See you later

It was nice to catch up with some of the girls again. Looking back, we have really come a long way. I had the chance to watch these girls transform into mature, smart, and beautiful women. Even the little ones have grown so much. After we all leave the restaurant, I take the little ones to Conny’s Creamy Cone where we all got sundaes. They ask me when I will be coming back. I said I’m not sure but if I have the opportunity, I would try my best. As I leave Minnesota for graduate school, I will always remember their laughs and the hard work of our volunteers. Through the years, we've seen staffing changes and college students come and go. Each of us has played a role in helping these girls become more confident and simply trust in their imaginations. There is not enough words I can put together to describe the totality of impact these girls have had on my life. What had begun as program serving Karen boys and girls has since become an organization empowering young girls and giving them tools to overcome the unfairness of the world. As they will encounter a distinctive set of challenges in a context that will deny them choice and perhaps even  education, I wonder if in time, some will link this knowledge to resistance and activism work. As I’m driving away from Shem’s home, “See You Again” finally comes on the radio. The little ones have been asking for it the entire way to the restaurant. I will sign off with a quote that framed my thinking to start T2C a few years ago. I hope for those reading this blog, you may find relevance in these words toward your own lives. 

If not now, when?

If not here, where?

If not me, who?

If you're the person at the right time and the right place, how could you possibly walk away?

Last Day at the Church!

Here are pictures from my last day at the church! 

Guest Blog: Mu Performing Arts

As Yefei led me into the Mu Performing Arts studio, I saw Katie Bradley and May Lee-Yang facilitating the Karen girls in an acting performance.  This was their introduction to acting and preparing them for the 12th Night by Shakespeare at the Mix Blood Theater.  

After the act, Katie engaged the girls to talk about their characters and different themes that emerged, regarding love, jealousy, and power.  What was remarkable about this conversation was how well Katie was able to use acting as a tool for the girls to relate and develop language in talking about how these different themes manifested in their personal lives.  This discussion allowed the girls to share their stories and had many laughs.

The next activity was facilitated by May and this time I get to participate!  She asked two broad questions about how the girls received their names and a change that they had to go through.  Everyone in the room formed two groups.  As one group observes,  the other group lines up for the front person to tell and perform out their response to the question as their group members mimic their moves.  The front person would then move to the back of the line and each person in the group would do this until the last group member then the next group would get to do this.  This activity asked personal questions in an engaging way that allows everyone to take risks in a safe environment and know that they are not the only one taking risks.

Afterward, May asked the group about their experience.  One of the girls did not speak English very well.  The solution of translating was offered to the girl but she decided to take on the challenge to articulate her own response, despite the overwhelming pressure from the group.  I really admired that.  

When Mina arrived with crunchy tacos, the girls did not hesitate to eat.  There were more than enough for everyone.  After the girls ate, we finished the night with a song and Yefei as our guitarist.  Theater and acting is a powerful tool to empower these girls .  I can see that this support group is where these girls can express themselves as they progress in their own personal development. 

Bai Vue

Advisor at CEHD Career Services and McNair Scholars Program (TRiO), the Univ. of Minnesota Twin CIties


RED, PURPLE, ORANGE

“My favorite color is black.”

“My favorite color is red because it’s a lucky color in my culture.”

“My favorite color is blue.”

“My favorite color is also red because in my culture it cast away evil spirit.”

We began today’s activity with a self introduction and our favorite colors!  It was interesting to see how some of us associate our favorite colors with our culture, emotion, or just a color we love.  A PhD Graduate from the University of Minnesota Psychology Program joined us for today’s session.  I was very fortunate that he can assist us with today’s activity “Psychology, International Experience, and Acting.” Our guest speaker prepared the famous Stroop Effect activity for our students. It turned out that only 1 of the 4 students have done this activity before but she didn’t know the story behind the activity. The girls definitely enjoyed the activity as they waited for their turn, laughing each time the other student, I, or our guest speaker get stuck on the next word color or color of a word.  What surprised me the most is how the girls have grown over time in our program.  I remember when we had our first guest speakers, the girls would shy away and I always have to encourage them speak. However, this time was different they were absolutely engaged throughout.  After the Stroop activity, our guest speaker talked about the field of Psychology. He also gave examples on how this field plays a role in our girls’ potential majors.  I think it’s really help for them to understand that Psychology isn’t just about mental health. We ended the day by going to a Vietnamese restaurant to get Pho.  I was shocked at how much pepper one of the girls put on her pho!  The girls seem to be very accustomed to the restaurant environment. It was an interesting experience for me since I rarely eat at the restaurant.  They said the service is similar to their experiences in Thailand.

Washburn HS Blackbox Performance

On Dec. 17th, 2014, we took our girls to see a performance by the Washburn HS Blackbox Acting Program at Patrick's Caberet Theatre in Minneapolis. Crystal Springs has been the director of the program since 2008. She has also worked with Jan Mandell who currently teaches at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and has been doing similar work with high schools since 1979. I was able to insert a snippet of Jan's comments during the talk-back session towards the end of this video.  Other attendees included Rhonda Dean, the school's new principal, community leaders, and parents who participated in the race riots in North Minneapolis in the 70s.  While the program seeks to empower youth through critical dialogue on their identities and various social issues, the performance itself challenges viewers into action. The actors speak to the struggles our girls experience on a daily basis from racist bullying to societal pressures on gender roles. I wanted our girls to see that change can start now. Seeing other students their age be bold in their convictions builds solidarity among everyone who feels oppressed in some way. In our own discussions, as our girls were able to identify with the actors' lives, we were able to imagine a new space of shared experiences where the factors of citizenship, language, and culture no longer serve as dividing barriers. I have much hope for these girls. More to come on our individual mentoring this spring!