I heard someone ask this week, “What exactly is the Wellness Center (at UP)?” And the quick reply from a colleague was, “the Wellness Center is Becky”. And I smiled and thought – I need to think about this, because whenever I want a quick response my brain inevitably fails me – I am slow to process.
But I know that it’s more than me.
And what has resulted from my processing is the desire to give a shout out to the volunteers who are helping make my vision a reality and are willing to commit to being reliable presences with the staff and youth at UP.
There are my yoga peeps – Ronda, Jeanne, Anita, Karin, Nancy – who are as excited as I am to bring this modality to those who need it so much, yet cannot afford to pay for classes. There is significant research demonstrating how emotions travel as actual molecules (peptides) which are stored in joints. This includes response to chronic stress and trauma – think about how your back and shoulders ache when you are stressed. If you want to read some interesting stuff, check out work by Dr. Candace Pert. Bodyways such as yoga can help release these emotions; additionally the quiet mind which results after an hour or so of focusing so intensely on your breath and body position can feel like a mini vacation.
So far we have successfully provided yoga class twice a week to staff, with much interest and appreciation expressed! And now there is a request for weekly yoga at each of the after school programs; the art teacher would really like a yoga teacher to spend a day with him to help him start each class mindfully; and as I begin to work with middle school students this week I foresee yoga being a regular part of that as well.
There is Alexandra, who comes weekly to give our staff 6 free 30 minute massages. Not only is she generous with her time, she was able to get a wide massage table donated, and has supplied a heating pad and bedding. It is fun to sit downstairs while she is giving massages and to watch the transformation occur when people walk up – then slowly down.
Dot, a retired MSW and current UP board member, felt the call to offer counseling and has been meeting weekly with one of the high school students. She is able to take counseling to a level (or 2, 3, 4 levels) beyond my modest abilities. The student she works with feels like she is making real progress in addressing her issues.
And there are my “church ladies” – Betsy and Jill, who feel called to work with Brianna, our dear poet. Jill is making sure she has the craft supplies she needs to be creative. Betsy wants to mentor her in poetry writing. Together they are showing Brianna love and affirmation, which are powerful healing tools.
Just this week we can count two Girl Scouts as volunteers – my dear nieces Elizabeth and Natalie. Both are working on their Silver Awards – they will be setting up a clothes donation closet for the UrbanPromise International Fellows who show up in Camden – so bravely – with little more than the clothes on their backs from places like Uganda and Malawi. How “well” can you be if you aren’t warm?
On the horizon are community garden volunteers who are excited at the prospect of the new kitchen and food co-op which will open once the Spirit building is renovated.
So the Wellness Center is way more than one person, and the next time that comes up in conversation I will be able to say that with ease!