GREETINGS from Denver, Colorado!
We have officially ended our first week of work and real life in Colorado–and we are just loving it! Now, I wasn’t exactly feeling excited about Denver when I got lost on the public transportation (bus) earlier this week, but with highs come a few lows, I guess.
From the mountains in Western Colorado to random alleys downtown, one of our goals as a house has been to experience as much as we can, take it all in, and learn. And then I get to share with all of you!
Some things we’ve done since first getting to Denver:
- Visited each house members’ job placement to see what we’re all doing.
- eating delicious Korean food and learned about Korean culture from our house mate SooHwi
- climbed a mountain (Mt. Elbert–tallest 14-er in Colorado)
- Shared our faith stories and learned about each other
- Started learning how to grocery shop, cook, and plan on the budget we have each month.
- Explore art studios downtown and all the different neighborhoods.
- experience college football Saturday together (we have a few Oregon fans, Iowa fan, K-state fan, Ohio State fans, and a Korean who thinks American football is goofy.)
- (Our house enjoying some football)
If you are wondering, yes we have also gotten work done around all of these adventures!
This year I will be working at Sun Valley Youth Center (<– check out our website!) an after school program located in the poorest neighborhood in Denver–Sun Valley.
Our kids are 5-10ish year olds who go to a local elementary school. While at our program the kids are tutored and have space to do all the homework that was assigned to them that day. We work on classroom behavior skills like how to stay in your seat, how to ask for help, ways to remember and study, etc. plus, we also like adding space for the kids to get out their wiggles and expand their horizons, so we have Karate lessons, dance lessons, and other things for them to participate in.
So what makes Sun Valley the poorest neighborhood in Denver? And what does that mean for our students?
Denver has an identity as being incredibly inclusive and open-armed to refugees and immigrants. Colorado was the first state to list itself as a place that wanted to help house and support the thousands of innocent, unaccompanied minors running from their home hoping for safety and possibilities. And Sun Valley is a neighborhood where many immigrants and refugees find themselves.
This means English is a second language to many, American culture is confusing, frustrating, and can sometimes be hostile. So then force a kid into a school where we know the testing is completely unfair and teachers do not have enough time for so much individualization.
Most Sun Valley families live in public housing and 62.4% of them are living below poverty level. There are no jobs within the Sun Valley neighborhood, and until recently no real public transportation to help the adults get to where jobs were. It is a food desert, and home to elementary school with the worst test scores and highest drop-out rates.
With all of these injustices and barriers swirling around the head of our students, sometimes without them even knowing, Sun Valley’s hope is to be a safe place and a hopeful place.
- A place where these kids are not told that if they can’t read comprehensively by 4th grade they will most likely be in jail within the next few years–stats here
- A place where pregnancy is not the only option to help pay for your families bills.
- A place where membership into a gang is not the only way to be supported, safe, and a part of community.
And I hope I can share their stories well and tell about their joy in a way that does them justice. Thanks for being a part of their story too. I am sure these kiddos would love to hear that there are people cheering them on all the way in Ohio!
Keep us in your prayers as:
We still have a little bit of fundraising to do in the next few weeks.
We keep getting used to our new jobs and coworkers.
We work to establish space–and date nights–for ourselves as a married couple.