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Chicks In Crisis

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gaby's Story

Nest is a Chicks In Crisis initiative which The Mother Hen Project will also be supporting this year. It is a sanctuary and safe haven for young women who are in need of support. A fully furnished house, complete with its own nurturing mother hen, Corkie Matson, Nest is another amazing place which is changing lives. It is a 'dream home' for girls like Gabriel Robinson who recently and successfully transitioned through Nest and is now studying at San Francisco State University. I asked Gaby if she would be willing to share her story, to give us an idea about the challenges she has faced and why places like Nest are vital to the health and well being of our communities.

 "I remember a time when my family seemed happy -  but I'm not so sure if that was because I was too young to understand or if things were actually better in those early days. I have very fond memories of my brother. I loved him. I loved how close we were and it hurt so bad when he ran away from home because he didn't want to be with my parents any more. Our living conditions were unpredictable and very difficult; sleeping on floors; in motel rooms; on neighbor's floors. We stayed in a motel room on and off for about five years. It was uncomfortably small and only had one bed. I slept on the floor for two years. When I was about nine years old, I came to realize that my parents relationship was very unstable. By eleven, I was witnessing their physical altercations. My brother had run away from home at the time,  leaving me alone during the altercations. On numerous occasions, I had to intervene when my father was  physically abusing my Mom. For years, I never spoke about the abuse because I felt like I would be betraying my family. I was very unhappy because I was ashamed of the way my family lived and how I didn't have the money to get the necessities I needed. I went to the same high school as my brother but he never spoke to me and no one knew that I was his sister. I had self esteem issues because I didn't have nice clothes and I went to school smelling of cigarettes because my parents smoked. I missed a lot of school when I was younger. I never finished 5th grade and never attended 6th, due to my parents - and I never knew why. In 7th grade, I had to start in a remedial class and work my way up. I remember not sleeping well for about two months because I was so stressed with the amount of school work I had. I developed a lot of insecurities which are still with me today. I dreamed that one day I would have a career that I loved which would also provide me with some stability. In reality, I had no idea what would become of me. People had very low expectations of me which shaped the way I thought about myself. I never imagined that I would ever be able to attend a University. In my junior year at high school, my parents decided that it would be best to move in with another family because my father was unemployed but over the course of a year it became so unbearable that we were asked to leave. I was stressed out because it was my senior year, I planned to attend San Francisco State University in the fall and I had no idea where I was going to be living in the meantime."

After Gaby shared her concerns with a Healthy Start coordinator at high school, Inez Whitlow and Chicks In Crisis were able to step in and provide her with a home and support until Move-in Day at SFSU. Gaby is the first in her family to attend University and the first to leave the Nest.

"It is both exciting and challenging. I am just beginning to learn what it takes to be successful in college"

For anyone who may be facing the same challenges that Gaby faced, she has some advice that she wanted to share:

~ Learn from the mistakes of others around you.
~ Remember, nothing lasts forever.
~ Don't conform to the negativity around you - stay hopeful.
~ Value yourself and know that you are capable of anything.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Hen House

A few weeks ago, Inez Whitlow called to invite Lickleleaf and I over to Sacramento to take a look at The Hen House. "It is a run-down (practically abandoned) urban ranch in Elk Grove with tonnes of potential"  she said and then rattled off a million ideas about how she wanted to transform  the ranch into a place where her Chicks could come to be transformed themselves with opportunities to learn about parenting, urban farming, gardening, foraging and wild-crafting, natural medicine, yoga, cooking and kitchen skills,  DIY and auto-mechanics, hand crafts, and every self sustainable skill you can imagine. "Hmmm" I said, "that sounds . . . . . . .  adventurous"  and promptly jumped in the car to go and take a look.
When we arrived Inez' Hen House appeared exactly how she had described it - a wasteland with a farmhouse and barn,  bang in the middle of a commercial district in Elk Grove with a bus stop at the end of the road. At the moment Inez has employed a few young guys to farm-sit, mainly to keep the intruders away, but she has also got them working the land and piece by piece, they are transforming this forsaken corner into a place which is going to change lives for many of the at-risk youth in Elk Grove and beyond.

As part of The Mother Hen Project, whether you are donating your time, your creativity or your resources  - you will be a big part of the  change which Inez is spearheading in Elk Grove.

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant" ~ Robert Louis Stevenson