Break the Chain

Today’s was so amazing!  I had so much fun I honestly can’t even put it into words!

So it started at arriving at WAR Chest Boutique at 8:30 but the other volunteer hadn’t arrived yet with the key.  She had to take an alternative route because of the mass amount flooding the Chicagoland area experienced Thursday, many roads are still closed.  On top of that, our manager, wasn’t going to be there until later because she was at a conference at Wheaton College so I was in charge of a group of volunteers that came down from North Central College coming that morning.

The volunteer arrived and she gave the speech about what we do and showed a few videos about Women at Risk International (the links will be at the bottom) to the 8 NCC volunteers while I ran around getting some of the tasks ready.  Then I joined them for the question section of the presentation.  I always like to mention a project that I’m working on, a map of the Chicagoland area where I mark Prostitution, Pandering (basically what pimps do) and Child Pornography charges.  It’s really shocking the amount of prostitution charges in Naperville, a lovely, thriving, six figure neighborhood.  It’s something that, to me, brings the problem home and makes it something a little more real since it is here, where you don’t expect.

Then it was my turn to take over and I was really nervous, I really did not want to be making any mistake, so I got to work assigning jobs.  My plan was to split the volunteers up in groups and putting them to work while I go get some other work done and assign them new jobs when they finished.  That was NOT how it went.  I was literally running around from about 9 till noon when their lunch came answering questions, assigning new jobs, helping them find tools, doing this and that and it was tiring!  I don’t know how our manager does it.  I was just so happy that we got all of the jobs done and there weren’t any problems.  So job one done!

So at noon, I just ran around checking some of the things the volunteers did.  Most of them left to go to another site while 3 stayed with us to go down to the dance and get the crowd involved!  At 12:30 some dancers and teachers began to arrive and I was  talking to one of our dancers and she had a spot right in front of Anderson’s Bookshop!  Now throughout the day, I had been driving down there trying desperately to find a spot, but had no luck.  So I was so excited when she said she had a spot and we both ran down to switch our cars.  By the time I got back at 12:45 most of the dancers had arrived at WAR Chest.  Then I asked everyone if they wanted a rehearsal and they said yes, so we got it set up and ran through the dance twice and then started walking down to Anderson’s.

The exciting part was earlier in the morning, Naperville 17 News called and were sending someone down to interview and record us.  The not so exciting part was that our manager was still going to be at her conference and wasn’t going to make our dance which means someone else would have to be interviewed by the reporter.  There was one staff member that came out to dance and she was going to do it.

So we got everyone lined up and ready to go and I started the music from my car and a small crowed gathered!  NCC volunteers passed out buttons and it went so well!  We did it one more time and it was so much fun!  Then we took some group photos and did some cheers!  The second time we danced, people across the street cheered at us!  I honestly can’t even explain how much fun it was!  The song lyrics (click here to listen to the song) are just so good for raising awareness of women’s risk issues and it’s a fun beat and music in general is so liberating.

Music is the one thing, the only thing, that can liberate us from the chains that secure our minds, our bodies and our souls.

Then it was interview time, so the staff member, who is a bit younger than I am, went over and she told me to just stand next to me because I’m nervous and I was totally fine with that.  I didn’t have to talk and that was perfect!  However, the reporter had other ideas and interviewed me too!  It was so nerve-racking!   I wish I could have prepared something.  I wanted to include the 3 dance teachers and their studio names and the location of WAR Chest. I am still nervous about it, I’m so afraid I made a mistake in one of the studio names or something!  My family was there taking photos and video taping it, so like funny parents, they video taped my mini interview and took photos of it.  I felt like a celebrity! lol

Then back to the store and Ashley was back and I gave her an overview of what happened and I was just so happy that nothing went wrong.  I was so nervous!  I do NOT want to mess this internship up, but I think I did everything o.k.

Another cool thing was at the store we had a free chair massage from a chiropractor and it was just a wonderful way to end to a very busy day!

All in all, this was an AMAZING day!  I had so much fun. We honestly had some of the greatest women ever come out and dance with us and I felt really good that my manager felt like she could leave me with these project and the NCC volunteers and at the last-minute, the dance.  I was never completely alone since the volunteer who was in the store at been with WAR for 2 year and the dance teacher could help, which was a bit of a relief because if I did need help there was always someone there, but I think I handled everything well.  This was just so much fun, I just don’t have any other words I can use!  I just love my internship so much!

