A Residential Shelter for Adolescent Drug Addicts

by Dance To Live
Vetted

Lately we have been working with the younger children at Nexus Recovery Center.  There seems to be lots of Moms living at Nexus with young children (3-5).  We are combining classes of movement with story telling, games, music and education…and most importantly lots of love and fun. 

When you are taken from your home at such an early age because your adolescent Mom is drug dependent, there has not been a lot of attention, compassion, or learning going on.  We try to make up for that in our movement classes and as the time progresses and we see the children week after week and smiles and spontaneity begin to emerge, then we know that we are making an impression and providing  them with an outlet to express the feelings they need to grow healthier and happier.  We’ve been taught early childhood experiences shape each of us and become part of who we are.  Emotional and physical deprivation creates havoc that we carry with us the rest of our lives.

If in some small way we can contribute to the well-being of our small charges, then we need to do everything we can to support our young victims of drug abuse.  As always, we extend our gratitude to you who so generously reach out to those less fortunate than we.  For every Mom we lift up, for every child we keep safe, we are making a better world together.

Again, in gratitude, I thank you for remembering Michelle and her love of dance and yoga –  by assisting Dance To Live to provide smiles and laughter, learning and cooperation, balance and discipline – and a feeling of worthiness to the children we serve.

Susan Parma - Susan.Parma@DanceToLive.org

July is a quieter time for Dance To Live.  Most of the children we serve attend the homeless camp in Dallas. 

I am assuming that most of you who read this, like me, lead lives that are relatively secure.  We have jobs – not just jobs – but careers; we can focus on our work and return home to a fulfilling family life.  It’s hard for us to imagine not having a place to live where there is some opportunity for peace a quiet.

Most of the children we serve come from homes that are environments of chaos.  Drugs, violence, insecurity, threats to safety………….we have children who sleep with their shoes on never knowing when they will need to run.  Needless to say, it is hard for these children to go to school and learn.  When survival is your primary instinct, everything takes second place.  And because parents are so stressed, their children aren’t getting the one-on-one attention they need and they get lost in the shuffle.

One of the camp counselors said, “It breaks my heart that every time that I do this, I continue to see more children, meaning the cycle continues,”

What the homeless camp provides is two weeks of aspirational experience.  There are role models there who say “I can do it” and sometimes that is all it takes to create a spark in a young mind.  Before they come to the camps, a lot of the kids’ aspirations are to be a maid, or a hot dog vendor.  They leave knowing that there is more available to them.

And in the thick of this, our Dance To Live therapist dovetails the classroom lessons being taught, the philosophy of effort, achievement and success, …………and the practical reality that a worthwhile life requires a balance of intellectual, emotional and physical activity.  Dance To Live focuses on the latter which encompasses, stretching, games, movement, music - both competition and cooperation with others- learning, personal expression, sharing, compassion and breathing techniques for relaxation.  Each activity is designed to be carried forward and used in their future lives.  If we can provide to these children the opportunity to acquire coping skills and techniques that will serve them in their future, then we are answering Michelle’s prayer when she asked for guidance for the vehicle that she should use to “give back”.

It is in memory of Michelle that Dance to Live strives to make a difference in the life of each child’s we serve.

Thank you for supporting us, our cause, and the belief that we can and are making a difference.

Links:

I’m particularly excited to write this report to you today.  Last time I told you about a young man in one of the shelters we serve.  He was a big boy for his age, was staying in the shelter because his family was in danger, and yet, he was uncommonly kind – and I wondered how such a wonderful young man could come from a violent home.  Somewhere along the way, someone had taught him how to be a friend and how important kindness is.

Skip to Christmas.  When I was visiting my family in Portland OR, I mentioned this fact -  and that I was heartbroken that this young man (probably middle school age) was wearing shoes that were too big with broken shoelaces.  I was frustrated that he didn’t have decent shoes to wear, nor did he even have laces to tighten his shoes.

Children who come to the shelters we serve – frequently are fleeing their homes and come with very little or no notice.  Also, the young mothers at Nexus are often there because the courts have ordered them into treatment rather than prison.  When the mothers are moved from jail into Nexus, their children are brought to the center to receive education and counseling – because they too are the victims of drug abuse, neglect and violence.

Fast forward to now.

You can’t imagine how thrilled I was to receive 4 large boxes of donated clothing and shoes from Nike.  We have the tiniest Nike’s for our toddlers, boys and girls shoes for young children, as well as larger sizes for the big boys and girls all emblazoned with the famous Swoosh.  There are enough Nike shirts in various sizes to make up teams and the clothing is fashionable – an important fact for the older children.

Our first delivery was to Nexus Recovery Center – but we have spread this generous donation from Nike among the 3 shelters we serve.  Genesis Women’s Shelter was yesterday and our last delivery is today to The Family Place.

I will say that the genuine gratitude from everyone to whom I have delivered is overwhelming.  When they see all the shoes and clothing, they are just stunned by Nike’s generosity.

I have attached a link and some photos of Dance to Live board members sorting clothing.  Nothing we show has compromised the security of the Mothers and their children.  As you know, frequently we are limited from showing photos by safety and security issues.

