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Art Show Draws Out Creativity

“It’s time…to talk about it!” was the theme of a very moving art show presented by the Sexual Assault Program of the YWCA April 21-24. Nearly 25 pieces of original art were displayed to raise awareness during Sexual Assault Awareness Month and to remind the community to speak up about sexual violence.

The art contest was open to all with many of the pieces created by individuals impacted by sexual assault. A grant was provided by the Church of the Good Shepherd for the reception, awards and art supplies. Vancouver School of Arts and Academics also helped support the show. Native American Youth Alliance (NAYA) submitted some of the pieces.

“There were so many wonderful comments about the diversity of the work,” said Laurie Schacht, Sexual Assault Program Director. “We hope the conversations don’t stop in April,” she said. “It’s critical that we keep talking about it.” The goal of SAAM is to bring awareness and open up conversations.

Awards were giving for the “Most Moving,” “Most Daring” and “Most Liked but Not Sure Why.” The Sexual Assault Program of YWCA will be accepting new submissions, one per person, for the SAAM Art Show in early 2015. For more information about participating, contact Kai Hill, Program Coordinator at email hidden; visit site for full address. View photos from this year’s show on Flickr.

Advocacy in Olympia Pays Off

Good news from our state legislature. For those of you who believe little good comes from Olympia, here are two examples to the contrary. YWCA’s Public Policy Committee tracks various bills as they wend their way through the legislature. Below is the fate of two bills that affect community members obtaining services through YWCA’s CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and Sexual Assault programs.

Passage of House Bill (HB) 1298 / Senate Bill (SB) 5169 would have allowed distribution of CASA or GAL (Guardian Ad Litem) caseworkers background checks to all parties involved in a CASA or GAL appointment. Potential confidential or personal information about caseworkers would have been in the hands of individuals that were adversely affected by court decisions. In turn this could have prolonged cases needlessly or potentially been hazardous to caseworkers.

YWCA Clark County staff were among those testifying against this bill in Olympia. As a result of both this testimony and concerned lawmakers the bill died in committee, never reaching the floor.

Traci, De and Laurie visited Olympia to advocate for survivors earlier this year.

Traci, De and Laurie visited Olympia to advocate for survivors earlier this year.

Another Senate Bill, sponsored by local Senator Ann Rivers, works to assist survivors of sexual assault to live their lives without fear of contact from their convicted sexual offenders. SB 6069 authorizes the Department of Corrections to prohibit convicted sexual offenders from direct or indirect contact with the victim of the crime or specified classes of individuals. Additionally, other agencies are required to impose similar conditions of these offenders.

The Indeterminate Sentence Review Board shall impose a condition requiring the offender to refrain from contact with the victim or the victims’ immediate family members. When providing notice of a sexual offender’s residence, the Department of Corrections is required to include notice that the victim or immediate family member may request a non contact order as a stipulation of release, if this is not already provided for by court order. This bill passed the legislature and was signed into law by the Governor on March 17, 2014.

Our legislature really does work to help state residents. Become familiar with the issues and cast your vote in a manner that is right for you. Remember, every vote counts.

Snapshot for July 2014

Maya Angelou passed away on May 28th, and with her quote we honor her and the young women making a difference in our community. But it’s not just young women who are working towards a brighter future. In this issue, we feature staff, advocates, supporters and volunteers of all kinds who make thoughtful action a priority in their lives.

Sexual Assault Program and CASA staff visited Olympia earlier this year to advocate for survivors. Find out what’s new for survivors and the people who serve them.

Artistic expression of the theme “It’s time… to talk about it,” draws out creativity while raising awareness about a very important topic – sexual assault.

Michael Sutcliffe shines a light on criminality today with a follow up feature to “Finding the Grey in Orange is the New Black.”

Who’s your favorite Sesame Street Character? Our guest for the Sept. 10th luncheon has been engaging viewers with culture and diversity for over 40 years. ¿Puedes adivinar que?

Learn about Clark County CASA, and what it takes to serve the more than 900 children who are in foster care, or in custody of the court.

