Sunday, March 04, 2007

Where the #@&! Has Chris Been?

Hello, Dear Readers. It has been a month since my last post, and I believe that particular post was talking about New Year’s , so I am way, way behind. So here’s the beginnings of some more catching up. What on Earth have I been doing that has been taking up my time? Well, lots of things, actually

Sore throat. Cough. Then a full-on cold. Long days of work (see below). Then travel. Then a stomach virus. Fever. Vomit. Nausea. Dizziness. NO FUN. (But I’m better now, thank you.)

The Somali Initiative
As most of you likely know, for the last year, Katie and I have been working with resettled Somali refugees here in Columbia. Katie works with a pair of adults, and I work with several different kids a few days a week.

Months ago, a guy named Doyle comes strolling into the library with a Somali gentleman (Ahmed) whom I had met the week before. Ahmed and his family had just arrived, and Doyle and his wife Kara were acting as default sponsors for this family. Doyle and Kara both were new professors at the USC College of Education and were interested in trying to “institutionalize” a USC tutoring program for the Somali Bantu by partnering with Lutheran Family Services (LFS), the organization which handles the Somali Bantu Resettlement program. Doyle asked if I would be interested in helping get something like this going, and I said I would.

Well, many meetings and an untold number of emails followed, and this January Doyle recruited 20+ USC students to work with the Somalis that live in this one particular apartment complex. My job was to coordinate and match all the volunteers with families, which was a lot of work, but seems to have been very successful thus far. Lots of folks have had their hands in this, but I realized that I have a particular niche in that I know ALL the Somali families in the apartments (and if I didn’t before, I went to meet them in order to arrange this tutoring). Doyle only knows a few familes, and even Cindy, the educational Coordinator for LFS, has relied on my knowledge of these families (Cindy is new and deals with ALL refugees, not just Somalis, so her plate is WAY full). It’s kinda a strange place to be, as I am not really affiliated with either USC or LFS. I’m like a free-agent.

And here’s where the time-consuming part comes in. I can pick up the phones and call the USC kids, but I really can’t do that with the Somalis. Why? The adults don’t speak English. Out of respect, I of course would ask the parents if they would like their kids to receive tutoring (YES!), but I was always having to translate through the kids AND I had to physically go to the apartments to make any arrangements. PLUS college kids’ schedules are wacky. PLUS I was needed to make introductions and show the USC kids where to go to tutor. And there was a big orientation for the USC kids about the Somalis. And I still try to tutor my OWN Somali kids.

Lots of work, but great fun.

Teen Book Club
The Cooper Branch of the RCPL is trying to get some teen programming going for this summer, and since I am the youngest full-time person on staff, I have been nominated to run a Teen Book Club. We’re just gonna do it for three months to see if we get a response, but if it seems to be a success, we’ll look to make it a year-round activity.

Now, I have never led a book club before, much less a club for teens / young adults, so I have been scrambling to get something together by the deadline for summer publicity materials for the library. I have read a few books lately with this in mind, and have culled through the many recommendations I have received, and I think I have decided to read Ender’s Game (by Orson Scott Card- this is a book that has been highly recommended but I have not yet read), Devil on My Heels (by Jane (?) McDonald, about race relations and the Klan- this is my controversial, risky book. We’ll see how teens and/or their parents respond. It’s a very good book, but drops the N-bomb several times), and a Graphic Novel Extravanganza! AND the Main Library downtown is trying to woo me to lead a Graphic Novel program for boys this summer as well, but I don’t see it happening. My branch can’t spare me the time).

So there you have it. Life has been busy, but good. Hopefully I can get some posting done these days since things might actually be slowing back to normal.


wagsandpurrs said...

WOW WOW WOW!!! I am so very proud of you!!! Book clubs, tutoring, being asked to do a boys' club program!!! I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!! You and Katie are such assets to Columbia!!
And I am glad to see a new post on your blog!!!!

IPW said...

I'm glad your not dead.