MINI-UPDATE – I just checked Naperville 17 News and here is the mini report they did on us!  How exciting! 🙂

Below are some of the videos from Women at Risk International

Introduction to Women at Risk International

Women at Risk Overview

Pray for WAR Babies

Women at Risk International Civilian First Responder

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Boston, Chicago, Cats and a Dance

Before I start this blog, I want to thank the lovely ladies Caroline and Daniela again.  Caroline has been just wonderful (click here for her blog).  She is supportive and kind and sweet and I love her blog!  Daniela is another wonder woman I’ve met on this site (click here for her blog) and she just wrote such an amazingly sweet blog about Mexico City and how she was thinking of me any my boyfriend and our struggles.  I just felt so honored.  I honestly don’t even have enough words in my vocabulary to describe these beautiful, amazing women and I’m so glad I decided to start blogging otherwise I would have never met them!

Now I have TONS of things to get into and I don’t want to make this blog a novel.  First, as many of you have heard, 2 bombs went off at the end of the Boston Marathon killing 3 people and severely injuring hundreds.  My heart goes out to everyone and I feel so awful about everything.  This was a terrible event.  I just want to point out a few things.  The first is as many have already pointed out, this was a horrible tragedy and those words don’t even begin to cover it, however there are some amazing people.  The runners who continued to run to the nearest hospital to donate blood and those who open their homes to strangers that were displaced after this happen and so many more who acted as first responders that were audience members or runners.  You are my hero and the world would be an awful place without people like you because YOU ARE AMAZING AND WE ALL LOVE YOU! ♥

Second there is one thing that is annoying me and actually making me furious.  The News.  First, when this happened, they couldn’t put their cameras down to help?  One new broadcast I heard, the narrator said something to the effect of “at least we were there to catch it all on camera”.  Really?  You couldn’t help people, but you filmed it.  I understand we need news, but honestly that is cold and heartless.  You would rather watch this happen and do nothing but film instead of help people whose limb have just been blown of or have sustained other injuries.  Get over yourself.

Also, get it right!  You told everyone they caught the bomber when in reality that never happened.  Then each station is putting out news about what the bomber looks like.  So far this is basically the description we are given.  He is a white, black, brown man with a white hat worn backwards or a green hat or bald who ran from the scene or walk away.  Really?  Then the FBI had to release a statement saying basically telling the news to shut up, stop jumping to conclusions and get the information right.  So honestly news networks, as of right now, you are useless, bias, awful television programming who, just like politicians, would rather do something for your own benefit rather than do something useful.  Obviously this is a generalization, not every single news caster is like that, but the ones who are, you should be ashamed of yourself and your inability to do anything useful.

Next is about my home, my Chicago.  My neighborhood along with many others around me have been declared “in a state of emergency”.  The city and neighboring suburbs are flooded and I mean flooded!  Ramps to get onto the highway are completely submerged.  What is normally a 15 minute drive to work took an hour and I literally drove through a lake where the road used to be.  I even saw an ambulance drive by towing an inflatable motor boat.  It’s bad, but one positive thing about this morning is that there was minimal road rage!  Everyone was letting people merge without fingers or horns sounding, they just let people in and waved thanks, which is so uncommon to see.  It was very nice and refreshing!

However, the lovely nonprofit Feral Fixers (feralfixers.org) is not having such a great time. For more info you can go to their website.  Tammy, the founder, houses cats in her basement (they are all in their own kennels which are cleaned and taken care of by a multitude of volunteers and Tammy herself, so don’t worry about them living in awful conditions or anything).  This morning she had 6 inches of water, so they moved all 14 cats out of the basement and started looking for temporary homes, which they found.  However those 6 inches have turned into over 6 feet of water.  Here are some photos of Tammy’s basement

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They have lost a lot of supplies and are in dire need of everything from cat food & litter to paper plates and bowls and blankets (click here for the full list of items) so if anyone lives in the Chicagoland area, Feral Fixers is located in Lombard and they need our help!  There is also an option to order items online and have them shipped to Feral Fixers.  If you would like to donate money you can always donate here on their Website or you can vote for a photo I took and all of the money raised from this photo goes to Feral Fixers.  Click here for all of the detail about that.  Finally we have an event Sunday in St. Charles and Recycled2New will be there.  Click here for all of the info on that.  Thank you for any and all help!!