Finally, don’t forget our Program Highlights section offers a brief peek into the advocacy and support our staff offers every day at YWCA. And if you are a volunteer, or thinking of becoming one, you’ll appreciate the Volunteer News section.

July 2014 Program Highlights

Sexual Assault Program
The Sexual Assault Program began “In Touch With Teens” with some students from Fort Vancouver HS. It’s a 6 session series that focuses on healthy relationships, dating violence and bystander intervention. This pilot project has been funded by a Community Foundation Youth Philanthropy Grant, which provides the curricula and healthy snacks for the youth, as well as ways to recognize their participation and engagement. Thank you to the Community Foundation Youth Philanthropy donors, and to the amazing and supportive coaches at FVHS who made this possible. The Sexual Assault Program also hosted the regional prevention meeting for Community Sexual Assault Programs in Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, Pacific, Wahkiakum and Klickitat counties.

Clark County CASA
After successfully swearing in 21 new CASA Volunteers on May 22nd, 2014, we are looking forward to another great turnout of new CASA volunteers for our Summer Training, beginning July 1st, 2014. If you are or know of a community member who has always wanted to make a huge difference in the life of an abused and neglected child, please contact Heidi Hiatt at hhiatt@ywcaclarkcounty.org for more information and to begin the process. We are looking forward to meeting our goal of having one volunteer for each of the children assigned to us by the Clark County Dependency Court, as there are currently 262 children who do not have a CASA working with them. Please help us meet our goal of helping all giving all children in the system a voice!

Social Change Program
The Social Change Program just hosted the Community Celebration on Tuesday, June 24th. Three leaders of social change were recognized for their dedication to our community. Congratulations Michelle Bart, Christopher Resendiz and Jose Scott! Guests also enjoyed presentations on the culture of drumming and of historical social change leaders, such as Frida Kahlo, Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou. Coming up on July 7th, join us for an informal chat at Conversations in the Community, a brown bag discussion held once a month in the Community Room of YWCA. Contact Michelle at mhurdle-bradford@ywcaclarkcounty.org for more information on the Social Change Program.

Y’s Care Children’s Program
On May 29th, friends and family joined Y’s Care teachers and volunteers in honoring the accomplishments of 15 preschoolers during our annual graduation celebration. To mark this important transition, graduates performed poetry and songs individually and as a group, put on two skits and played mallet instruments. Another highlight of the ceremony was the slide show. The kids enjoyed seeing themselves on the big screen and family members got a chance to see the kids in action at Y’s Care. In addition, thanks to our wonderful volunteer, Nonie Laurine, each graduate received a backpack complete with school supplies.

SafeChoice Program
The SafeChoice Program continues to develop the Children’s Advocacy Program (CAP) at the shelter. Mykaila Forsyth, who previously volunteered for CAP has been hired to continue solidifying the program. “She’s doing excellent work with children and teens in the shelter, five days a week.” says Stephanie Barr, Interim Director of SafeChoice. CAP provides support to families entering the shelter in two primary ways. Parents receive assistance with outlining and pursuing goals, while children and teens are provided opportunities to interact with, share and create with the advocates and with each other. This program has been generously funded by individual donations, and grants from United Way and the Looking Out Foundation

Independent Living Skills Program
The Independent Living Skills program recently hosted a year-end barbeque and celebrated recent high school graduates in the program. Congratulations! In the last issue, we shared our visit to Olympia to advocate for the rights of foster youth. The Mockingbird Society provides a great review of the efforts of all foster youth advocates who joined us for our policy making journey.

WORTH Program
The WORTH Program is working hard to provide resources and training for individuals in the Clark County Jail. WORTH is currently accepting donations of gently used or new bras, socks, underwear, quilt batting and sewing machines. Also, a huge thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who help make this program complete.

Seeing the Gray… Part 2: Interview with Michael Sutcliffe

By: Emily Ostrowski

In the last issue, I reviewed the popular Netflix show Orange is the New Black (OINTB). Part of that review dealt with the ways in which the show portrays prison life. For better insight into the topic I interviewed PhD candidate and WORTH volunteer Michael Sutcliffe, who has worked for years with various organizations that serve incarcerated populations. Michael opened my eyes to some of the inaccuracies of OITNB, and while I still consider myself a fan of the show, I ended my initial interview with Michael wanting to seek out media that offered a more realistic portrayal of life in prison.

