Nothing makes my heart more warm than getting to work with the kids through Awaken Arts.
For years I searched for a non profit that really resonated with me... one that I could give my heart and soul to and know that we were really making a difference. And then I found Awaken Arts. We teach art to at risk youth as a tool for healing and an outlet for expression. I'm now so humbly a board member and have been volunteering for this org for the past 5 years.
It's literally life changing to get to meet and work with these kids. They have so much potential and I believe that everyone deserves a chance to live their dreams. I'm so proud of the generations of kids that have gone through the program. It makes me so happy to see how far they've gone.
Here's a few stories that have stuck with me through the years...
One of the art projects we do with them is have them draw/paint a picture representing their "past." One kid drew a big blue box with a handful of red polka dots and the #5 with his face on top. We are trained as mentors to ask them what this represents... he said "This is me playing football. I was number 5." And I said, "Was that a happy time for you?" He responded, "Yes." Then I asked him if that was his jersey and if it was polka dotted... and he said, "No, those are all the places I've been shot." I was literally stunned and speechless. He said it so matter of factly as if it was just a normal thing. That was the moment I realized that we come from such different worlds and that I probably had more to learn from these kids than they would probably learn from me.
Another story that really got me was when this kid drew a marijuana leaf, a bottle of alcohol, and a pipe looking thing. I asked him what these represented and he said that he used to be an alcoholic and party all the time and that he was addicted to cocaine before he had come to this facility. I couldn't help myself but ask where in the world he would get cocaine because I was years older than him at the time and had never even seen cocaine in my life... then he said... "Oh, I used to be a drug dealer," as if it was nothing. Even more shocked I asked him how that happened and he again, nonchalantly said, "Well my dad was a drug dealer." That's when it hit me. These kids have never had an opportunity to succeed in life. They were literally set up to fail. It wasn't fair. They deserved more than that.
All these kids at Sunburst Youth Academy, the government run facility that gets them back on track and allows Awaken Arts to do our program with their kids, all of them CHOOSE to be there. They want to turn their lives around and they want to have a better future. I really admire these kids for all they've been through and all they've fought for to have a better life. They are amazing.
If you're ever interested in learning more, go to Awaken Art's website to apply to be a mentor or to donate to the cause. It's a grassroots organization so every little bit is greatly appreciated and helps a whole lot.