Thursday, March 3, 2011

What do Suburban Moms, Teens in Juvenile Detention and Kids in Africa Have in Common?

This story was written by Laurie Bunnel on

What do Suburban Moms, Teens in Juvenile Detention and Kids in Africa Have in Common? It doesn't have anything to do with knock knock jokes or chickens crossing the road, but is all about the Children of the Nations Food Packaging Event last night at Echo Glen Children's Home (Washington's juvenile detention center) sponsored by the Missio Lux Peace Seekers.

Now that Missio Lux has been involved in packaging over 84,000 meals, it has been my dream that people who need a chance to know they can help others would be able to experience a food packaging event. I've envisioned that our homeless friends in downtown Seattle could take pride in doing this for orphans across the sea. However, seeing twenty girls that are held in a juvenile detention center enjoy this was even better!

The Peace Seekers Missio Community provided the funds - $500 for 2,000 meals. Susan, who coordinates an ongoing program for volunteers to serve at Echo Glen, made all the arrangements, found some additional adult volunteers and brought cookies for the snack. Fraser and his interns from Children of the Nations arrived at Echo Glen with all the food, packing materials and a DVD about the kids served in the most impoverished areas of the world.

When the girls arrived in the multipurpose room from their cottage (basically cells), I was surprised at how young and sweet they seemed, like our family friends or kids who live on my street. They weren't too sure about the hairnets and aprons that they needed to put on. However, with giggles they cooperated and later looked like a bunch of school lunch ladies sitting on the floor listening to Fraser. He told a story about his recent trip to Malawi and a four year old girl who grabbed his neck and wouldn't let go until she eventually fell asleep. The girls, who have been convicted of a variety of offenses, were touched by his story and oowed and awed when cute toddlers appeared in the video.

They scooped and sealed the bags of dried food, working hard to do everything right. I was impressed with the efforts of one young teen to make perfect seals. She was a beautiful girl with petite features and perfectly polished fingernails. We started to give Fraser a hard time that the music he was playing was putting us to sleep. She told me about her brother's band and how he was a drug dealer like her, but he turned his life around. She hopes to do the same thing because her dream is to be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. I asked her if she watches the TV show about them and she proudly admitted, "All the time!"

After we took a group picture with the boxes holding the 2000 meals, the girls made cards for the kids that would receive the food. Sweet drawings of flowers, hearts, and smiley faces enhanced the messages they created like: "You are loved." "Never Give Up." "You are so special."

When we were cleaning up, one of the ninth graders worked hard helping me untangle the long orange extension cords that were a knotted mess. We joked about her new exercise invention and potential infomercial as she rolled the heavy cords over her biceps. Having already been at Echo Glen for a year and half, she told me her release date is in October. It was with mixed emotions that I considered where she would be in October.

For many of these kids I wonder if they really had a choice, any other options than what got them in trouble with the law. I contemplated what their lives will be like when they go back to the environments they came from. It is with hope that I am looking forward to visiting these special people again. Have you been there? Want to come with next time?

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