This desire led Michael and me to organize a showing of the documentary Visions of Abolition at YWCA. The showing was held Wednesday, April 30th in YWCA’s community room. Roughly 15-20 YWCA employees, volunteers and members of the community gathered together to watch the film, and afterwards participated in a brief Q&A.

Michael and I also had our own conversation about the film, problems with our current prison system, and his advocacy with WORTH. Here are some highlights below:

What do you find most powerful about the documentary Visions of Abolition, and what do you hope those watch it glean from the film?

Visions explains the economic and social origins and effects of incarceration and peels back some of the myths and the veil that popular media has created – the most powerful attribute of the prison is its ability to make people disappear. The prison system classifies people according to their social “offensiveness” and makes them vanish from public life, ostensibly they are disappearing for a period of time, but for most, it’s forever unless they have help. Visions was created by a group of women who survived the prison system and are in various stages of shirking off the identification it’s branded them with – physically branded in some cases.

Visions also prominently features Angela Davis whose work was the first abolitionist writing that I encountered, and still is the foundation of much of my own writing. Davis is really effective at articulating the ways that the prison system or Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is not a broken institution in need of some reform, but a manifestation of systemic oppression and stigmatization that does exactly what it’s intended to do. As a former political prisoner and one of the most recognized activists on prisons, she brings credibility to the film that few others could.

I hope that people watching will get a better understand of the PIC and the extent to which it legalizes and legitimizes racism, sexism, and a classist fear of “poor people.” The PIC enforces privilege and stratifies communities, thus destroying them. I hope that people watching see that we need to move beyond the rhetoric of reform and “fixing” prisons and jails and instead move towards helping each other solve problems.

What do WORTH Volunteers do?

WORTH volunteers go into the Clark County Main Jail and Work Center each week for two hours. At the Main Jail, we organize speakers from the community to talk about topics like drug and alcohol recovery, financial planning, basic healthcare and nutrition, and so on. When we don’t have speakers scheduled, the volunteers run workshops on similar topics to engage participants in more extended discussions.

At the Work Center, each week is a single session sewing program. Participants and volunteers interact while working on quilting or sewing projects.  Much of the program’s value is in helping to refranchise people who have been disappeared by the criminal legal system. Volunteers at the Work Center can help with the mechanics and logistics of sewing or can be there to talk and support.

WORTH volunteers also solicit donations of women’s underwear, bras, and socks from the community in order to provide them to women who do not have financial support while incarcerated – way too many women in Clark County are arrested without these basic items and the jail does not supply them. This really bothers me. Women are often held for weeks or months without underwear, socks, or a bra! And many of these women are awaiting trial and legally are not guilty of a crime! Our volunteers who organized donation drives have done amazing work and collected enough donations to keep the program running, but it’s thin at times, and we desperately need more.

Finally, a part of the program that is very important to me is teaching people about the reality of incarceration. The reason the jail and prison are as ugly as they are is that people vote for and support this approach to criminality based on misconceptions – they think locking people up makes our communities safer or that people “deserve” the kind of foul, violent treatment that they get inside. But what this actually does is push people away from their community and make them feel their only options are outside the law. The legal system sorts and brands people with a record that keeps them from getting good jobs and can prevent them from getting governmental (and private) support, which exacerbates the problems that led them to jail in the first place. Our program tries to contribute to change by informing and teaching.

What advice do you give to new WORTH volunteers?

While I feel that working in the jail is a learning experience for most people, I don’t think it’s something that requires a particular skill or expertise. I encourage anyone working in an incarcerated setting to practice active listening and to actively try to unpack the complexity of participant’s lives. People in jail have been taught that they’re of lesser value, and listening and respecting them can give back some of their humanity.

I encourage everyone who is invested in changing what criminality means and looks like to assess their own strengths and interests. WORTH is a really flexible program that can adjust to make the best use of the people involved, so I encourage new volunteers to look for ways to add, expand, revise, and so on.

