Monday, November 14, 2011

"Recreate Her Future"

Friday November 11th was Wellspring Living's annual charity event and my first "big" event in my new role. Getting ready for the project was an "all hands on deck" kind of experience! We even had a group of high school students come in and do some work to help us prepare (Eagles Landing Christian rock!) The focus this year was on the educational opportunities Wellspring Living offers the girls going through the Victory Program. We don't want to just help them heal. We want to give them the tools they need to lead a successful life. Education is a key part of that...thus the "Recreate Her Future" theme.

One of the features of the event was a "Walk Thru Experience" where guests saw an illustration of a girl's journey into trafficking and into recovery. It was simple, but powerful. I was told that more than one man walked away crying as well as several women.

The journey follows "Amanda", a 12 year old girl...first you see her bedroom.

There are "bubbles" depicting statistics regarding children at risk, Amanda's words and her her room we see she is a Bieber fan, worries Clearasil won't work on her pimples, and that she is being molested by her uncle. She believes talking to her parents is fruitless because her Mom won't believe her and her Dad is too busy working to care about her at all.

Next is the bus stop...

Amanda is heading to a friends house but she is targeted by a trafficker. He tells her how beautiful she is, how much he cares about her already...telling her everything she wants and needs to hear. Note the book bag. The book bag follows Amanda through her journey.

The third scene in the journey is the "brothel area"
Small note...Bree & Trey actually staged this scene.

In the brothel area there are no thought bubbles, no words...Amanda no longer has a voice. And there are no words to describe what has happened to her. Christine (the creator of the walk thru) felt the absence of words would make more of an impact and she was right. The book bag is now torn, dirty, ragged.

Lastly, Amanda has been rescued and in recovery. This scene is in the classroom of the Victory Program.

Statistics include information on how the education program at Wellspring Living's home for girls works. Thought bubbles show girls dreaming of the future (with Amanda dreaming of becoming a nurse), Spoken one show the teacher encouraging them and praising their efforts. Amanda's book bag is brand new, clean and full of possibilities.

Of course "Amanda" isn't a real girl but her story is similair to many of the girls who come into the program. During the course of the evening, the guests get the chance to watch a video of a young woman who was rescued from trafficking, went through the program, went to college and is now working with Wellspring.

The table settings carried the theme of education with apples, text books, large pencils and programs that look like composition books.

A jazz band played during the evening and through dinner.

Mary Francis shares a bit about Wellspring Living, the Girls' Program, and some of the visons for the future.

The teachers from the Wellspring Program answer questions and share stories.

During the program, local visual artist Aubrey Vinke, created a work that represented the freedom the program gives to the women and girls.

One of the highlights (and one of my favorite moments of the evening), poet and "spoken word" artist Amena Brown shared about her work teaching writing and poetry to the girls and shared a poem she had written, inspired by her work with them.

The program ended with Matt Snyder and Debra Black singing Gungor's "Beautiful Things"

If you've never heard this song, you have no idea why it's so you should check it out...

Of course I need to give a HUGE shout out to the volunteers! Because it is no exaggeration to say that this event wouldn't have happened without them! We had college students from Georgia Tech, Kennesaw State, Shorter College and a few others. Highschool students (including my amazing children Embree & Trey!) and volunteers from the Wellspring League as well as so many others who helped set up, greet, register, serve, and clean up before, during and after the event!
Just two of over 100 volunteers who made the gala possible!

After the event came the clean up...and while it is a lot of fun to dress up in pretty dresses and heels...nothing beats a pair of tennis shoes! Right Dana?

A couple of special moments during the gala...
The bartender who had never heard of Wellspring Living, who was asked to work the event last minute, who was incredibly touched by all that she heard during the program. After the event, while people were leaving, I encouraged her to check out the walk thru before we took it down. She came back to me afterward. "That first room, her bedroom, when it talks about her uncle...that's my story." she told me. We talked for a bit. About how she found healing, about how she felt it was no accident God had made sure she was there, and how He can use her story to help others.

Megan, a volunteer and student at Shorter, had on a necklace that I really liked. It was simple...a leather string with knots and something resembling a coin in the center. I remarked on it and I could tell the way she touched it that it was special. It belonged to her brother. He is in the Marine Corps. He gave it to her before leaving for boot camp and she hasn't taken it off in the four years he has served in the military (including two tours in Afganistan). He comes home in March. I asked her if she'd take it off when he came home and she said she didn't know..."it's a part of me now" she said. She appreciated the fact that we took time during the gala and it's theme to appreciate veterans.

After the gala, we had quite a bit of leftover food...even after we shared with staff and volunteers. So I called Atlanta Union Mission (which was only two miles from The Foundry, where we had the event) and we drove over. Despite the fact it had been a fourteen hour day and I knew they were exhausted (Bree had even been sick for several days) both of them had an awesome attitude about the "detour" on the way home. There was a volunteer there to help us unload the food (including six boxes of apples!). After getting back in the car, Trey had a grin on his face. I smiled back at him and he remarked "Yeah, that warm fuzzy isn't the heater." I am so blessed to have two such amazing kids who give so willingly...not because their mom makes them but because it is a part of who they are.

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