I think all of us have some kind of safe place that we retreat to when the world gets to be too much. It's the place you go when you need to work through a problem, untangle emotions, or just rest from a busy life. It's something we all need to be renewed and refreshed in a world that isn't as forgiving and loving as it could be. For some us, it's a place where we hide away on the back porch, on a dock, on a trail, in a book, or with a friend. For some, it's a physical location and for others, it's a state of mind. Either way, it's where you want to be.
In Youth Programs, we strive to create safe spaces. Being a teenager or a kid is really hard. Sure, they don't have to worry about taxes and health care. They aren't concerned with paying bills and insurance. They don't have to worry about taking care of children because they are children...except many of the youth we work with do play a part in these things. They translate for their family, helping fill out forms for taxes, health care, and insurance. When they are old enough to get jobs, it's to help pay the bills and buy groceries. While parents are out working to make sure the family has everything they need, older youth stay home caring for younger siblings. They grow up faster than they need because they put the good of the family before themselves. All the while they are trying to keep up with homework and grades, find jobs, spend time with friends, enjoy their hobbies, and figure out who they are what they want to be. It's a lot for anyone to handle, much less a student. Which is why creating safe spaces is at the top of our priority list.
To us, a safe place is more than just somewhere where you are protected from harm. It's more than not getting hurt, more than being without harm, more than being protected from danger. It's more than anything any physical location can offer.
A safe space is a place where you feel welcomed. A place where you are loved and known. A safe space is where you won't be judged for being yourself. An environment where you can ask questions, be vulnerable, and get to know people for who they are. It's a place conducive to growing. You'll be caught when you fall. You can sort through your stuff. You don't have to be perfect. You look forward to being there. You can be mad, be sad, be happy, be silly, be angry, be curious, be you. It's a place where you can talk about hard things and can confront the feelings and thoughts you've tried to shove away. No matter where you've been, where you're going, you know you will be welcomed with open arms.
It's something that doesn't just happen on its own, but instead when there is a community of people fighting to stick together no matter what. For us, it took becoming a family bound by choice rather than blood to create an atmosphere of love and respect that we were all seeking. Wherever we are together is a safe place. A place free of judgment and fear. Our hope is that anyone who visits us and wherever we go, that we bring an atmosphere of tolerance and inclusion with us.
Wherever we are together is a safe place. A place free of judgment and fear. Our hope is that anyone who visits us and wherever we go, that we bring an atmosphere of tolerance and inclusion with us because the world is full of broken and hurt people and we just want to be a place, to provide a space, where we don't have to pretend we're not broken and hurt.