I also think it’s really important for anyone working inside to continuously try to reconcile what they’ve come to expect and assume about criminality with the realities that they hear and see as they meet people. One of the most important and beneficial aspects of being a WORTH volunteer is the perspective we can get of the powerful influence our own biases and assumptions have on how we see our community and our responsibilities as community members.

Click here to learn more about YWCA’s WORTH Program, and here to learn more about Visions of Abolition.

Sesame Street Actor to Speak at Luncheon

What are you doing on Wednesday, September 10? Mark your calendar for our 20th annual benefit luncheon. Sonia Manzano, popularly known as “Maria” on Sesame Street, will present “Building Resilient Children – The Sesame Street Way” at YWCA Clark County’s annual luncheon. Sonia’s message of empowering children aligns well with our Y’s Care Children’s Program, which offers an empowerment-based model of child education and support to low- and no-income families. Doors will open at 11:30am and the program will begin at noon at the Hilton Vancouver. Registration is now available on our website.

Sonia Manzano

Sonia Manzano – Actress, Author and Advocate for Children

A first generation American of Latino descent, Sonia has affected the lives of millions of children and their parents since 1971,

when the 21-year-old from the South Bronx joined the Sesame Street cast as “Maria.” As part of the Sesame Street writing staff, Sonia has won 15 Emmy Awards and is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Arts and Sciences. She also wrote for the Television show Little Bill on Nickelodeon. On stage, she has performed in The Vagina Monologues and The Exonerated. Sonia remains a member of the Sesame Street cast to this day, and is the author of two books for children, No Dogs Allowed (2004) and A Box Full of Kittens (2007), and of the award-winning, young adult novel The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano (2012).

Sponsorship Opportunities
Sponsorships are available ranging from $1000 to $5000 with many benefits available. Shared benefits for all levels include a table for ten at the luncheon, recognition on our website, at the event which annually draws about 500 guests. For more information, contact Erin at 906-9157 or email hidden; visit site for full address

Say Yes to 900 Children in Clark County

It’s hard to say No to a child. Even when the request is small – an extra cookie, a drugstore toy, five more minutes before bedtime – we want to see those bright smiles and happy eyes when we say Yes.

But when a child has suffered from abuse or neglect, when their lives have been turned upside down in an unfamiliar foster home, when they feel they have no one they can count on, saying No isn’t just hard. It’s agonizing.

At Clark County CASA of YWCA we never want to say No to a child who needs us. Support from people like you means we won’t have to.

Today, CASA is advocating for 643 Clark County children in the foster care and court system. They range from drug-affected twins in a neo-natal unit to 17-year-old boys and girls who will be totally on their own when they “age out” of the foster care system on their 18th birthday. Thanks to CASA, they have highly trained, compassionate volunteers and staff who are investigating and advocating for their interests.

However, 269 children in Clark County are still in need of an advocate. But we cannot help abused and neglected children – today or for generations to come – without your support. We need volunteers and donations to support the more than 900 children that pass through the Clark County court system each year. In the words of CASA volunteer Judy:

“Each time I see the gratitude and trust in my CASA child’s eyes, I’m reminded of how grateful I am that people in our community care enough about her and other foster kids to support Clark County CASA. We are doing life-saving work here. And it’s donations from our community that make it possible.”

During this special campaign of awareness for abused and neglected children, will you please consider making an investment in them and in their future? Your tax-deductible gift to Clark County CASA will go a long way to helping children today and to breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect forever. Thank you for your confidence and support.

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March 2014 Program Highlights

WORTH Program
WORTH and Social Change partnered to bring eye glasses into the jail. Toni Dorenda, Director of WORTH, contacted the Sherriff to receive approval to bring glasses to WORTH’s Tuesday classes. Glasses help the participants see the curriculum and read the handouts during WORTH volunteer visits. Have you heard of Orange is the New Black-a new series that’s been stirring up the media? YWCA presents the first of a 2-part series about the show in this month’s newsletter.

Social Change Program
Michelle Hurdle-Bradford, Director of Social Change, sponsored 10 pairs of glasses for the WORTH Program. Hurdle-Bradford visited the jail to teach incarcerated women about personal values, judgment, bullying and white privilege the day the glasses were distributed. “To see the smile on their faces when they could borrow a pair of glasses to see the curriculum was worth more than gold. The participants can not only listen to the training but they can read the handouts too.”