Last but not least, WAR Chest Boutique, which is part of Women at Risk International is dancing on the street of Naperville this Saturday at 1pm in front of Anderson’s Bookshop to raise awareness of WAR and other women’s risk issues, everything from trafficking to abuse and more (Click here for my blog about it and here for event details). Please come visit us and join us in this so we can fight together!  If you come, try to wear something red!  Those are our colors and I look forward to seeing people!!

Thank you for everything!  All of the support and any help you can give Feral Fixers or for those who come out to support WAR and thank you for taking the time out of you day to read my blog or read this super long blog!  I feel so lucky an blessed, especially in light of recent occurrences.  Thank you! ♥

PHOTO CONTEST!

So lovely blog people!  I have decided to enter a photo contest, a bit late in the game, it started March 13th and goes through April 29th.  I just found out about it today though.

I submitted a photo of an animal and this lovely kitty happens to be a stray that my friend took of the street and gave her a loving home!  She was pregnant and gave birth in my friend’s home, but had to be taken to the vet because there were complications.  Only 1 kitten survived and they kept him too.  Her name is Charlotte and she is soooooooo sweet! The entire time during this photo shoot, she just slept on a chair.  I was wheeling it around to different lights, shining lights in her face, turning the chair and all she did was sit there, occasionally opening her green eyes to see what was going on, then she’d just go right back to sleep.

Now this is where the contest comes in.  People vote on my photo, each vote is $1 donated to the nonprofit the photo is supporting.  I am supporting Feral Fixers, a trap, neuter, release organization in Illinois.  TNR is a way to deal with the feral cat problem without killing all of the cats.  Feral Fixers goes out, traps the cats and neuters them.  If they are friendly or kittens they are kept and socialized so they can be adopted to loving home.  If they are feral they are released.  Now you may ask, why are you releasing angry feral cats?!  Think of them like raccoons.  Raccoons are wild animals and you wouldn’t adopt one into your home, but you also know that they will leave you alone because they are wild.  Cats that will approach humans and be friendly are kept and socialized, the ones that may only like the person who are feeding them and run and hide from everyone else are left in the wild because they have now become a wild animal.

Anyways, the money goes to Feral Fixers and I could win a bunch of prizes depending on how much money I raise, which I’m going to donate to Feral Fixers because I don’t have a cat or dog. 🙂  The cool part for me is that some photos might be chosen to be in a calendar which would be fun because it’s my photo!  Depending on the amount of donations, there is a chance for Feral Fixers to win a grant which would help them a lot.

Here is the link for the photo contest where you can see my photo.  Any information about the money and where it is going is on the website if you wish to look.  I would love if you could donate just $1 and if not, I would love if you could spread the word about the contest to see if others will donate!!  I donated $5, I know that’s not a lot, but it’s what I have so far, so I hope I can raise more money! 🙂

The links below are for Feral Fixers so you can learn more about them if you would like or maybe even adopt or foster!

Feral Fixers Facebook

Feral Fixers Website

WAR Chest

So as most of you know, I’m love shopping at WAR Chest Boutique and the reason why is that everything in the store (jewelry, clothing, etc.) has all been made or sourced by women rescued from human trafficking or who are at risk.  WAR Chest is part of Women at Risk International and they are located in 34 countries and most of the United States (yes, the U.S., we have a MASSIVE trafficking problem here).

Just two weeks ago, I had started interning for them and I am having a blast!  The store is run by volunteers, Ashley is the manager and there might be 2 other paid employees who work there less that I do! 🙂  Everyone is so friendly and welcoming and just happy.  When you walk into the Naperville store you are literally just wrapped up in this warm circle of happiness and unity.  That sounds really corny but it is completely true.  I have met some really sweet, amazing women there!