We will be receiving some photos from Nexus and Genesis and The Family Place – so stay tuned for our next report.  I have been honored to make these deliveries and there are not enough words to express our gratitude to Nike and the IHM division which made this all possible.

As always, we extend our gratitude to those of you who so generously reach out to those less fortunate than we.  For every Mom we lift up, for every child we keep safe, we are making a better world together.

Again, in gratitude, I thank you for remembering Michelle and her love of dance and yoga –  by assisting Dance To Live to provide smiles and laughter, learning and cooperation, balance and discipline – and a feeling of worthiness to the children we serve.

Susan Parma – Susan.Parma@DanceToLive.org

Links:

When I visited a class at Nexus Recovery Center in December, a new group of children had just entered the treatment center with their Moms.  I joined the children’s class.  What a sad testament to the effects of drug abuse on the children in a family.  The new children are dramatically different than children who have lived at and experienced the treatment center for several weeks. It is difficult for the new youngsters to sit still and listen, many of the 4 year olds were still in diapers, they did not know their colors, had trouble introducing themselves in a group and were anxious and restless.

Repeatedly I am impressed by the patience and loving nature of the staff.  They make a huge difference in these children's lives in a very short time.  They set boundaries of acceptable behavior and temper their discipline with love and respect.  Their speech is positive and rewarding and affirming.  . 

It is in this environment that Dance to Live offers it's classes.  Begun as a vehicle to pass on Michelle's love of dance, Dance to Live offers grants to non-profit organizations which provide dance therapy, yoga, and expressive movement programs that are designed specifically for the children in their care. Movement therapy is a healthy and effective method for a child to transcend the challenges of the moment and work toward emotional and physical wellbeing.

I was so happy to see progress in just this one class, as the children began to meet expectations and participate fully in the program.  The feeling in the room went from concern (doing something new) to enthusiasm and smiles.  That’s just how captivating Dance to Live is!

I know that what we do at Nexus Recovery Center, and other shelters in which we provide services, honors the kind, loving, accepting personality of Michelle.  What we do is healthy, stimulating, and lots of FUN!  We use physical activity to bond participants through integrated and challenging movement.

Thank you for supporting us – and lending a helping hand to these young mothers and their children.

Today, October 19th  is the 13th anniversary of my daughter’s death.  Michelle was a dancer and performer from the age of 5 – and to her dancing was what brought meaning to her life. 

When she was 11 years old, Michelle wrote, "To me, dance is everything. It is my air to breathe, my will to live, and the water to quench the thirst in my soul to express myself. When I am dancing, my life is in order; without dance and my ability to free my feelings, my world is chaotic and confused."

Using Michelle’s words, we were inspired to provide this feeling of release to other young women who need an outlet to expresses themselves for situations in which language could not give meaning to the depth of their feelings.

Thanks to all of you who have supported Dance to Live throughout the years.  We are working hard to provide movement as a healthy and effective method for an adolescent to transcend the challenges of the moment and work toward emotional and physical wellbeing.

It's hard to imagine that another year has almost gone by and we will be starting our 8th year at Nexus Recovery Center - a residential treatment center where adolescent women  receive treatment for drug addiction while their children reside with them at the center.  The women and children attend school plus counseling sessions, both individual and group.

Added to this mixture of treatment, Dance to Live offers classes in Yoga and therapeutic dance, both to the mothers and their children – who are as much victims of their mother’s drug addiction as the mothers themselves. 

Some of these young women have had lives so confusing that it is difficult for them to express what they are feeling.  Movement transcends all languages and allows the women to express themselves in ways that otherwise they would not.  Dance to Live works on trust and supportive relationships– such as pairing individuals in Yoga moves where success is dependent on both parties.

The first time I attended one of the Nexus classes was near Thanksgiving 7 years ago.  Our dance therapist, Lynn, asked the girls to express what they were grateful for.  I was truly surprised to realize that these young women, suffering from severe drug addiction, felt “loved” by their families- that they realized others in their lives cared very deeply for them.  I honestly thought that they would be disenfranchised from their families – but that wasn’t the case.

Perhaps because Nexus exists to work with adolescent females, particularly girls with children, they are not yet hardened addicts.  However, on the same day of my first visit the girls had just received the news that 2 of their friends who had recently been released, overdosed and died on cheese heroine on the same weekend they left Nexus.  The girls in class were struggling with grief and the realization that they were not so different from their deceased friends.

We hope that accomplishments earned in the Dance To Live classes prepare these young women to succeed in other challenges.  If one can master a difficult Yoga pose, the balance required for that transcends into other aspects of their lives.  Exercise, expression, music, motion, release from daily struggles in a healthful setting – all these are tools for their future survival.  Thank you for giving these young women a fighting chance.

PS.  I'm sure you understand that photos do not accompany this report and the women and their children are minors.

Susan Parma, President

 

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Organization Information

Dance To Live

Location: Dallas, TX - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.DanceToLive.org
Project Leader:
Susan Parma
Dallas, TX United States
$2,920 raised of $9,300 goal
 
56 donations
$6,380 to go
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