Friday, April 17, 2015

Coming to ESC, Margaret's Story

I first heard of Episcopal Service Corps a little over two years ago, and told myself I'd apply if I didn't hear back from a different program that I'd already applied for.

That program was Young Adult Service Corps, or YASC for short. Like ESC, YASC is a service program run by the Episcopal Church, only a YASC year is spent serving abroad.  Think of it sort of as the difference between Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. 

In order to do YASC, I had to go to a two-week training before I would go on to my host site.  That training was spent with my fellow YASC volunteers, and with several older adult missioners from around the church, including a man from the Diocese of Maryland, Dan Tootle. 

With YASC, I served one year teaching at an Episcopal school in the northern Philippines.  I knew, midway through my year there that I wanted to continue doing service work, and if possible, to do it with the Episcopal Church.  I also knew I wanted to be somewhat closer than half the world away from my home.  So I applied for ESC.  When asked to list my top programs, I added Maryland's Gilead House because Dan Tootle asked me to do so. 

The interviewing process was a bit interesting (for interesting, read sleep-deprivation, 12 hour time differences are not fun), but I knew after my first few conversations with ESC MD that I should be here. 

Coming to ESC MD, each of us works with a host site during the work week, a place where we do service work focused on various poverty and justice issues in Baltimore city.  I in particular work with House of Ruth Maryland, the primary domestic and intimate partner violence agency serving Baltimore city.  In particular I work in the Client Service Coordination department.  Basically, Client Service Ccoordination is the department that focuses on helping people leaving domestically violent situations to rebuild their lives.  We connect clients to resources, help them plan their next steps, and act as an advocate for them both within our agency and while making contact with outside agencies they call for support or resources. 

When I start to describe my work, people respond by saying something about how hard it must be to do this job.  And they're right.  It is hard.  Daily there's a struggle to connect people to resources that are often full up, or that require resources that they don't have.  It's hard talking to the clients, mostly women, as they tell their stories, as they speak about violence and threats, betrayals of trust and insults, about the daily ways they were terrorized and controlled by people they should have been able to count on.  I hear women and men calling in, telling me that they were so stupid, asking me what they did wrong to deserve this.  As if anyone could ever do something to deserve abuse.  it is hard. 

But what makes it worth it is that we are here.  Day by day, the people at House of Ruth show up again.  I go to work surrounded by healers and warriors.  I work with people who go to bat every day for our clients, who dig out every possible resource, who counsel and support our clients.  I work with people who help these women and men find their own worth and strength again. 

ESC gave me that same opportunity to stand up.  It gave me a chance to push myself beyond my limits, to see myself as strong enough to give this kind of help and support.  That wasn't something I was sure I could do before this year.  For that, I am grateful. 

And I'm also grateful for the community that I am part of.  Gilead House is filled with people who all care about the world, about giving back to the people who surround us.  One thing I craved when I was doing YASC was a sense of local community, as my YASC support community was spread across the globe, often with very poor internet connections. 

We interns don't always see eye to eye.  We've had lots of discussions over different meanings behind words and expectations, and the precise definition of clean is still up in the air seven months in.  We've had arguments that nearly shook the house, rapprochements, tense quiet, and times where we have just shoved an argument under the rug because it was useless to discuss it any further.  There have been days where I've sworn that being in community was harder than my day job at my host site.

And that's what it is.  Being in an intentional community like ours is hard work.  Combining seven very opinionated, strong-willed individuals who mostly did not know each other at all before the year began is never an easy thing. 

But just like my job, the hard work is good, is necessary.  We learn from one another, from our stress and arguments and the times we want to throw each other off of a seven-story building.   But we also learn from each other in the quiet moments.  We learn that when someone's had a truly hard day, someone else will cover their dinner, or take on their choir.  If someone's feeling sick, there will always be at least one person checking in to see if there's a need for a ginger-ale or tea run.  We learn to care about one another's interests.  We've learned that while getting all seven of us to do anything is like herding cats, but less productive, we can normally get three or four people going someplace and having a great time. 