Yesterday, we had our first learn and practice for a dance event we’re doing on April 20th in the streets of Naperville.  We are dancing to not only let people know about WAR and what we do but to raise awareness and support women who face the terror of trafficking or abuse, whether that is verbal or physical, or being controlled or whatever the problem is, that is what we dance for.  The dance is super upbeat and fun and once again the ladies are just amazing!  We’re having another learn and practice this coming Sunday, April 14th at 4:00pm at the Abhyaasa Yoga Studio in Naperville.  If you live in the area come and learn the dance with us or just come to watch us and clap on the 20th!  We had about 12 ladies (including me, Ashley and the teachers) so we want more.  This isn’t just a dance for women, men can participate as well!

This is something very close to me as well because of friends and family who I’ve seen hurt by men verbally and being completely controlled by them.  I have a family member who we have tried to help, but she just never listened and now I have a friend who keeps going back to the same guy.  I’ve known her for about a year and they’ve broken up 3 times?  He tells her what she can wear, when I go out with her, he texts her nonstop about coming home and what time will she be home and where we’re going, not just like the normal about, literally nonstop.  Then he stays at her place, she cooks for him, he doesn’t pay half the rent or for food and doesn’t clean at all and he owes her money (like a couple hundred) from some previous event. Then on Facebook he told her to “Stop acting like a bitch” and as a woman, that offends me to no end.  There is never any time the word bitch should be used in any way toward a woman and still she goes back to him and that isn’t the only time he has used social media to degrade or embarrass her either.  There are more I could list.  So I will be dancing for them, because I’ve done everything I could to help my friend, but you can’t help someone who doesn’t want it, no matter how frustrating and heart breaking it is.

Just as a side note, I know it’s not only men who abuse and I’m not on an I hate men spire, 🙂 I actually has a male family member who was physically and verbally abused by a woman and luckily he got out of that and found another beautiful, sweet women to be with, and that makes me so happy!

Below are a bunch of link to Women at Risk and information about the dance if you are interested! I hope you come join us!

Website for Women at Risk International Here

WAR Chest Boutique Naperville Facebook Here

Dance Tutorial Here

Information About The Break the Chain Dance Here

Chicago Schools are Disappearing

I’ve been meaning to write this blog for a while, I’ve just been so busy with school and my internship, I haven’t had time to sit and write about this pressing issue, something that needs to be addressed.

In Chicago, our Mayor has decided to close down 54 schools, 54 Chicago Public Schools and move all of those kids to different schools in other areas.  Why is this a problem?  Why should we be upset?  They are just moving to a different school right?

Wrong, the school that are being closed down, guess where they are, low-income neighborhoods.  Now these kids have to travel farther to school through very very dangerous neighborhoods.  These neighborhoods are plagued with violence and that is just a news story, that is just what you hear when you live near Chicago or any other large city, each has their own share of crime, but suburbanites like myself aren’t apart of that life so it’s a story.

Put yourself in their shoes, think of these kids, living through what they do every single day of their life!!!!  Really think!  Imagine growing up where gunshots are the soundtrack to your life and seeing those around you disappear, either innocent victims of violent crimes or getting involved in something they shouldn’t because they see no other way out. Imagine going to a Chicago Public School,  it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that the education they are receiving is not great.  Don’t get me wrong, you can always do something with your life if you apply yourself even in CPS, however, this school system does not give these kids the support they need.  These kids are constantly being told no, whether it is indirectly or directly, facing these obstacles in society or facing prejudice because they are those kids from those neighborhoods, they are just criminals right? No worth, no future so why invest time in them?

I’ll tell you exactly why.  They are our future, they are children who deserve love and a chance in life, they deserve positivity and people who look at them and say good job, I can’t wait to see you go to college, I can’t wait to see the picture you drew today, I can’t wait to put your ‘A’ paper on the fridge, I can’t wait to see you every day succeed in the struggles you face that most of us know nothing about.

Look at my life for example.  I live in the suburbs, I have a perfect, loving family who smiles and has fun and fights and yells and laughs, we do everything, each day loving each other even more than before.  I went to elementary school completely carefree and then middle school, where I got my first experience in real life.  A boy in my 7th grade class, one who I tried to tutor and spend time with during school, helping him with studies, even though he wouldn’t listen most of the time.  He was very smart, just unmotivated.  He overdosed on meth and was gone.  That was scary and unexpected and sad.

