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Like A Fish in Water
"Being in the water is really therapeutic to me; it's like my natural element. It helps clear my mind. I'm calm. I'm not angry. I like the sense that there's nothing there — it's just you and the water. If I could grow gills somehow, I would live in the water."
These are the words of Michelle*, who has found a unique way to overcome her personal challenges, with help from The Home’s programs and support from donors like you.
Clinician Kristin A. first met Michelle while working as a counselor at Waltham House, our group home for adolescents identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or questioning. Michelle struggled with anxiety, especially around going to new places, meeting new people, and trying new things. At times, anger would get the best of her. But she was also hard-working, goal-oriented, and a lot of fun to be around: the kind of kid who had all the tools necessary to succeed in life.
One of her many strengths turned out to be swimming. Kristin discovered Michelle’s love of the water during a community outing to the local YMCA pool. "Michelle was like a fish, and it was hard getting her to leave at the end of the outing," she remembers.
When Kristin transferred into a position at our Safe at Home program, she said good-bye to her clients at Waltham House. However, a short time later, she received a referral from Waltham House and again began working with Michelle and her family to support her return to living at home. At about the same time, Kristin heard of Dive Kulture, a program offering inner city kids the chance to earn their certification in scuba diving.
"I instantly thought of our fish from Waltham House and, after discussing it with her parents, we signed Michelle up for the program," recalls Kristin. "Little did I know how many ways scuba would benefit Michelle and her family. I saw Michelle challenge herself mentally, physically, and emotionally. By the end of the six-week program, she was able to overcome many personal challenges, including independently taking public transportation to the program, finding friendship with those around her, and experiencing a sense of self-accomplishment. Moreover, it gave her family a chance to see Michelle truly smile. As a clinician, it has been an amazing experience to be able to witness her journey."
"It’s wonderful seeing her in the water and how happy she is now."
— Michelle's mom
Michelle’s mother is grateful for the opportunities The Home and Dive Kulture has given her daughter. "When she was little she used to tell me that she wanted to live in the ocean and swim with the sharks. It’s wonderful seeing her in the water and how happy she is now."
For Michelle, the experience really boosted her self-confidence. "I feel like not many kids get a chance to do something like this, and I did it. It makes me feel great."
It is thanks to generous donors like you that The Home can provide memberships to such organizations as the YMCA and Dive Kulture for the children and families we work with. And who knows... in Michelle you may have helped discover the next Jacques Cousteau!
*Name and photo have been changed to protect the identity and privacy of our client.
As I begin my second decade of service, I have made it my personal vision for The Home to ensure that all the youth we serve will be able to perform academically at grade level or above; be prepared with the vocational and interpersonal skills needed for a job; and be paired with a caring adult for support.
We have already taken some action toward this vision by appointing an Education Director whose responsibility is to oversee our special education schools, tracking outcomes and ensuring that every child is receiving the appropriate help to achieve his or her potential. The Education Director will also monitor the children and youth in our group homes who attend public schools, and work with our community-based programs (e.g. adoption, foster care) to help parents and caregivers become the most effective advocates and participants in their child’s education.
To ensure that our vision stays on track, I have formed a Vision Task Force, comprising 10 members of The Home’s staff who represent our entire range of care: community-based behavioral health, therapeutic residential, special education, foster care, adoption and the specialized programs that serve the “aging out” youth as they transition to adulthood. This Task Force will also develop a process for engaging and involving every employee at The Home in this endeavor.
I hope everyone is enjoying a pleasant summer. I would like to thank all our donors whose generous support allows us to provide some fun summer activities and outings for those in our care.
Finding ways to instill a love of physical activity and healthy eating in children can be a challenge. Due to socioeconomic and health issues, many children who come into our care are overweight and unaware of portion control, healthy foods, and the importance of physical activity. The goal of The Home’s Wellness Initiative is to ensure that children and families are more prepared to take responsibility for their own health.
At a recent Food Fun and Fitness Fair, planned by The Home’s Wellness staff and generously sponsored by donors Gail and Adam Slifka, nearly one hundred youth from across our programs enjoyed an afternoon of activities, including Rody Max bouncing horses and interactive booths with games and educational materials. Other highlights included a smoothie station hosted by Whole Foods, healthy snacks, a cooking demonstration, and a sugar table where dietician Kim Flynn showed kids how many spoonsful of sugar are in the foods we eat.
The "Fitness and Fun" theme was carried over into the next day at Longview Farm when the kids played flag football games with special guests Patrick Pass, former New England Patriot, and Jason Moore, former New England Revolution soccer player.
Even for the most fortunate and well-informed among us, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is no easy feat. For youth with few resources and difficult family circumstances, the challenge can be daunting. By providing information and modeling healthy habits, we empower children and adolescents to take pride in their own well-being.
Thanks to everyone who made these fun events a reality!
That’s what a youth at our Southeast Campus program wrote about creating art for our Voices & Visions gala, held in May. This year, the kids brought the theme of “A Journey through the Ancient Past” to life with vivid depictions of dinosaurs, trilobytes and prehistoric humans, after learning about subjects like paleontology and archaeology.
This was also a special night as The Home honored some exceptional people. Eighteen young adults from our programs who are now attending college received a standing ovation from the audience as they were presented with the Sabino Marinella award for personal achievement. We were also proud to honor a great friend and supporter: John T. Hailer, President and CEO of Natixis Global Asset Management and Chairman of our Board from 2005 through June of this year, for his more than 20 years of service to The Home.
The event attracted over 1,100 guests and raised more than $1.34 million for our programs. Thanks to everyone who helped make it our most successful Voices & Visions yet!
Youth in our residential programs are learning how to grow and harvest their own vegetables using Tower Gardens by Juice Plus+, generously donated by Kate Santoro and Jean Egan. Kate is pictured here (right) with colleague Karen Shea and one of the five Tower Gardens. Up to 20 plants of vegetables, herbs or fruit will grow in less time in this aeroponic system than in soil.
Kudos to Deloitte’s 40+ volunteers who fanned out across four of The Home’s sites — Southeast Campus, STARR, Waltham House and Harrington House — to tackle a number of projects on a dreary, rainy day. Even the lousy weather couldn’t dampen their spirits as they enthusiastically painted numerous interiors and even tackled some landscaping projects. Staff and clients unanimously agreed the newly decorated rooms were a treat to come home to!
During a tour of Longview Farm, donors Anne and Laurence Sperry were intrigued by the auto body shop — part of The Home’s vocational training program for teaching hands-on skills to students in our special education schools. The Sperrys wanted to find a junk car for the kids to take apart and reassemble. Anne contacted Chris’s Service Center in Walpole, who offered to lend a car and deliver it at no charge. Once the students finish with it, they can swap it out for another. With the car now in the shop, Anne and Laurence are on a mission to get the auto shop stocked with appropriate tools. Thanks to the Sperrys and Chris’s Service Center for helping the kids at Longview Farm learn valuable life skills!
The Home's Preschool Outreach Program (POP) is a prevention and early service program for young children ages birth to seven years and their families. The Program provides both direct services and training/consultation services.