Volunteering

Tutor Life: Cecette Basett

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Galatians 6:2. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (NLT)

Let me introduce one of our long-time volunteers, Mrs. Cecette Bassett as she shares a heartfelt day “on the Hill".

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"I had had a really rough day.  I had just received some tough family news, but that afternoon I was scheduled to tutor and I decided to go. A little girl who I'd never tutored before was sitting at a group homework table with no homework, so I asked her to pick out a book and read a story to me. We went outside and sat at a picnic table, so she could read out loud to me without disturbing the others.

The story was about a child going to a new school and facing a mean bully every day. As she read, my heart was really going out to this poor bullied child in the story...(as I said, I was already in a vulnerable place)...and before I knew it, I was asking her if I could read the story to her, instead of her reading it to me. Of course she was thrilled, and I read the story with full emotions flowing...extra angst for the poor bullied child and unbridled anger toward that mean bully, and as I read, she inched closer and closer to me until she was pressed up to my side with her head on my shoulder...as if she knew I was sad and in need of comfort. And I could tell she had something going on too, and that for that moment in time, we had each other's backs. Sometimes we're there for them, and sometimes they're there for us. And we form these unlikely bonds with each other when we least expect to."

The work we do here at HFO isn’t a one-way street of helping Opelousas youth. Acts of service aren’t carried out in a vacuum, and these built-in relationships allow lives to intertwine; community develops and real change happens.

 

One Friday morning...

 

There is nothing quite like an early morning, a cup of coffee in your hand, and thirty teenage girls standing on your lawn. On such a day, we began to chip away at the list of projects attached to our recent property purchase. Before bids for roofing could be compared, before the handicap access ramp could be poured, and even before we could repaint the big empty rooms, some dirty chores were calling across the lot.

And so it was that one fateful Friday, three staff members, one teacher, and a whole crew of high school girls went to town . . .

“The feeling of getting something done to help people in a way that they needed without expecting anything in return impacted me the most.”

HFO has been experiencing the development of a rich friendship this year between the Academy of Sacred Heart and our tutoring program. Every week, Miss Ali Purpera brings several of her students to volunteer—to sit on the steps and talk with our interns, to keep up on the basketball court, and to coax 7th graders into studying for impending biology tests.

“… not really knowing what it was or who was involved. Now I see how much soul there is in this project and helping out that day made me want to do more.”

Ali teaches, along with several other religion classes, a course in social problems. Amid discussions on poverty and economical struggles, Ali includes a day dedicated to working in the community in hopes of connecting her students with some of the topics on a more personal level.

“The thing that impacted me the most was about halfway through the day, I realized that while I usually have a strong aversion to manual labor, I did not have one thing to complain about. Also, at the end of the work, to see that not one girl had anything to complain about either, even though they all had just spent the day working and getting dirty.”

This year, HFO gratefully hosted the work day. For about four hours we cleaned floors, scraped paint, pulled carpet, hacked at bushes, and wrenched old nails, doors, and fences out of stubborn holds.  Who knew that 11th grade girls carry such a penchant for destruction?!

“I had so much fun, probably the most fun I'll ever have ripping up old pieces of a house. Everyone just came together for this big movement, it was amazing.”

In the afternoon, the girls were treated to a lunch hosted by the Opelousas Lighthouse Mission. There we heard about the unexpected situations that lead to poverty, spoke to some heavy demographics in our country, and shared the gospel truth of caring for our neighbors.

“They really opened my eyes to the fact that poverty can happen to anyone no matter the background.”

It is always hard to relate one short-term experience to the reality of another person’s life, but I think that those conversations proved compelling.

“…it helped me realize stability is fragile…”

This day proved to be surprisingly sweet, and not just because we were set upon by a reckoning workforce! We shared our hearts and made new friends. HFO is so grateful for the blessings of that day, and for the chance to work alongside such giving young women.

 “I really hope we do this again soon.”

So do we!

 

 “…the Good Samaritan parable taught me not to judge the men who did nothing because I probably would have responded similarly. It also taught me that service is one of the most central requirements of being a Catholic Christian. Having a lot of faith isn't enough, and service without faith isn't enough either.”

 

 

Cafe Cohen- Caring with Coffee

If you visit the office of Jason Cohen, a well known photography talent in Lafayette, LA you will not just see beautiful art, you will also have the privilege of chatting with witty, jovial, and very generous people. You will quickly learn that photography is just one of Jason’s passions. The other is coffee, quality coffee. In the back room of his office he has installed a dual head espresso machine and he brings in gourmet coffee beans from different places. This very tasty coffee is a means to great conversation and fellowship for Jason. I asked Jason about why he decided to start Café Cohen. He said,

“The very beginnings of coffee for me was when I would go to Portland, Seattle, or New York and have fantastic coffee. Coffee that did not exist in the south, much less in Lafayette. I got tired of coming home to mediocre coffee so I decided to go out and find an espresso machine (in Dallas). Most recently I flew up to Seattle to pick up an espresso machine, a.k.a. The Beast, which now resides in Café Cohen. The real start for Café Cohen came out of more of a joke of people always calling to see if "Café Cohen" was open. From there it became a bit of an outlet to connect with people and feed a little bit of a personal passion at the same time.”

Café Cohen began as a way to have meaningful interaction with clients and people he knew. It has become a regular stop for us when we are in Lafayette. Recently Jason came up with the idea of having a donation jar. He decided that the proceeds would be given to HFO. The money is used to provide snack for our after school program. Jason has also done some photography for us and we consider him a dear friend of HFO. Thanks Jason for sharing your passions with us and turning out some amazing products, both your coffee and your photography.

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Seeking Volunteers

Hope For Opelousas is starting up an exciting new ministry called Hope on the Hill.  It's a tutoring program for school-age children in the Hill neighborhood of Opelousas.  It will run Tuesday through Thursday from 3:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. each week, beginning in August when the public schools are back in session.  We have made many plans and obtained lots of resources to get this program started, but in order for it to be successful, we need volunteers who are willing to serve by helping to tutor children with homework, practice math and/or reading skills, or providing food (meals or snacks).

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Now, if you think you don't know how to tutor kids, we've got just the prescription.  Hope For Opelousas will provide an orientation and training session on Tuesday, August 5, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. Stop by for a while to find out what this is all about and learn everything you need to know to help our young people in the Hill neighborhood strengthen their reading and math skills.

Bryan College Spring Break Trip to Opelousas

Bryan College Spring Break Trip to Opelousas

The folks from Bryan College who joined us for a week in March to help remodel a house for an elderly woman in Opelousas and put on an after-school program for youth who live in the hill neighborhood put together some highlights from their trip.

A group from Northwestern College in Iowa also were able to serve our city for a week in March.  They also worked with the youth of Opelousas in an after-school program and served our men's shelter by building and installing new bunk beds.

A HUGE THANK-YOU goes out to these two groups. They had a huge impact and have been instrumental in helping to get Hope For Opelousas off the ground.