Sexual Assault Program
On February 11th the SA Program attended Lobby Day in Olympia to advocate for survivors of sexual assault. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and the SA Program will once again welcome renowned speaker Cory Jewel Jensen on April 1st and will be hosting an Art Show at YWCA on April 21st. Details of these events will be released later this month. Follow us on Facebook or call 360-906-9156 for more information. Finally, the SA Program continues to offer free groups and classes to the public including the Latina Women’s Group, Women’s Healing Group and the Where We Live series which focuses on awareness and prevention.

women-trauma-facilitators

Thanks to all the presenters and volunteers who made Women Trauma and Healing Day a success! From left: Auna, Amira and Erica

SafeChoice Domestic Violence Program
SafeChoice is happy to welcome Jennifer Anderson, the new Shelter Manager to the team. Jennifer has several years of supervisory experience with both Child Protective Services and Education Services District 112. In addition, members of the SafeChoice Program attended Lobby Day in Olympia on February 4th and advocated with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) for the enhancement of protection orders by enforcing firearm prohibition for abusers, maintaining funding for domestic violence shelter and legal advocacy, and maintaining basic safety net programs which support survivors. WSCADV’s legislative agenda can be found through the public policy link on their website. SafeChoice is also implementing a new support group for shelter residents starting in March. Learn more in this month’s newsletter.

Y’s Care Children’s Program
Y’s Care recently offered a 3-week parenting class to guardians of Y’s Care children. The free class included meals and childcare. The Seeds of Empathy program is in its 3rd year and continues to be a great success. This wonderful program centers around a baby and parent who visit regularly, teaches preschoolers perspective on identifying and labeling feelings. Y’s Care loves community engagement and created aparticipatory experience for students by partnering with Tears of Joy Theater based in Portland.

Clark County CASA Program
CASA welcomes 23 new volunteer advocates to their team. With this influx of advocates, CASA is able to serve approximately 69 more children. Also, YWCA and CASA welcome Kelsey LeBrun Keswani as the new Director of CASA. Kelsey has over 13 years of experience working in the field of social services. She has a breadth of experience ranging from building a national program serving unaccompanied refugee minors to volunteering with the Peace Corps in the Ukraine.

Independent Living Skills
Youth in our Independent Living Skills Program visited Olympia on February 14 alongside the Mocking Bird Society to advocate for the rights of foster youth and teens. This year they focused on Extended Foster Care (SB 6101/HB 2335), Prudent parent Standard (SB 6479/ HB 2699) and Legal Representation for Foster Youth (SB 6126/HB 1285)

ILS youth at Olympia

ILS youth at Olympia

Seeing the Gray in “Orange is the New Black”: Praise for the groundbreaking show, while acknowledging the murkiness of portraying life in prison

By: Emily Ostrowski

(Contains some spoilers for Season 1 of Orange is the New Black)

Like many fans of Netflix sensation Orange is the New Black (OitNB), I was thrilled when they announced the show’s second season will be available to stream June 6th, 2014. After what seemed like an eternity of waiting, a return date is in sight for the show that has become something of a cultural phenomenon, and because Netflix allows for every episode of the season to be available at once, it’s essentially redefined the concept of “binge-watching.” In fact, OitNB is the most watched original Netflix show, beating out House of Cards and the re-vamped fourth season of Arrested Development. It’s garnered critical praise, as well as a slew of award nominations, but perhaps more than anything OitNB has been lauded for what many see as its societal impact.

For starters it stars a predominantly female cast, meaning it clearly passes the Bechdel Test (a test named after American cartoonist Alison Bechdel that requires any work of fiction to have at least two female characters interact with one another about something other than a man.) The show has also earned praise for its racial diversity, as well as its inclusion of numerous LGBT characters.  The series’ main love triangle revolves around recently imprisoned main character Piper Chapman (Taylor Shilling), her fiancé on the outside, Larry (Jason Biggs), and her former girlfriend and current fellow inmate, Alex (Laura Prepon). Piper’s feelings for Alex are shown to be every bit as legitimate as hers towards Larry, and while the show could have played their relationship as nothing more than a titillating distraction, throughout the course of  the season Alex and Piper’s relationship became deeply rooted in sustained emotional connection and persevering attraction they feel towards one another. OitNB also prominently features openly transgender actress Laverne Cox, who has used her popularity on the show to become an outspoken advocate for transgender rights.

