November 20, 2013

How Volunteering with PDF Subconsciously Helped ME by Gigi Blanchard

Gigi Blanchard (left) pictured with the volunteers of Brooklyn Prep High School and PDF Board Members Anjelica Garcia and Nicole Russell

Gigi Blanchard (left) pictured with the volunteers of Brooklyn Prep High School and PDF Board Members Anjelica Garcia and Nicole Russell

My second time volunteering with PDF involved joining students at a Brooklyn high-school to organize comfort bags for foster children living in the Bronx.  Admittedly, I was nervous. Truth is I never really attended high school myself.  Growing up I feared what lurked outside the group homes more than I did what was in.  The high-school did not require me to deliver a speech but walking through that threshold denied me even the ability to attempt eye contact.  I couldn't calculate the distance between our planes because doing so would be to measure up the disadvantages imposed upon my teenager self. I never existed in that world and figured, like caged animals, these students would speculate our invalidity. I was wrong.  The students did not view the foster kids as vagabonds nor did they yield pity.  They were eager to learn the names of all the children and concentrated on pronouncing them efficiently.  They took great care in making sure each child had items suitable to their age and chose for them things they would have wanted for themselves. In addition to sorting the gift bags the teenagers acquired books beforehand to contribute to the donations.  For several years I relied on such donations for clothing and toiletries and never once did I consider what it took to get from point A to point B.  The excitement in that high-school class room was enchanting and my disillusions were transcended. The teenagers at Brooklyn Prep High School may never know it but that day they did more than help the young foster kids in the Bronx. Their mission succeeded in helping a confused kid living in a group home back when Pac and Biggie were the thing. That part of me that has remained couldn't be more grateful to PDF and the people that make our precious dreams a reality.  Thank you.

September 13, 2013

My Precious Dreams Drop by Octavia Yearwood

Octavia Yearwood pictured with her nieces and nephews that are currently living in foster care

Octavia Yearwood pictured with her nieces and nephews that are currently living in foster care

Today is not only the first time I’d be a part of a “Precious Dreams Comfort Drop”, but the drop is for my nieces and nephews that are currently in foster care.  I watched PDF staff prepare the items with so much care and thought, I was really shocked that the process was so meticulous, I thought for sure that they just tossed in boys stuff and girls stuff into a bag and kept it moving!  The feeling of stuffing bags with a specific size, age, and putting thought into what kids that age liked was way more than I thought it would be…   It connected me with the cause and the kids more… It kind of made me feel like a parent who wraps gifts for their children thinking about the looks on their faces.

15 minutes till the visit…  I get a call from my sister letting me know that the foster mom canceled the visit…  I was bummed BUT we have another visit on Thursday and thankfully when I let PDF know about the change, they were very understanding!  YESTERDAY WE DID THE COMFORT DROP!!!  It was the most AMAZING thing to watch!!!   We didn’t give the bags out right away, so my niece Athina says, “I see those bags on your back and I have a feeling that’s for us.” Ha! I mean, lets be honest, whenever kids see any type of goodies for them they are excited but after explaining what the foundation was about to them and seeing their reactions when they pulled out their PJ’s and Journals…. Was awesome!  I watched my niece, Amy (pictured above) have random moments to herself where she would just hug her bear, she was so connected to it.  I was happy to see her like this because two weeks prior she told me about a nightmare she had where her mother and I died.  My nephew Anteus loved his baseball mitt pillow and actually shared with us that he suffered from nightmares, my sister and I were surprised and asked him about it...  He wouldn’t open up too much about it but he griped his mitt tight. “VICTORIOUS!!!!!!!” Is what Athina yelled out in excitement about her Disney’s Victorious PJ’s.  My nephew Arthur, the oldest, yelled out “LOOK ANTEUS! I GOT A NINJA TURTLE SHIRT! AHHHHH SPONGE BOB!!!!!”, as he discovered what was in his bag.  My niece Amy is very quiet and to herself, her having a diary was extra special because it’s truly an outlet for her, but she’s 6, so I asked her if she even knew what a diary was…  To which she replied, “Something you keep secrets in.”  Ugh, I melted!  This was just before she pulled out the book that was also in her bag and read the WHOLE THING, FROM FRONT TO BACK!

At every visit the kids eat with my sister and I, then eventually wonder off to the playground on the facility to enjoy their time; we go and join them and just vibe… During yesterdays visit they were so engulfed in the experience by the time they went to wonder off, the visit was over!   They were so into personalizing their bags, even their mother wrote little messages on the back of the bags for each of them;  And the kids drew my sister and I on their bags to signify their family. I was so happy to see how happy they were.  I grew up in foster care as a child and never had comfort items and never sought them out, I had no idea that this was such a big deal but happy I learned!  The way they  all cuddled their favorite item was so awesome to see!  I am happy my nieces and nephews will have something to not only comfort them at nightin a place that’s not truly their home, but also something to remember their auntie.