YOUTH & FAMILY WELLNESS

Aisa Moreno-Megui - MARTHA'S PLACE, WEEK 1

"This city ain't shit. RIP Freddy Grey," a black man yelled at us as we stared at Billie Holiday's silent but belting note painted on the walls that house the Arch Social Club, the longest standing Black men's club in Baltimore. We must have looked like tourists -- outsiders --as we stared up at the colorful mural. I shifted my gaze to see him and the group he is walking with continue down the sidewalk. "RIP Freddy Grey," he repeats. Moments before, we were asked to reflect on Baltimore. Even now writing this, it is difficult to describe exactly how I felt when I was pulled out of my head by a shout of disdain at the city that I have now called home for about three years. Of course, my apartment is across the street from the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus and although I technically do live in the same city as that gentleman, our experiences here are different. I cannot speak for him, but my short time here in Baltimore has been filled with growing pains about who I am or what career path to take. My biggest struggle in life right now is indecision – I feel that I have too many choices. I know that this is not a struggle shared by everyone, but it is not a truth that finds its way into my mind until moments like these.

My first week into my internship and nothing about my indecision has changed. Martha’s Place – which is located only a couple of blocks from the large Billie Holiday mural, offers 6 month transitional housing for women struggling with addiction – was my first choice placement. I still do not know if I want to be a doctor or a therapist or something else, but the women here come and excitedly talk about their interviews at KFC and staying clean for another day. The week was difficult because given that there is a lot of policy and procedure in place for residential housing, there was a lot of information that needed to be absorbed. I’m anxious to see what the summer will hold. It does not hurt that I get to see Billie Holiday’s note painted on the wall each morning on my way to work.

 

Ayesha Shibli - Maryland Out of school time network, WEEK 1

I Finally Went Out and Bought Dairy-Free Ice Cream Y’all

If Buzzfeed can get away with a title like this for an article dissecting Taylor Swift's recent break-up, then I think I can title this blog post with *my* most pressing concern since beginning an internship on an empty stomach.

This is not the first summer that Ramadan has overlapped with my summer plans, but it is the first time I've completed two full weeks of meeting people on a completely empty stomach. Pro-tip: avoid this if you can. Unless you know how to play off the obnoxious rumbling of your stomach as if it were a delicate sneeze (who knows, perhaps some people can do this). Regardless, I think I fared pretty well–maybe more butterflies to fill up the empty space, but introductions went something like this, "Nice to meet you, I'm fasting—I mean, Ayesha." So it's not like it was on my mind or anything.

But in all seriousness, to circle back to the title of this post, it really is relevant to something important we covered in training last week that ended up influencing my first week more than the job itself: self-care. I'll be honest, I've been running pretty long days and even longer nights. This Ramadan I wake up around 3 to eat my first meal and break my fast around 8:30. Add in some extra time for prayer and spirituality and there's a lot less sleep in there. When your fasting, even though your brain is doing pretty amazing things (I'm serious, a JHU professor even did a study [hyperlink] http://www.cosmicscientist.com/ted-talk-neuroscientist-shows-what-fasting-does-to-your-brain/) your body can get a little slow and there’s a lot you find yourself pushing yourself to do that you would normally just do. Saying hello to someone you haven’t met before? For me, that’s usually a no brainer. But for me fasting, it becomes “Hmm standing? Do we really need to do this? And the talking thing? Sitting and smiling feels nice.”

Just to clarify here though, fasting is something deeply spiritual and beloved to me. It may tire me physically, but really does give you more clarity of mind (all that brain science). Especially in these last few weeks finding myself in so many new environments, I’ve had the opportunity to be introspective about where I am right now, what I’m doing and how I’m feeling about this and everything around me.

