Every Saturday afternoon around 3pm, you can find the English/rhythm and movement teacher, Shannon, standing in the doorway of the Escuelita checking off names of the fifteen families (about 60 people) who have been attending the Family Nurturing program (Crianza con Cariño) since the beginning of March. As the families all happily greet “Seño Shanno,” the little ones run to the gym, the babies are swept up by eager volunteers and the mothers join their facilitators in the cafeteria space. One family even brings their dog! Once each family has come, the facilitators begin their activity, which pertains to that particular Saturday’s theme. Each person who helps support a group is a staff member, graduate, current student or a volunteer from Safe Passage; which makes it easier for the families to feel comfortable within their separate groups.
I have the pleasure of supporting the two facilitators, Estuardo and Jose, in the 6-12 year-olds group. While the mothers and fathers work on important personal and family development themes through intense discussions and listening sessions, we work on similar issues through art projects, role-playing and many creative games. Although some of the students do not notice it, every Saturday they are talking and learning about important topics. This last Saturday, our theme of the week was how we face our fears and handle our emotions. As a volunteer, my job for the afternoon was to act. As Estuardo directed, the rest of the facilitators acted out scenes that could happen in any household: a student coming home and showing his parents his poor grades, a husband coming home having no food in the house to feed his family, and two friends fighting over a toy that they both wanted to play with. As we acted out these scenes, Estuardo asked for the students’ input on how the situation could have been better handled. Their responses demonstrated exactly what we are trying to communicate with the family nurturing program. “Communicate with words, not screams!” “Be patient! When there is no food in the house, there is no food, these things happen.” “Don’t hit when you are angry, use your words and talk out the situation,” were just a few of the suggestions given by the children participating in the 6-12 age group.
Teaching English at Safe Passage, I rarely discuss the themes we cover in Crianza con Cariño with my students. When I run with the moms on Saturdays we talk about fun, light topics, like their crazy diet tricks and how sore they are from Hannah’s famous aerobics classes. Through these opportunities, I am able to see the resilience of Safe Passage families in many different ways; but I am especially impressed on these afternoons spent with our family nurturing program. Here, I am exposed to a community of women, men and children who are motivated to learn, share and most importantly grow with each other within this program. Crianza con Cariño, in my opinion, is one of the most important programs we have at Safe Passage. My hope is that with the enthusiasm of the staff and families, together we can keep the group going for many, many more years!
English Program Coordinator