A Shining Star from Jubilee REACH

Helen first came to Jubilee REACH in 2008 when she was in 8th grade at Tillicum Middle School.

Her name, “Helen” derives from ancient Greek and has the meaning “shining light.” From a single parent, immigrant family and the eldest of four children, Helen carried a lot of responsibility at home and still applied herself to academics at school. At first, she was somewhat reserved, but over time she connected to other students and volunteers at Jubilee REACH. Helen developed more confidence, became a student leader, and soon embraced life as a grand adventure. She gained the courage to let her light shine! A bit of Helen’s story in her own words:

“From eighth grade and all throughout high school, I was an active participant in the Jubilee REACH after school program. JR helped me thrive and reach my potential as a student and leader.  It gave me a safe place to do my homework, provided snacks, and encouraged me to get help from friends and volunteers. I went to JR daily for five years and along the way my younger siblings attended as well.

 

I especially enjoyed the Art Studio, led by Ms. Julie, which gave me the opportunity to develop leadership skills by becoming President of the Art Club. Then I went to the JR summer internship program which provided me with initial career experience. It was a place where I developed long-lasting friendships.  

 

Being a part of JR boosted my self-confidence because I was around people who believed in me and my potential – they supported my academic goals. Eventually, I achieved a 3.97 GPA and several college scholarships. These achievements wouldn’t have been possible without going to JR every day and taking advantage of its resources, such as tutoring. When I was in the tenth grade, JR matched me with a volunteer tutor, Brenda Thompson, and she continues to help me to this day. 

 

I also continue to benefit every day from my time at JR because they helped me acquire a car through the Auto Angels at BelPres Church. This transportation makes it possible for me to live at home and assist my family daily even while I’m in school.

 

I’ve recently returned from two months studying in Morocco, and I’m now entering my senior year at UW Bothell where I’m carrying a 3.93 GPA. My major is Society, Ethics & Human Behavior, and I’m minoring in Human Rights. At JR, I realized the importance of elevating socio-economically marginalized groups in order to help build a stronger and healthier community. That has inspired my goal to eventually work in a non-profit community organization after graduation. JR has had a tremendous impact on my life and on my family. I hope to reciprocate for all the support.”

Helen’s story illuminates the impact of Jubilee REACH over nine years. Our work is enduring rather than episodic. Committed volunteers serve by coming alongside students and families to invest the time and resources to lift others up. After ten years, we’re beginning to see the work mature and there is a bright future ahead.

The Basics: Family, Friends, and Diapers!

If you’ve been to a baby shower recently, been a parent, or have new parents in your circle, you know that diapers are always a very welcome gift, but especially for these families in need. Baby Basics of Bellevue and its volunteers are pouring out love to parents beyond the baby shower. It is recognizing parents’ most basic needs and helping to provide for them so that they can focus on their children and their goals for the future.

We’d like to share two portraits of families we have been able to serve through Baby Basics of Bellevue:

“When they first started coming to distributions almost a year ago, the family’s new baby daughter, Baby Q, was usually asleep. Now she is an active, happy baby and enjoys any snacks that are available when she attends distributions. Baby Q’s family has struggled with homelessness and underemployment. Her father works nights in Seattle, and her mother works at a human services agency in Bellevue.”

“Baby S has been in the program for just over a year. He is a smiley, bright, and active little boy. Baby S and his mom do not have a car, and they ride the bus to get to Tuesday night distributions. Afterward, they often wait for an hour or more for Baby S’s dad to pick them up after work. Volunteers have offered to give Baby S and his mom a ride, but she wants to be as self-sufficient as possible. She is determined and resourceful. She is learning English so that she can start working once Baby S is in preschool. Recently she asked for help in locating places where she could access free or low-cost English classes, and clothing and toys. We tapped our referral network and gave her information for Jubilee Reach and Bellevue College.” 

