19 March 2013

You ask, I'll answer!

Hello, everyone!

I realize that I'm getting questions across several different platforms - and rather than answering them all individually, I've decided to do another FAQ round. So send in your questions!

A few guidelines:
  1. Send questions via the comments section below, or via twitter (@pdcentre). If you'd prefer to remain a little more anonymous, message me on facebook or email tricia.mcreynolds [at] gmail.com. 
  2. There are no stupid questions - in fact, I'd prefer those if it clears up common misconceptions that I face often. There might be inappropriate questions, which I reserve the right to kindly pass over, but I will do my best to answer everything. 
  3. There is no timeline (send to me by xx/xx) or anything, I will just write the answers up once I have a few good questions. 
So there you go! Start asking!

15 March 2013

Yesterday was a pretty average day... until it wasn't.

If you read my last post, you know that on Thursdays I go to lunch club, then homework club, then make the 2 mile walk back to my house for a quick meal before BB. It turns out, however, that yesterday wasn't quite so average.

We had a few people missing at lunch club, so I switched up my regular seat at my regular table to balance it out a bit. The conversation I joined at the ladies' table was heartbreaking, as they talked about how it felt to get older and lose respect from their children (last Sunday was Mother's Day in the UK). Everyone just assumes that since their bodies are breaking down, so are their minds - and anyone who's ever met these ladies will know that is absolutely not the case!

Fast forward to my walk home. I remembered that tomorrow (today) is my day to provide treats for our staff meeting, so I popped into Tesco. As I'm ringing up, I see this older gentleman struggling to lift a basket from the pile. He is stooped over so far that he's practically bent in half, and he shuffles his crutches back and forth in an attempt to lift it. He asks my cashier to give him a plastic bag instead, since it is easier for him to carry. I asked him if it would be okay for me to get his items for him, so I leave my groceries at the front and begin to search for the items on his short list as the Tesco employees find him a chair. Everyone chips in to help me look for sesame seeds.

Once the list is complete, I ask him if there's anything else. He says that he likes to buy the bread on special to feed the birds, but if I have time to carry the basket he'll come with me. We shuffle slowly around the store, not finding bread but picking up sweets for his wife (because they're her favorite). He tells me his name (let's call him G), and that his back is sore from too many years with a pick ax in the garden. A feather could knock him over, he says. Just standing to speak with me, he often comes close to losing his balance. He's one of 13 siblings, and his brother died 3 weeks shy of his 102nd birthday (the Queen sent a letter for his 101st, the President of Ireland sent a check). Oh yeah, did I mention G was 92 years old?

I begin to wonder why G is shopping alone. Is he the strongest of the two of them? I wonder if he has children, or if he has fallen out with them in the same way as the ladies from lunch. If they're too busy to notice his struggle. He makes me miss my grandpa. I think of my recent conversation with my grandma, and how much she appreciates my mom coming by so often to visit. Does my mom even know? (OK, now you do.)

Sometimes, you meet people that just stick with you for one reason or another. For whatever reason, my short time with G was enough to know that I will never see the world in the same way again.

12 March 2013

What's Up?

My apologies to those who read this in google reader... I hit publish on the wrong post just now. Obviously that one isn't supposed to go up for a few months, and now you know my secret of writing posts long before they're published! Just pretend you didn't see it... it'll be our secret.

It has been so kindly pointed out to me that most of my recent posts haven't really had anything to do with what I'm doing here in Belfast - just photos and videos that entertain me. Of course, since I'm the one living the daily life, nothing really exciting seems to be happening... but I know that's not the case for you, the faithful readers of my blog.

The weeks here pass so quickly, it's like I've completely lost track of time. In fact, I just realized my last "week in the life" post was almost 6 months ago - whoops! So here's an updated glimpse at a week in the life of this Belfast YAV:

Most Mondays begin with YAV Meetings. We still meet as a group roughly 2-3 times per month for devotional time, to discuss local issues and share a meal together. On our "off" weeks, we have one-on-one meetings to check in on a more personal level with Doug. Of course, this month will be a little different - Doug is currently in the States to interview the next batch of YAVs (I can't believe it's that time already!), so we're meeting without our fearless leader for a few weeks.

Since our meetings are in the City Centre, I take advantage of the bus fare and do most of my errands in the afternoon while I'm downtown, before heading up to the church to prepare our weekly Bible Study. Our group is small, but I've loved the opportunity to get acquainted with these ladies. We just completed a study on prayer, and are currently doing a short Lenten series.

I meet with Lesley (the minister at Fortwilliam and Macrory) in the morning to check-in and discuss what's on my plate for the coming week. I usually spend the rest of the day in the office working on my larger-scale projects like the monthly magazine or upcoming Artisan Market (the one in December went so well we're planning another for June).

(You're not incorrect if you remember that Tuesday was my day off. But after a few months of my former schedule, I found that it was difficult and a bit lonely to have a different day off than everyone else... so I asked if it would be alright to rework my schedule a bit.)