I know that Jarred will always get it when I rant about homelessness in Baltimore, because his work overlaps a lot with mine and he has the same frustrations and joys. 

I know that Kelly will always have the best stories about the goats at her farm, and that she's always interested in going out and doing things as a group, so if I have something I want to try she'll be in for it if she can. 

I know that Sarah will have a kind word for everyone, and that she will listen to everybody's day first. I know that she puts her heart and soul into her work with ESC and her work with her own charity, Hearts for People.

I know that Matthew and I can geek out a lot, and that even if we have very different takes on the same interests, we have that common pool of references to play with.  And yes, bagpipes are still one of the best instruments known to man.

I know that Dan is always up for pizza, that he'll be the one to try and lighten the mood with a joke, and that he and I can do our science geek practically in unison. 

 I know that I lucked out in getting Clara as my roommate for half the year, that our complimentary tastes in music means that now approximately 3/4ths of our music libraries overlap, and that she will pull me out dancing every few months to remind me how much I love it. 

I know that they know things like this about me now, both silly and serious, and that years on I will begin to understand how much they have shaped my life.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Coming to ESC Maryland, Kelly's Story

Several of us were recently asked to present at a church about what led us to Episcopal Service Corps Maryland, and how that has affected us.  First up telling her story is Kelly, working with Great Kids Farm.

Hi, my name is Kelly Crabtree, I am here today with Jarred Ervin and Margaret Clinch and we are members of the Episcopal Service Corps-Maryland this year. We are here today to share our stories. Sharing, listening and understanding personal narratives are key for communities, especially church communities. After all we read stories every Sunday, so why shouldn’t also share our own with one another? To share, listen and understand these stories allows us to deepen in our relationships with one another and grow together as a community. Our service corps community has definitely experienced this so far within our year and hope to illustrate some of this to you with our own personal narratives we are going to describe today. We are each going to tell you how we came to the Service Corps as well as how this year of our lives has played out thus far. We hope that this propels all of us to share, listen, and understand with all our hearts of what our Church is really capable of doing in our world today.
So, I am originally from NW Washington, DC, born and raised. I was baptized Methodist, but my family did not stay long in the Methodist church. Eventually my parents no longer wanted to deal with the weekly Sunday struggle of getting my brother and I to Sunday School, and my parents did not have a strong connection to the Methodist parish at the time, so we took a break from the church. A couple years later, when I was about 12, my parents decided on instead of choosing based on denomination, we were going to look in terms of geography!
So exactly one block away from our house is St. Columba’s Episcopal Church and that is where we went! 
St. C’s quickly became the right home for my family. I entered the Rite 13 program, with instead of a mom pushing me to go no matter what, to an approach that put it more into my hands. I was to give it a try for a month or so and then decide whether or not I was going keep going. I didn’t realize this until now, but my mom put my spiritual journey into my own hands at that point, and this is what allowed me to claim my faith for my own. I finished Rite 13, continued onto to J2A going on the life-changing Pilgrimage and then finishing with YAC. Throughout my time in the youth program I learned about myself in a way that was completely new to me. Some of most important teachings that came out of this time for me was the following:
-My faith is personal, there is no right or wrong. It’s mine to own to claim and no one else can do that for me.
-Acting my faith had the deepest meaning to me in service. We are God’s hands and feet in the world.
and lastly,
-I am meant to be in community. This is how I deepen my faith, strengthen my core and find the most support in my life.
These lessons were both learned inside and outside the Sunday school classroom. I could go on and on about all the experiences I had, but I want to highlight one of them.
This is the first Mission Trip I went on with St. C’s. I went to North Dakota, with six other young persons and four adult leaders, to an Indian Reservation. We spent a week in community with one another and another community from Pennsylvania. There we helped with home repairs for two families on the reservation. I entered this trip completely unsure of my capabilities, and myself but found that the strength of my faith community I was with and the importance of our service for this week to overcame all of my insecurities. Therefore, I went away from this week knowing truly where I am called to in the church. After this experience, I continued to go on service trips every summer, and now I lead them. I have gone to the Gulf Coast doing hurricane Katrina and Ike relief, revisited North Dakota, and now the past four years have been going to West Virginia on St. Columba’s Appalachian project.  On all of these trips, we build a week-long community of worship, service to others and developing relationships. And this was one of the foundations that I brought with me into this year with me.
So the two main reasons I felt as though the Episcopal Service Corps was the path I was called to after college, was because of faith community you build for a year coupled with the dedication to service, which I felt mirrored the mission trips I went on. While, these still remain true for the year, they have been changed and transformed into ways that I had never anticipated.
The start of my year was rough; I lost a beloved pet, was very ill in the beginning, lost my grandmother and had various family affairs going on. I was not present in the community and my beginning experiences really tested me in terms of allowing a new group of people into my life, when I was feeling so raw. Though eventually I was able to open up and come to appreciate what we were constructing with one another. Our community definitely has not had the easiest time coming together, but in reality no community is perfect. It is a constant roller coaster ride, with twists and turns you never expect. But with these surprises and changes comes growth and that is something I have cherished from my time in the Episcopal Service Corps. I have grown to understand myself in an enlightening way, I have grown deeper into my faith journey- I have actually just completed the course to become confirmed in the Epsicopal Church and then I have grown professionally-really finding my cause in this world.
I am serving at Great Kids Farm in Catonsville- where I am the Assistant Farmer. Great Kids Farm is a Baltimore City Public School campus, that is a fully functioning production farm as well as an educational farm. We work to get fresh organic produce grown by city school students into city school cafeterias. We also work to educate students on healthy eating, living and growing their own food. I have learned a lot more than how to grow food from this job that I can’t even begin to describe. This place has brought me so much joy, light and love into my life that I will cherish with me every day after this year is completed.
This year has allowed me to find a way to live out my faith with the gifts given to me by God. And this is what I am truly grateful for. As Romans chapter 12 says, “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, we who are many are one body in Christ and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace give to us.” Find your gifts, cherish them and act of them because no one else, but you can.
Thank you for listening to my story.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Garden Summit, aka Dance Off

