Freshies

By: Brittany Walker Pettigrew

I had the honor of seeing a small portion of the Foster Youth Museum in April 2015 at the Fairness and Equity Symposium in Oakland, CA. The conference, sponsored by the California Social Work Education Center (CalSWEC), featured the Homeless exhibition that took guests through the foster youths’ experiences in systems of care and homelessness.

At the end of the exhibit, there was an opportunity to take a pair of new socks, dubbed “Freshies,” in a homemade wrapper to give to a homeless youth. I thought that this might be the coolest souvenir I have ever gotten from a museum! It’s almost embarrassing to think of how trite that is in retrospect…but by my office at 5th and Broadway in Oakland, there are a number of people “spangin'”– asking for spare change, as I learned in the exhibit–every day and on nearly every corner. And come to think of it, many of them look pretty young…I took three and within the next 36 hours, they all had new owners.I have always struggled with giving money to people asking for spare change. I have never been able to give without feeling entitled to tell people how they can spend it so I say “Sorry, not today” and that’s it. But when I was asked for spare change and I offered, “Would you like a fresh pair of socks?” the response caught me off guard. I suppose I expected a casual, if not flip, “Sure”, kinda like when someone gives you new underwear as a present at Christmas. Certainly, a useful gift that one wouldn’t turn down, but not exciting. What I heard was “REALLY?!”…”Oh my God, YES!”…I can only imagine that they didn’t think I actually had them on me. So when from the depths of my purse, I produced a pair of “freshies,” each and every one cupped them in their hands and held them to their heart. All of them used the word “amazing” in their expressions of gratitude. It was moving how much they appreciated them. I just had no idea.

With each “freshie,” I just wanted people to know that someone who doesn’t know them cares about them all the same. And if each “freshie” sends that message, well that’s a donation I can most certainly give freely.

To support bringing Foster Youth Museum to more communities, we welcome your donation.

Lost Childhoods Exhibit Displayed at Education Equals Partnership: 2014 Convening

Check out Charles Taylor Kerchner’s piece in Education Week: Invisibility Cloak Lifted From California Foster Youth. His blog post covers the Education Equals Partnership convening, which included an exhibition of Lost Childhoods, an exhibit of Foster Youth Museum. Displayed at the entrance, Lost Childhoods offered the 200 plus participants a unique way to experience life in and beyond foster care.

Sponsored by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Stuart Foundation, this convening brought together educators, case managers, advocates, foster youth and others to support the educational outcomes for California’s youth from foster care.

A collection of digital stories, artifacts, and photos, Lost Childhoods reveals disrupted childhoods, redemption, and transformation—including tremendous educational achievement.

For more information about the Lost Childhoods exhibit, email jeanie@calyouthconn.org.