Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Octavia's Story

Octavia is a client in our Assisting Young Mothers program (AYM). Below in her own words she tells you part of her story.

Good morning! My name is Octavia and I have a son named AJ who is almost four months old. I have lived in the AYM program for five months.

When I was younger, I always wanted to be independent and wanted to see what it would be like to be on my own. But, when I got pregnant, I knew that it was really time to take matters into my own hands. I knew that I needed to learn how to be independent now because I was going to have to take care of a child soon. During this time, I was homeless. My child’s father didn’t want to help. I have family, but they are spread out across the state and busy taking care of their own things. It was important to me that I get to keep and live with my son. I began calling shelters and searching the internet for a better option and I found AYM.

While in AYM, I am working on many different life skills that will help me to become independent and will improve mine and AJ’s future. Before I had AJ, I didn’t know how tired and unmotivated I would be; but being in AYM has really helped me to figure out what my game plan is going to be. During the past five months, I have kept my job and learned how to better improve my situation. One of the biggest changes I’ve made since coming to AYM is doing what I need to do to get what I need for me and my son. Before coming to AYM, I was a big procrastinator. But now I make sure that I am at work on time, working hard to keep my job, scheduling important appointments, and keeping those appointments.

I’ve also been working on building a savings account. The AYM program requires you to save a certain portion of each paycheck. At first, I thought “wow, that’s really a lot of money.” But now I’m glad that I have money saved up.

After having AJ, I’ve learned that you have to live your life differently once you have a child. I’ve learned that you don’t need to have friends over all the time or stay out late. I’ve learned that being in my house at an appropriate time for my child will make tomorrow morning easier for both of us.

In AYM, we all attend a Parenting Group once a week. I think that some young parents really want to do a good job but they don’t know how to. During this group we learn important skills for taking care of our children that we wouldn’t otherwise know, such as appropriate discipline and the importance of reading to your kids.

Having a child is a big responsibility; you have to make a plan for yourself and your child. You need to stay focused on what is important and not what other people are doing. When I first came into the AYM program, I struggled with my priorities; I wasn’t taking full advantage of AYM and I wasn’t pushing myself to do better. Since then, my focus is different. I’m using AYM as a stepping stone to a better future. Being in AYM can be challenging and there are a lot of rules and restrictions to follow; but I’ve seen that if I’m willing to put in the effort, that I can set goals and achieve them.

When people find out that I’m 19 and have a son, they usually say “that sucks.” But when I look at AJ I see our future. I’ve found a stronger sense of faith through my son. I know that I still need to learn a lot and I plan to grow with AJ as he grows. Like I said in the beginning of my speech, becoming independent is something that has been a goal in my life for a long time; but after having AJ, that goal has become much more meaningful. AYM is helping me learn to be independent so that I can have the life I want for me and my son.

Thank you.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Great News for Homeless Teens!

We just received fantastic news for our Homeless Youth Initiative. Fairfax County is awarding $75,000 to keep the program going. While it won’t cover the full cost, when combined with the Emergency Grant from the Community Foundation of the National Capitol Region, it gets us a long way down the road. Most important, it means the 30 high school students currently in the program that have a safe place to live while they’re in school, won’t be back out on the street. Fairfax County’s Pat Harrison, Dean Klein, Nanette Bowler, Anita Smith and many others were amazing to work with. It is really hard to come up with funding with economic times so difficult for so many. Unfortunately, those difficult times means there are even more young people who need the Homeless Youth Initiative to help them keep a roof over their heads while they’re still in high school. It also means that we are full at our Emergency Shelter for Teenagers and in our Assisting Young Mothers Programs. Our neighborhood outreach staff are also running at capacity with more requests for food, clothing and school supplies than we’ve ever seen. I know, though, that despite the tough times our community won’t let our children and youth down.

Judith Dittman

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

CSYP Go Ape!

Alternative House is so grateful to Jenny D’Agostino from Go Ape! for donating a wild and wonderful field trip to the young people in our Culmore Safe Youth Project (CSYP). Go Ape! is located in Rockville, Maryland. It is an adventure course made up of the world's best zip-lines, obstacles and tarzan swings on the most elaborate ropes course you've ever seen. The kids and a few staff members had the best time. Swing by their website to see how fantastic this place is. www.GoApe.com

Thank you Go Ape! I loved climbing with you and this is why:
I am very scared of heights and Go Ape made me overcome my fear of heights. Thanks so much. I loved swinging in the air. Thanks Go Go Go Go Ape! OHOHOHOHOH Tarzan!
Aiah 11 years old

The field trip to Go Ape was the best field trip ever! I cannot wait to go again... It was awesome, specially the zip wires! Thank you Go Ape!
Samman 12 years old

It was so much fun! Even though I was nervous and scared, once I did the first zip wire, and walked on the high swings from one tree to the next, It was so cool! I really want to do it again. Thank you so much Go Ape!
Esmeralda 12 years old

Even though I was not tall enough to do it. It looked so much fun, and I cannot wait to be tall enough to go. I enjoyed going to the lake and seeing the fish.
Sergio 10 years old