All that being said, the show’s premise is based around the everyday lives of women in prison. In this particular area I fear I, like many viewers, while good intentioned, don’t know much about prison life aside from what we’ve gleaned from previous media depictions. To learn more, I reached out to Michael Sutcliffe, a PhD student and activist who volunteers with YWCA’s WORTH Program. He shared his thoughts on the show, about what they’re getting right and, and unfortunately quite wrong about life in prison.

michael-sutcliffe

WORTH volunteer Michael Sutcliffe

“There are some things about Orange is the New Black that I was pleased to see.” says Sutcliffe, “The writer and producers do seem to acknowledge the prison as both a manifestation and a producer of systemic racism, and they do try to demonstrate just how powerful the privileges of the main character are.”

Indeed Piper’s privileges are often plain to see in the show, such as the early preferential treatment she receives from her correctional officer, Mr. Healy, because she is a white, upper class, educated, and (he presumes) heterosexual woman. The show also notes how Piper is both uncomfortable with her privilege, while at other times seemingly unaware of it, which I believe is an honest and unflattering reflection of how privilege often works.

Sutcliffe also gives the show some credit for attempting to portray the different power dynamics and social structures of people imprisoned, but as he notes is the case with all TV, “They compress time so much that it seems like every day is a roller coaster of politics, gossip, and social maneuvering.”

There is also an inherent quirkiness to OitNB, that while undoubtedly makes the show more entertaining, also contributes to what Sutcliffe sees as the “quiet dulling of the emotions” in what are the more intense scenes of the show. He elaborates, “What I mean is that while they show the women being scared, angry, frustrated, and try to hint at desperation, they accompany the scenes with goofy or happy music that lightens the mood and makes light of the situations the women are in. There is no theme music in tense moments in (real-life) prison and the silence (as well as the extreme noise) can be a powerful component part of a moment.”  He references the early episodes where Piper was effectively “starved out” by the kitchen staff for unknowingly criticizing the cook’s food in front of her. In real life, this is undoubtedly a serious issue, but in the show, it was largely played for laughs.

This bothers Sutcliffe in no small part because he believes OitNB sells itself as a type of docudrama, but by portraying those scenes the way the show does, it under-emphasizes the fear and legitimate threat of violence real prisoners often face. While I’m not sure if I completely agree that the show markets itself in such a way, I understand where the assertion is coming from. After all, the show is loosely based on the real-life incarceration of Piper Kerman, former inmate turned prison reform advocate, who wrote about her experiences in her memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison. For a casual viewer, knowing that the story is based on certain real-life events may make them susceptible to believing that the show’s portrayal of prison is a fairly accurate one.

All of this I suppose raises the question as to whether it is the show’s responsibility to portray prison life more realistically, or that of the viewer to be able to discern between entertainment and reality? Ultimately, I believe the answer lies, so often as it does, somewhere in the middle.

In an article for the Chicago Tribune former inmates were asked to weigh in on OitNB’s accuracy. Like Sutcliffe, the women had mixed reactions. One woman praised the show for enriching these characters by “having a great sense of humor” and portraying them as “amazingly inventive” in the ways in which they get through the day. She also had this to say:

“If this were a truly realistic portrayal, it would be depressing. It may be the show I want to see. But I’m not confident that a lot of other people would want to see it.”

A television show’s main job after all, is to attract viewers. It’s not the nicest truth, but it’s a truth, nonetheless, and despite OitNB’s flaws, I’m still happy it’s out there, and am not ashamed for finding it compelling.

Yet there was one criticism of Sutcliffe’s that resonated, not just about OitNB, but about the way in which we as a society tend to consume all media:

“I don’t think OitNB really shows people what prison is like. While it definitely has some good acting moments and some entertaining situations, I think OitNB has to be taken with a HUGE grain of salt and we need to ask why/how we can use the ruination of people’s lives as entertainment while doing nothing to help them?”

