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.
Have Museum, Will Travel: A Foster’s First Time Out of Cali
By Ricardo Ramirez, California Youth Connection member, Foster Youth Museum docent, Playmaker Rookie of the Year 2016
My name is Ricardo and I am a docent for the Foster Youth Museum and our exhibit in Arkansas.
This is my first trip ever outside of California and my first time flying. So far I am blown away with every aspect! I am proud to be a part of this team and to help bring the Foster Youth Museum to Arkansas.
I strongly believe Foster Youth Museum helps to tell an untold story about the types of problems and experiences that are all too common in the foster care system but unknown to those on the outside. It’s been a long two days building the stands and setting up the art and artifacts donated by the youth who have been through “the system.” It has given me a new appreciation for the Museum and the youth who work hard to make their stories known. I am grateful to be a part of such an awesome team and to be able to travel—something some youth never get to do.
At the time of this blog being typed I am as tired (and as happy) as a kid who’s been playing on the playground all day–we started the day with breakfast put the finishing touches on our Museum, visited the famous Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville and spent hours taking in the awesome art collection. We finished off with a trip to The Hive for dinner and checked out the art at the hotel/museum in the same building–what an unexpected adventure to eat with a five foot penguin sitting at our table!
Arkansas has truly been an enjoyable first time out of Cali despite it being a working trip. Now I wait for tomorrow and our grand opening/reception. I’ve drawn the early shift so I’ll be there at 9 a.m. I’m excited to see the turnout and engage with the community. With that being said, it’s time to get some much needed rest for tomorrow’s big day.
Thanks to everyone who is supporting us and stay connected to our journey and work opening up hearts and minds about foster youths’ lives on Facebook and Twitter. Search for our hashtag #FYMuseum
No More Sleepwalking: Waking Up
By Bethanea Goudea, YTP Trainer (cohort 2016), Foster Youth Museum Docent
Until recently, hypersomniac was a great way to describe my world. The hopes I had for my future involving happiness, stability, love and acceptance were so dreamlike and intangible–until now. They seemed so far from me, and while my life seemed to be wasting away (in this far away world), I found a missing piece of my life while being awake.
That missing piece was the Y.O.U.T.H Training Project (YTP). The most surprising part is that this project is helping to heal all of my innermost wounds externally. YTP has provided many outlets for me to reveal my innermost identities. I never imagined it being okay to be who I truly am, with ALL of my stories and truths — I just never thought I could feel this happy, valued and accepted. I did not believe it possible– I had only dreamed of it. Outlets like working with the Foster Youth Museum, giving trainings to child welfare professionals, and traveling out of state are part of my reality now. I thought that being happy wouldn’t happen until I was married with children and had an intact family of my own, but that has all changed with YTP.
Now I enjoy waking up. I feel hopeful, encouraged, and excited for my future since my present is so lit. Setting up the Foster Youth Museum today put me in the company of stories of people like myself. The stories are in plain site, no masks, no hiding. Instead, foster youth truths are shining forward. Today I helped set up, display and make a silence become heard. My work with Foster Youth Museum opened a door to the dozens of youth represented in the exhibition and it also opened the door to my story as well. Now I know I will experience happiness, love, and acceptance in the future because I feel it in abundance now. Overall, I am so overwhelmed with emotions, blessings and possibilities–I feel like it is a requirement to share this positivity with everyone I encounter .