I had the privilege today of watching the Coronado Area Special Olympics swim meet at the Edith Ball Aquatic Facility here in Tucson. Over my four years at Asbury, I was able to help out with the Jessamine County Special Olympics swim meets at our university pool. It’s always a great reminder to me that we can take joy from anything we do, and that we can do things simply for the joy of doing them. I love being a part of the Special Olympics and, even though I couldn’t help out today, I hope to have the opportunity to volunteer with them again here in Tucson in the future.
Sorry for the abrupt transition here, but I wanted to open with that because it was probably the best beginning to a Saturday I’ve had in a while. Anyway, I was able to start my placement with the Primavera Foundation this week and it felt good to finally get a routine of sorts established. Tuesday of this past week was the official beginning of our working year and it began with a community brunch at the Community Food Bank. All our placement supervisors were there and we walked through the covenant that each of us (YAVs, placements, the Tucson Borderlands site and the Steering Committee) agreed to follow this year. The status of my supervisor was somewhat unknown to me. My original interview with Primavera was handled by Jenna, who had since moved back to Kentucky to be with her family. Thus, I didn’t really know who I would be meeting at the brunch. Turns out it was a collaboration of Alonzo Morado, Primavera’s Community Engagement Coordinator, and Beth Carey, Primavera’s COO.
At the conclusion of the brunch, our jobs had begun. Just like that the idyllic, summer camp experience that had been my YAV year thus far ended and the “real world” began. It reminded me a lot of my freshman year of college when orientation ended and classes began. So my job with Primavera is, what I’ll call, a hybrid position. Basically, I have been tasked to assist both the After School Program Coordinator (another volunteer) and the Garden Coordinator (also a volunteer), however they need it. The Garden Coordinator is Destinee Wells, she’s originally from Michigan and is serving with the Mennonite Volunteer service. The After School Program Coordinator is Cody Bailey, she’s originally from Florida and is serving with NBA Xplor. Together, the three of us form what I have affectionately dubbed “the Squad”.
My work with Primavera will focus primarily around Las Abuelitas, this is an apartment complex owned and managed by Primavera to provide low cost housing to those in need. There are 12 units and Las Abuelitas is also the home of the after school program run by Primavera. There is also a community garden at Las Abuelitas, and this is where a lot of my gardening work will be focused.
This is the office that Destinee and I share with the computer lab at Las Abuelitas. While the gardening program at Primavera is pretty defined and just a matter of putting into motion the actual gardening, the after school program is open to definition and design by Cody and myself. We have some great resources available to us and I think the program will be a good opportunity for me to stretch myself. The kids in the program are between the ages of 5 and 12 and come primarily from Las Abuelitas. In the past two years, however, the program has also started taking in students from the public housing development right next door to Las Abuelitas. Our goal is to continue to grow the after school program (which doubled in size between year one and two) and also increase the parent’s involvement as much as we can. I’m interested to see how our team grows together through this year and I’m looking forward to continuing being a part of Primavera’s work in South Tucson.
I sit here now, on this tenth day of September looking back at the first week of work. My position is an interesting one. As I mentioned above, I occupy a halfway point between the garden coordinator and the after school coordinator. Because of this position, I still don’t have a clear view of what my actual duties will be. Another job related note is the four day work week. It’s awesome to have every weekend be a three day weekend. I think the four day weeks will feel longer (especially once the after school program kicks into gear), but having a long weekend, plus time off work for retreats, etc., will be a good way to recharge. The past week was full of time for preparation. Preparation for the beginning of the after school program (YIKES!!). Preparation for winder gardening. Preparation for working with the Squad. So much is involved in getting ready for next Wednesday; I can’t wait to see the fruits of our labor. I just pray that it all goes smoothly.
One thing I love about life in Tucson is the Thursday night Farmer’s Market at the Mercado San Agustin. We’ve gone as a group the past two weeks and the atmosphere is awesome. There are always tons of food stalls with locally grown and harvested vegetables, fruits, homemade bread and honey. There is always a live band, last week was The Just Intervals, they are an awesome cover band, you should check them out on Facebook. No really, do it. You won’t regret it. Plus, one of my housemates, Erik works with the Community Food Bank and helps with the Farmer’s Market so we always have an inside track on what’s going on there.
Another thing I’m working through as I start life in Tucson is the confrontation with themes and events and things I see around the city that directly oppose everything I know and believe. It’s a strange environment to go from my home and university where everything lined up exactly or pretty closely to my beliefs (which isn’t a strange phenomenon) to Tucson, where it seems to be the exact opposite. I welcome this forum. I hope it works to challenge everything I’ve held dear and I hope to leave Tucson changed for the experience. Whether that means I change long-held beliefs or hold my beliefs closer and believe more strongly because of my year here.
And so, I find myself here, on the tenth day of September in Tucson, waiting for the beginning of things as yet unknown, looking for answers that are more obscure than the problems they solve, and struggling to discern how my faith and my core beliefs fit into this world in which I find myself.
And so we go.
Thank you, Loving God, for challenging us to move when we don’t want to, for leading us where we may not want to go, and for holding us in the palm of your hand no matter what.