In this day and age it’s easy to feel like because we watch a certain TV show or post a story on Facebook that we’re actively engaging in political and societal discourse. In reality many of us are failing to take any real steps to change the injustices we claim to care about, and I’m as guilty of this inaction as any.

In an effort to change that, I invite all of you interested in learning more about our criminal justice system to take a look at YWCA’s WORTH Program, as well as the list below where Michael gives us a few of his recommendations for films and documentaries that give a more realistic portrayal of life in prison. Also keep an eye out for our next newsletter, in which Michael and I will have a more in-depth conversation on activism and the failures of our current prison system.

Additional Resources
Check out page 14 of the WORTH training packet for a comprehensive list of resources. Michael especially enjoys Michelle Alexander on Mass Incarceration and The New Jim Crow as well as the NPR interview and review. He also suggests the feature documentaries Visions of Abolition and It’s More Expensive to do Nothing (link unavailable). Finally, Michael recommends this video interview with Dr Carl Hart about drug addiction and a website on Defending Justice.

Imagination is Essential

by Shawna Burkholder

Make believe is an essential part of every childhood.  Using dolls or puppets to tap into the imagination is much more than simple play.  The value in this was realized with the serendipitous partnership of Divine Consign, Tears of Joy Puppet Theater and YWCA’s Y’s Care students.

Y’s Care Children’s Program specializes in early education for preschool children from low income, homeless or living in transitional housing situations.  Y’s Care staff teach children, through modeling and problem solving, how to relate and to express themselves in socially accepted ways.

ToJt-dragon

photo used with permission from Tears of Joy Theater

Most Y’s Care students have limited awareness of the arts.  Through a grant from Divine Consign, Y’s Care staff was able create an engaging participatory experience for all of our students by partnering with Tears of Joy Theater based in Portland.  Their mission is to celebrate the diversity of world cultures, teach children and enrich their lives by helping them experience, create and perform art with professional artists.

As part of their mission, Tears of Joy Theater brought the following values to this project:

  • Providing children with an opportunity to appreciate, participate and make life changes though the arts.
  • Inspiring creativity and understanding through presentations by representing diverse cultures from around the world.
  • Bringing live theater experiences to children and communities with limited access to live performance and arts education.

Y’s Care Program Director Leah Reitz contacted Tears of Joy Theater to participate in their Artist in Residence educational program to create a project that would offer an exceptional art experience for the Y’s Care children.

Y’s Care students took a field trip to a Tears of Joy Theater in Portland to watch a production allowing our students to be exposed to a live theater performance, many of them for the first time. The students and chaperones used public transportation which allowed for further learning opportunities. The field trip was a perfect opportunity for the kids to practice many skills including, problem solving, emotional regulation and impulse control.

The on-site component of the project included rehearsing a short play with the Tears of Joy professional over a two-week period. Rehearsals gave the children confidence and an opportunity to experience the hard work and joy that comes from practicing and performing. The play selected was Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock and the teaching artist led classroom instruction from casting, to puppet construction to performance.

ToJt-kids

photo used with permission from Tears of Joy Theater

During this time, what the children viewed as play, included curriculum that incorporated Language Arts, Social Sciences and Geography, Science, Math, and Theater Arts. The children also learned the basics of an audition and how to deal with the disappointment of not being selected for a role they wanted.

Leah Reitz, Y’s Care Program Director commented, “I felt like this was a great project and what we learned (as teachers) will help us recreate the puppet show again next year.”

This theater project offered an opportunity for children to experience how to work together and to express themselves in a positive manner. Ultimately all of the children’s hard work culminated in a classroom performance for parents followed by lunch. The final production is fondly remembered by the children and parents.

Soroptimist International of Vancouver is delighted to be able to work with the ywca on the Young Women of Achievement Awards. This gives us an opportunity to fold our Violet Richardson Award into ywca and reach a greater number of potential recipients. The award recognizes young women who make the community and world a better place through volunteer efforts. — Mary Lou Williams, Soroptimist International of Vancouver