And I’ll be even more honest, the Pulse shootings last weekend—that shook me hard too. I wish more than anything that the media didn’t make it another “Muslim thing,” that they didn’t hijack the pain and grieving of the LGBTQIA and Latinx community to once again discuss everything from gun rights to proposals for religiously specific immigration laws from “certain quarters” instead of how as human beings we stand in solidarity: we hurt together but we will heal together too. I didn’t want to be another Muslim that felt like she had to stand up and condemned this atrocity “as a Muslim” so I kept silent. But the truth is, my allies—my Muslim community’s greatest ally— have been the LGBTQIA community. For years, our respective struggles have been the same as we fight for basic rights in an unreceptive environment—I can’t claim to share this struggle and remain silent. For those of you affected right now, your pain is my pain and may what strength I have be yours at this time as yours has been mine.

So as silly as it seems, I finally went out, after a week and a half of just thinking about it and not finding the time and bought myself ice cream. Self-care, I’ve learned, is as much or as little as we can do for ourselves to just check in, remind ourselves that it’s okay if we need time for processing. It’s okay if we just need to not process just now. It’s okay if we decide we’ll explore these complicated feelings more deeply with a carton of vegan Chunky Monkey.

I apologize if this blog post makes anyone feel uncomfortable, or seems like I am taking a serious subject matter too lightly. For myself, and for all of us really, we process the same event differently whether it be our unique backgrounds or experiences. I welcome anyone to speak up and call me out—I'm willing to listen, and I hope you are too.

 

Chijioke Oranye - LIVING CLASSROOMS FOUNDATION, WEEK 1

Man, kids are exhausting. I’ve been so excited to get up and out of my seat after a week of physical stagnancy during orientation. I remember Abby always looking up to ask me how my leg was feeling. I would say “better” out loud, but inside I was saying when “when do I start?” Now, laying in my bed, finessing this essay, I am dreading waking up at 7AM on a Saturday morning to make that hour commute to work on the MTA. But man, I love those kids. Latino toddlers are adorable. And Jesus is so funny when he purposely calls me “Mr. Cheese,” waiting for me to chase him around the room. And then there is Kofi. He is probably the tallest student in the Living Classrooms summer camp at Patterson Park. Then there is his pride, which forces him to challenge me to a game of basketball every day. Some days his pride will say “Mr. Chi you some butt at hooping,” or “Boy I will cross you up,” or “Mr. Chi you can’t even dunk!” Yet every time I take the kids out to the basketball court behind the pool, Kofi fails to even make a layup. He’s a funny kid. Very funny.
I barely remember the bus ride after my first day of work…I wasn’t awake for it. My eyes slowly opened and caught sites of Lake Clifton Park. I was reaching the Johns Hopkins Homewood Campus, the meeting location for the CIIP bites event. I was supposed to meet with other members of CIIP for the injustice walk. I grumbled at the thought of not only getting up, but getting up to walk, and not getting up to walk to my bedroom. I was hungry, so I got off the bus to buy a vanilla milkshake at Tamber’s. The milkshake gave me energy. So I walked back to the 3 bus stop on 33rd street. I had more energy as I took more sips, and kept walking down St. Paul Street to enjoy the weather. I was close to Homewood, so I decided to check out my dorm for the next school year…I ended up in the Center for Social Concern. We walked around downtown listening to people speak of homelessness. The speakers had once been victims of homelessness. One of them knew my father, and was a graduate of my high school, City College. I reminisced upon my middle school years as we walked on the same grounds where I used to catch the bus after school while I attended St. Ignatius Loyola Academy. I decided then, that the upper Echelon of Baltimore prioritized foreign business and investments over the domestic challenges that plagued their cities. I think I could do a better job, by addressing the realities of the City, rather than creating aggressive plans with unrealistic goals that only ignore the root causes of homelessness, and in effect put more people out on the streets. Vote for me for mayor, in due time.

