By Miguel, CYC member, Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project Trainer, FYM docent
I’ve barely spent 72 hours in Arkansas, but the amount of love and hospitality that I have experienced by the individuals here has far surpassed that of any person in my previous travels around the United States. This is my first time working with my sister Bethanea and my brother Ricardo at Y.O.U.T.H. Training Project and I am so grateful that we have had the opportunity to talk on a real level outside of working hours. I will cherish my relationship with them for as long as I live and cannot wait to work with them again in the future.
I can’t even begin to describe the amount of gratitude that I have for the people of Arkansas who were strangers to me at the time of my arrival, but whom I now consider family. I am humbled by their selflessness and dedication to the next generation’s well-being.
To arrive at Saint Paul’s Episcopal church to a group of beautiful volunteers ready to assist us in the assembly of the exhibit was surprising to me, to say the least. I figured that we would be setting up the museum by ourselves. Little did I know that we had a whole community’s worth of support in our corner, providing us with the much needed hands, momentum, and drive.
The Foster Youth Museum provides a very insightful look into the lives of the foster youth around the country, achieving this by tangible objects that have direct representation in their lives. Seeing my sister with a plastic bag full of her belongings in the exhibit mid-move was like looking into a mirror of my past life in care. To see my brother’s graduation gown was a much-needed periscope into my future, as it was hard to imagine myself with a degree of any kind. To commit myself to something like that for 4 years is a stretch for someone like me, as I’m not much of a man for commitment. Whether or not that is caused by past failed commitments to foster parents or child welfare professionals is beyond me, but I now see commitment as a necessary step in life to achieve fulfillment and happiness.
These past few days here in Arkansas have revealed to me the true meaning of community and passion. Last night, I had the blessing of conversing with a lovely Uber driver named Tammy. As with most Uber drivers, she and I began to converse and share our life stories in the short 15-minute car ride that she provided me. When she heard that I was in town for something foster care-related, she had more than a mouthful to contribute to the conversation.
The one thing I took away from this beautiful Arkansas-native was that it takes a community to raise a child. To hear how she’s observed the lack of sufficient parenting skills provided to the upcoming generations was refreshing. Tammy was committed to her family and community more than her own needs, and to hear that really pumped me up to take that vibe back to my area and plant that seed into the minds of the young people with whom I work. It’s no wonder that Fayetteville was dubbed one of the best places to live in 2015. I can personally attest to that. I’m definitely retiring here folks. See you soon Tammy.