I start off Wednesdays at the Vine for Mums and Tots. I love playing with the kids and sharing a cuppa and some toast with the carers (sometimes mum, sometimes granny). We just put out the toys and let the kids have their fun, so it is a fairly relaxed atmosphere compared to some of the other mother/toddler groups I've heard about.

My little buddy - we're usually attached at the hip!

I have a few hours between Mums and Tots and JAFFA, the Bible club, which I usually spend writing lesson plans or doing office work. During JAFFA I rotate with David and Elizabeth on teaching the lesson, serving snacks, playing games or assisting with crafts. The kids can be a bit "mustard" - which in this context is an affectionate term to say they're sort of stubborn or rebellious - but overall they're really great.

...apparently I sit on the floor in this room a lot...
After JAFFA, I head home. By the time I get back, it's usually time for our community dinner with the North Belfast YAVs. Each week we rotate between the girls' and boys' flat and someone cooks dinner for the 4 of us. Tomorrow is my turn. We just started this tradition at the new year, but I really enjoy it. We hung out a lot at the beginning of our time here, but now that we've got other friends and activities outside the program we decided to be more intentional about spending time together. We often follow it up with a trip to the local open mic night that Anna and T.J. have promised to attempt later this year.

I head back to the Vine on Thursdays for the pensioners' lunch club, which I enjoy. I like hearing about their younger lives, since it offers another perspective on growing up in Belfast and raising families during the Troubles. It is difficult to hear some of the things these ladies (and a few gentlemen) have experienced - losing children or facing paramilitaries in their communities - but I think it is important to get a wider picture of the community.

After lunch we have some sort of activity with the group, which ranges from trivia to bocce or trips to local museums and bowling alleys. I then head upstairs for homework club, hopping from child to child practicing spellings or working out maths problems as needed.

I head home for a bit after the Vine, to eat and change into uniform before I'm lifted (picked up) for Boys' Brigade. We're currently practicing for our display night in April, so much of what we're doing involves learning the words to our songs or taking turns doing physical drills like forward rolls, trampoline jumps or climbing the horse. Keeping the wiggly Anchor Boys still as they wait for their turn is always a challenge!

(case in point: notice how few of the boys are facing forward?)

Fridays begin with our FMPCI staff meetings, a time to discuss our programs and community issues that have arisen in the past week. In the afternoon we have RESTORE, a small prayer meeting (which will move to Tuesdays after Easter). In the afternoons, I prepare the worship slides and announcement sheets for Sunday morning.

I'm not on football club in the evenings any more, but I do tag along occasionally to lend a hand or spend time with the boys - since I don't really have the opportunity on Saturday nights. They've begun playing matches with other local clubs, and while I haven't made it to a game yet, I am quite proud of their undefeated record!

Now that I have the mornings free, I generally spend time with other YAVs or wander aimlessly for hours around St. George's market. It's essentially a covered farmers / craft market, and my idea of heaven on a Saturday morning. Falafel for lunch! Yum!

In the evenings, we still do Youth Club. Currently, it's like a drop-in centre in the Macrory Halls each week. We typically have a game (like football or dodgeball) going on in the main hall, billiards and table tennis in the back hall, and a craft or kitchen activity that the kids can wander between as the night progresses. Others sit up on the stage to chat, listen to music and watch the boys playing football. This will soon be changing a bit.

Making "Fifteens"
Due to other community issues, our numbers have gone down significantly in the past few months. Some of this may have to do with ongoing flag protests and preparations for the beginning of marching season (a few weeks ago, we had no one in the club but heard the bands practicing in nearby Tiger's Bay). As the departure of our Youth and Community Development Worker has left us a bit short staffed, we will move the club to fortnightly (every other week) after Easter; partnering with another local club to fill in the gap until we can get a new staff member. We will also focus more on "detached" youth work, where we walk around Tiger's Bay at non-club times and talk to the community kids as we see them hanging about. I'll fill you in on all that once we see how it goes...

I go to church in the morning, then usually have the afternoons to myself. We've just begun watching the Nooma videos in Bible class, which I think the kids will really enjoy. I think it's easier to grasp the concepts in story form, and it has already facilitated better discussion so I don't completely feel like I'm talking to myself! Once a month, the young adults go to lunch after the service. I always appreciate the opportunity to spend time with this group!

So there you go, a week in the life, part 2. I promise I'll try to be more mindful about updating you all on projects and exciting events in the future! Much love.

03 March 2013

A glimpse of heaven...

This week in JAFFA*, we asked the kids to draw us what they thought Heaven looked like. The results were predictably adorable, so I brought them home and compiled them all into one picture. My favorite might be the dog in the top right corner... because as we all know, All Dogs Go To Heaven!

*JAFFA = Jesus A Friend For All, a weekly club for children at the Vine Centre