 

Darius Thompson - SHEPHERD'S CLINIC, WEEK 1

I love my site.
The first day I had a bit of a struggle getting there, but as soon as I arrived I was greeted with a lot of love from my supervisor and the other workers at the clinic. My supervisor expressed how excited she was to have me for the summer and began to explain all the thrilling projects she had lined up for me. A worker at the front desk told me the clinic was happy to have me and that I would fit right in. After I was introduced to all of the volunteers and took a tour of the facilities, the work began.
My supervisor dumped a truck load of information onto my head and I tried to transfer as much of it as I could into my little red moleskine for future reference. After a brief but intense training session, my supervisor left me with a mountain of work to do and went about her business. But that's okay because it was actually enjoyable work. I was going through medical records, checking in patients, checking out patients, collecting donations, reminding patients of their appointments, and more. I enjoyed it because I’ve always wondered what happens on the other side of the front desk at the doctor's office. It was fun pretending I knew what I was doing (I most certainly did not. I asked my co-workers and supervisors so many questions that day. In fact, I still do).
When the day was done, I walked home with someone else in the CIIP program. We got lost several times and ended up in a neighborhood that stimulated my sympathetic nervous system. But eventually we made it back to more familiar territory and I even got the chance to buy a peach snowball with marshmallow topping for only $1.50!
Now I know how to catch the shuttle to and from my site. Every day is still exciting and busy. I’m never at a loss of work to do. Every morning, everyone still says good morning to one another and greets one another with enthusiasm. I’ve gotten to know a few of my coworkers pretty well. They keep my days full of laughs. I’ve been getting pretty good at running the front desk operations of the clinic and handling medical records, and just in time, too! My supervisor’s leaving for the week and she’s trusting me and one of my coworkers to keep the clinic running smoothly.
I’ve learned that you don’t necessarily need a medical degree or any particular qualifications to run the daily operations of a clinic, just the willingness to serve, financial support, and workers. I could be wrong about that, but that’s why I’m learning. I’ve learned that a lot of Hopkins students volunteer at the clinic. Also, one of my mom’s doctors volunteer here. I didn’t know doctors and nurses did volunteer work. That’s dope. I want to volunteer when I become a doctor, if I become a doctor, Lord willing (amen!)!

 

Eileen Ramirez - ESPERANZA CENTER, WEEK 1

When it comes to taking the Charm City Circulator, a word of advice: 

Do not trust NextBus. Or the Charm City Tracker. Don't do it. 

At least not for the Green Route.

The morning of my first day went a little something like this: 

- wake up at 7 am 

- Sleep in for 15 more min

- Rush to get ready because I slept in

- Somehow catch the 8 AM JHMI even though it was crowded as hell 

- Wait for the 8:30 AM Circulator since I work in Fell's Point

- Plan B: wait for the 8:45 AM circulator 

- Plan C: check NextBus to see where the buses are and consider calling an uber

- Plan D: freak out because the uber is 10 min away and you're supposed to be at work in 8 min and it's your first day and omg why did the bus not come

 

In the end, the bus beat the uber and I was almost ten minutes late on my first day. I thought, well it can't get any worse right? 

Aside from getting locked out of the clinic at lunchtime (another story for another day), it was a pretty good day. My boss even let me out an hour early!

Then I had to take the circulator back up to the med campus. 

The bus didn't show for over an hour. I'm pretty sure I even got a slight tan since it was so bright outside and I was waiting so long. I could've gotten an uber. I could've even walked back. But I couldn't let the Circulator win. 

The next morning, I decided to try leaving on the 7:45 AM JHMI because obviously I just missed the earlier circulator right? I even found the charm city tracker which shows you EXACTLY where the buses are. I was saved! 

Yeah no, I had to uber so I wouldn't be late to work. 

Now, clearly there's something wrong with me because I thought "hmm I just missed the circulator by a little this morning, so tomorrow I'll take the 7:35 AM JHMI". I definitely was not late to work that day. 

By Thursday I just gave up and walked to work from the med campus. My favorite part was when the bus drove past me even though it wasn't supposed to come for another 15 minutes.

Friday (today) I left super late so I decided to walk again. However I almost made it to the Popeye's when I decided to check one last time if the circulator was coming. And there it was, the little GREEN tab a block from the med campus. I could've cried from happiness.

So I guess I should say don't completely trust the tracker. 

But don't trust NextBus for the Green cause that thing was just wrong.