Then I went to high school, walked there every day, the most I had to worry about was it being too cold outside or too hot on my walk to school, but most days Mom drove me because of how heavy my book bag was.  We did have security guards in school and a few arms police officers, but nothing huge.  There were fights, but nothing terrible ever happened.  No one was killed, no one had knives or guns, there were no gangs.  I did really good grade wise, good enough to get a large academic scholarships to a private college along with a piano scholarship, once again my entire family and all of my friends supported and backed me even though I felt lost, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  Now, I’m graduating, have an internship at a nonprofit and I love when I’m doing with my life.

I’ve had my struggles, I watched as my grandmother’s health slowly deteriorated as lung cancer took her life and I watched my grandfather slowly lose his memory.  I’ve watch my mother struggle after her 3rd back surgery which left her with incredibly complex and painful nerve problems because her surgeon did not do everything he should have.  I’ve had my own problems I’ve had to deal with, but I have never been shot at, I’ve never even heard a gun shot in real life.  I’ve never seen any drug use or been exposed to that life directly, I’ve never lost anyone to violence.  I’ve never been afraid to play in my front yard, or leave my house for that matter.  I’ve never been afraid to go out at night, or walk down certain street.  I don’t worry about the people on that side of the street who hate the people on my side of the street or have been afraid of people that stand on the street corners “conducting business”, because we don’t have that where I live.  We take these things for granted because we don’t have to worry about small things like this, these kids do.  At a certain point you know right from wrong and can make your own decisions, but can we blame a 10-year-old for getting involved in negative, awful things he or she sees every single day of their life?  Shouldn’t we be working to keep that out of their life and keep the positive in?

Now with the closing of these schools, kids have to walk farther from their homes, through gang infested areas, areas afflicted with the disease of drugs, infection of gambling and scarred by bullet casings and the lives they took.  This is what they’ll be forced to walk through as they try to get an education.  I urge you to click here and watch this video of a group of mothers and students who take a walk, the walk that their kids will now have to take to their new school, an extra 12 blocks through sidewalks with needles and alcohol bottles on the ground, but luckily no one was outside because they went on a “good day”.

Now the reason that our Mayor is doing this is to work on decreasing a $1 billion deficit (click here for that article).  I think there can be a better solution that taking away schools for kids who live in extremely dangerous areas. The Mayor has also just approved the building of a condominium in the River North area (a hot real estate location in our city) that costs $29 million.  We don’t need another condo complex or at least that project can wait so our children can have their schools, their education which affects their future.  Here is are two articles (click here and here) about the building of this condo complex if you would like to read about it.  It was difficult to find information about it.  The first is definitely against the building of this condo and the second article I found because it is neutral on the subject, even a bit supportive, which is very important to me, to find an article that isn’t necessarily written to fit my argument, but I want to demonstrates both sides.  However I still think it’s clear, we could use the money for something else, like keeping our children safe.

They want to remove these schools because they are under utilized.  I read one article, I believe it is the article that had the video about the walk to the schools, that suggested that half of the school should be a community center, or an area where adults can get their GED or something like that and I think a community center would be a great idea.  Not only that, these kids won’t have to put themselves in more danger by walking farther to school and they’d have a safe place to go after school.  I know an idea like this would need man power, however it’s better than closing schools and exposing these kids to even more danger than they already are exposed to.

I would like to finish this entry with this, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, I challenge you to walk the path these kids will have to.  Do it without your security guards, without police officer, at night, during the day, walk as an average person and as you walk, picture yourself as a child.  Let’s see how much you agree with this idea after walking on these streets with out your guards or you money protecting you, seeing what these kids live through on their street that you are forcing them every day, the dangers you are exposing them to.

This is frustrating and upsetting and I don’t even understand how anyone could make this decision, putting our youth, our future, our children in danger like this.  Their life is hard enough and dangerous enough as is, do you honestly want to put them in more danger?  I’m in the process of writing a letter the Mayor, expressing my anger and shock at his poor decision.  Below is the address for the mayor’s office if you would like to join me in my anger and frustration at this absurd decision.  Even if you don’t live in Chicago and agree that this is an awful idea, write a letter too because if you don’t agree with this, you wouldn’t want your city using Chicago as an example to do something similar if the debate ever arose.

Remember always and forever, every single decision you make, big or small, it will always affect someone else, so before you make it, take a walk in their shoes and really think about the people.

Mayors Office: Mayor Rahm Emanuel

121 N LaSalle Street
Chicago City Hall 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60602