This post was written by Kelly Crabtree, interning with Great Kids Farm, a Baltimore City Schools campus which also serves as a working farm supplying vegetables in school lunchrooms throughout Baltimore City.  
Great Kids Farm has two summits in the school year. The first being the Good Food Day on National Good Food day in the fall. At this summit students come and learn about healthy eating and are given samples of healthy snacks and meals from Baltimore City School high school students that are in culinary programs. During this summit, I was given the role of leading a group of students from the tasting sessions and around the farm, which was eye-opening to really the vast knowledge the farm exposes students to during their brief time there. 
The second summit is in the spring and is the Garden Summit, which is a multitude of workshops highlighting the important elements of outdoor education in gardens. Due to the popularity of this summit and the frequent returning schools, the Garden Summit this year, was broken into two days: Beginner and Advanced. The beginner level was for students and teachers who have not been to the farm yet, or do not have a bunch of experience utilizing the outdoor education space of a garden, so workshops included seasonality: planting within the school year, transplanting herbs and planting from seed, taking tour a of the farm, and planting trees. I led the tree planting workshop, where we planted 8 pear trees! 
The second day, we had a pruning workshop, a tour of alternative growing spaces, planting in alternative growing spaces and then all the students learned the Gimme Five Dance. The Gimme Five Dance is a dance choreographed to a snippet of the popular song Uptown Funk. It is part of the Gimme Five Challenge Michelle Obama created for the fifth anniversary of her Let’s Move Campaign. She is challenging people to show her five ways to live a healthy life, so what better way than to dance? 
Below is the video taken after all the students learned it, we all danced together at the end of the Summit celebrating living healthy lives with healthy food!