Beyond serving the families enrolled in the Baby Basics program we feel compelled to help parents who ask for our help. Often we refer them to other agencies that are equipped to help families in crisis, and sometimes we become more involved. Recently we were asked for help from a homeless mother with a toddler son. We provided diapers, food, and transportation to a night shelter and, the next day, to a day shelter. Other times we have delivered emergency diapers to families in crisis or to volunteers helping those families. We also regift diapers we cannot use to Jubilee Reach and other organizations that serve homeless families and low-income families on the Eastside.

As homelessness on the Eastside grows, Baby Basics is experiencing more requests for diapers for homeless families taking refuge in Eastside shelters. It is heartbreaking to see families shuffled between shelters at night and living out of cars during the day, some with no car or any possessions beyond a suitcase, backpack, and stroller.

Baby Basics: National Development Corporation provides diapers to working families living on the edge of poverty across the United States. Volunteers at the distribution centers offer encouragement and assistance by connecting parents with a network that helps them cope with life’s challenges. Currently, Baby Basics of Bellevue, WA has twenty-six babies in the program. Distribution nights are casual and fun with many little ones either being carried or running about.

Bellevue Presbyterian hosts Baby Basics of Bellevue diaper distribution nights on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month. Contact GetConnected to get involved.

Step By Step Justice: El Camino del Inmigrante

I am a mother and a grandmother. I was raised at BelPres church as my parents were founding (charter) members.  My husband and I were married by Dick Leon in 1989, and are longtime members. I have lived most of my adult life raising our three children and working on and off. Through this time, I have held a heart for those without a voice in the dominant culture but have found it challenging to pursue active advocacy work. I feel as though I have been wandering in a desert for thirty-five years, and the time has come for me to be more present and active in the pursuit of justice.

I was adopted at two-and-a-half years old. I was raised in a Christian home by parents who had a heart for mission. As was common then, my parents opened their home to many of the missionaries they supported who were traveling from around the globe.

In the early 1980s, after I completed college, I was heart-struck and overwhelmed by the struggles of unrest in Central America. I wanted to join the Sojourners internship group but was anxious that I needed to focus on my work life first. I also wanted to go to the Nicaragua-Honduras border as a part of the Witness for Peace group at the time, but was too afraid.

During a short time living in San Francisco, I encountered young El Salvadorian men at the deli where I worked who were looking for someone to marry in order to stay in the US. It was then that I realized how desperate they were to stay in this country and was awakened to the hardships they faced in finding safety and refuge here in the US.

When I returned to the Seattle area, I volunteered with a Friends Church providing sanctuary to refugees from Central America. I sat with them as part of the vigilant companionship required to keep them safe and at ease. During that time, I became overwhelmed with the immensity of the political situation in Latin America and felt ill-equipped to do anything of substance, so I retreated into a safe suburban life.

I believe that my adoption story often has led me to seek personal and emotional safety, sometimes at the expense of stepping out into areas of the heart. But I have always had a yearning to reconnect with the passion I feel toward those who are in the shadows and without any power or voice in their communities. I am getting older and have been a sloimg_2326-k-chesmorew learner, but, gradually, I am becoming less afraid and more willing to step actively into areas of witness, empathy, and heart.

The problems in our world can be paralyzing, but I have decided I will do what I can.

Over the past several months, I have been volunteering with World Relief in Seattle (Kent), visiting detainees at the NW Detention Center. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I am doing much, but I have enjoyed getting to know the women, and I believe it has been an encouragement to them as well as to me. I have signed up to be a host family for refugees and look forward to when we will be able to have our first family come stay with us.

Additionally, this past August, I joined a group of over 170 walkers for the El Camino del Inmigrante, a 150 mile pilgrimage from Tijuana to LA. We walked to stand in solidarity with the immigrants in our country and to raise awareness about our broken immigration system.

I believe God is moving His people to action, and I want to follow God’s leading in my life. Step by step, I have gained respect for people in our community regardless of their status and a stronger desire to advocate for those who struggle for a better life. Slowly, I am stepping out of the comfort of fear and into the renewal of hearts.

For more information about the walk and the issues it raised, you can visit http://www.ccda.org/events/el-camino