Art Explorers at Nazareth Housing

4 Aug

What: Hang out with kids, do some arts and crafts

Where: Nazareth Housing, East Village, through New York Cares

When: Thursday, 5:45-730pm

This project took place in the E. 4th Street building, one of three locations Nazareth Housing operates in the East Village. This is where the youth programs are held in addition to other services, such as educational workshops for adults and computer literacy classes. While the parents were taking a class in financial planning, the volunteers were supposed to be hanging out with their children; doing arts & crafts, playing cards, talking. The purpose of this project is not only to help the parents, but also to keep the kids entertained and out of trouble. Mostly ages 3-9, the children here are often unhappy, because of their living situation (or lack thereof). You’re here to have a good time with them and make them feel good. Doesn’t sound  too hard. I’ll have to go again when there’s actually kids there.

This project  was unfortunately a bust. There was a mix up in the scheduling of a field trip, and the kids weren’t there the day I volunteered. I was disappointed, but even more so after talking with the New York Cares team leader Muthu, who talked up the program so much I thought it may be better than Disney World. Maybe. He was a wealth of volunteer information, spewing out names of organizations and places to volunteer with kids for about a half an hour. Hopefully one day I’ll get to speak with him more about what he’s done at Nazareth and beyond, but for now, I can tell you what I learned..

According to their website,Nazareth Housing is committed to the promotion of housing stability and economic independence among poor families and youth of New York City, through the provision of: transitional shelter, homelessness prevention services, self-sufficiency education, supportive housing, youth programming.”. A lot of the residents who live here are single mothers and children, coming from volatile relationships involving domestic abuse. They often come with a bag on their back and nothing else; this is one reason that Nazareth always has food out. At any time of day or night, you can get a meal, no questions asked.

Currently, Nazareth Housing oversees 40 units of permanent housing and thirteen units of transitional housing. The great thing about this organization is the sense of order they restore in people’s lives. They offer a safe haven for those who can no longer afford to live in their home,be it for financial reasons or for their own personal safety. They then receive free services to help them get back on their feet and living independently; meanwhile, their children are offered educational programs,social outings, and other enriching activities to ensure that they too can grow and learn in Nazareth. The end result is a person or family who is able to retain and remain in their own stable housing. Nazareth Housing is not a glorified handout; it’s an opportunity to get your life back.

But there is so much MORE to know-you should really read their website and find out. Here’s some other things to know:

-If you sign up for this particular project, feel free to bring a deck of cards, a boardgame, crayons, anything. You can take it home with you or leave it behind for future use; either way, it’ll give the kids a greater variety of fun things they can do with you for 2 hours.

-Don’t have time to go volunteer, but really want to help Nazareth Housing? They have a wishlist of donations you can choose from and it can all be done online. Alternatively, they also take used furniture and household goods. But don’t just drop off your old Ikea couch in front of their door and speed off; check out the details here, make a phone call to the program assistant. Don’t donate anything you wouldn’t give to a friend; they don’t need your beer-stained futon from college any more than you do.

-You’re probably hungry aren’t you. After volunteering for two hours right at dinner time, you’re gonna be hungry. I can tell. After you’re done, head over to Pommes Frites on 2nd Ave between St. Marks and 7th. Belgium fries with your choice of 25 dippings sauces and mayo’s. You’ll never look at french fries the same way again…unless you go back for seconds.

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