This past week was the most challenging week at my time during this Fellowship Program. It would be easy to say it was because of the difficult and heart-wrenching material that I heard during the Aftercare Academy, where the theme was devoted to commercially sexually exploited children in the US. However, I think it was, for lack of a better explanation, “one of those weeks.”
That is not to say that it was not a thoroughly educational, and at times, joyful week. I came into this academy with the understanding that I did not see myself actively involved in the aftercare field but was intrigued to learn more about what these amazing individuals who have the strength to do such work every day. Nola Brantly, Executive Director of MISSSEY in Oakland, California, led the entire Academy. Nola is the embodiment of a strong woman who has taken on the immense responsibility of serving the vulnerable, sexually exploited girls in her community. I was impressed by her ability to navigate us through difficult topics and then the next moment have us writing about what brings us joy or what our favorite animal was and why. She kept the mood balanced, which is so pivotal in such an emotional learning environment.
One tool that I am glad to take away from this Academy was a file on my computer filled with all the resources and statistics that Nola provided for us throughout the week. While I may not be actively working in this field, I can appreciate the amount of research that has been done in the arena and I’m glad to have such a versatile collection of items; from numbers of estimated children entrapped in the sex industry to first-hand accounts from survivors at MISSSEY about the violence of their perpetrators.
On Friday, I decided to stay behind in Half Moon Bay, open the store and clean the office up. I hadn’t been in the office since before I left for Global Forum and there were so many boxes filled with products from the event. Davy had started doing inventory on everything and I started filling out his written notations into a google doc for an updated inventory of the store. It was nice to spend the day by myself, cleaning, organizing and being in my element. Unfortunately, that afternoon confirmed for me that sitting with 20 other people (a third of whom were already sick) at the Academy had left me with a cold. I spent the rest of the weekend sniffing and sneezing my way back to health (almost there!)
Also this weekend, I had the opportunity to head up north to my parents house, something I hadn’t done since August. Since I am the daughter that prefers to be traveling or not living in Northern California, I think they are appreciating the occasional visits I make during this Fellowship. I like that I have familiar routes for running, that my mom always seems to find excuses to make cookies while I’m home and that I get to remind the kids at my church who I am and they better not forget me!
Thank you all for your donations and for your prayers. This week past week I was able to raise all that I needed for November within a short period of time and it was entirely because so many of you were willing to contribute. I cannot thank you all enough. I hope you all do a better job than our house has at avoiding this cold! -Sarah