We arrive at Sandra Jones Center, where we will spend two days painting, doing electrical plumbing work and playing with kiddos. This project, dear to my heart due to the nature of the work done with abused and forgotten children, is amazing! This is where girls are trained in culinary, tailoring, beauty school, and administrative skills. This is also where they live, go to school and are loved. Those who have arrived at the home pregnant, learn to care for their baby and to care for themselves. They have come out of horrible situations to one of hope, dignity, and a future.
We walk around the property, checking out the chicken and rabbit projects which not only feed the children, but also provide an income to the center. We rejoice at the greenhouses AFCA has provided, knowing that these structures produce food for the center, as well as income, too. The worm farm makes me smile – I love the fertilizer these guys provide but seeing the 20 or so bathtubs in which they are raised, is just too funny.
We unpack the suitcases our team brought with us, thanks to such generous donors, and soon, the room is filled with:
1. six cookie sheets
2. six bread pans
3. six pyrex dishes with lids
4. six cake pans with lids
5. six pyrex 9 x13 pans
6. loads of mixing bowls
7. six of each: measuring cups and measuring spoons
8. yards and yards and yards of all sorts of beautiful, colorful cloth
9. six cutting boards
10. nine aprons
11. six can openers
12. six whisks
13. eight oven mitts
14. 29 t-shirts
16. Needles and pins with no end
17. Fabric cutting boards
18. Six measuring tapes
19. Six hem measurers
20. Six pin cushions
21. Six cloth scissors
22. Four rotator cutters
23. Extra blades
24. Six hair cutting scissors
25. Six capes for a beauty salon
26. Six neck brushes
27. 100 combs of all colors and types
28. 25 hair brushes
29. Loads of patterns of all sorts, for all things
30. Bras, bras, and more bras!
31. Six kitchen scales
32. Random flip flops for the kids
33. Three suitcases
Oh, the joy felt around the room as each item is brought out and as we think of the future the girls who live here will have with training, counseling, internships, and jobs. A group of young women walk through the room and they pause, taking it all in. Then, two of the gals who are taking culinary classes start clapping and squealing, as they have just seen how their kitchen is about to change. Whooping and hollering ensues, and grins are huge as they continue past us, shouting words of thanks and appreciation.
We start painting the training center, as well as outdoor iron furniture while others work on electrical issues and two go downtown in search of plumbing items they need in order to set in a double sink and a toilet. Bryan lets me know that the electrical issues might be bigger than we thought, as turning off a light also turns off a fan elsewhere. Eric jumps in and together, they figure some things out in order to change the lights in the main staff room, which is usually dark and hard to see in.
As some women paint the outside of the training center, girls are inside the center, singing in their pure voices in multiple part harmony, joined on occasion by the music teacher who lends his bass, creating an absolutely phenomenal sound which wafts out the windows. I lean into the sound, mesmerized by the notes.
I forget I should be painting.