we are traveling to Baltimore next. We will be working with The Samaritan Women on an organic farm, harvesting and doing restoration work. It's probably one of the best projects we have in the corps right now, so my team is thrilled to be going. We'll be living in an early 20th century mansion... solid project.

Got into Brooklyn yesterday, where I am staying with some college friends. They just moved up here. Jen is starting a PhD program in the fall, and Chris was accepted as a part of the NY Teaching Fellows program and he's giong for his Masters in Education at the same time - both of them are going to PACE University. So far it's been awesome - had never been to Brooklyn before, and followed Chris up to Harlem this morning, which was nothing like I expected. NYC is a super clean and safe city, and it's probably one of the places I could see myself living some day. I'll be spending the weekend here with them, and then on Tuesday my brother and sister fly in for the rest of next week - it's going to be quite a relaxing break... and satisfying. Can't wait for later in the week next week...

We had a pretty late first night here in Brooklyn, so it's naptime - been a while since I've been able to say that.