Our final SOHO meeting is this Thursday from 5-7 in a closing cookout at the Visual Arts center. Anyone with any interest in becoming a mentor in this program, or a womantor mentor to the mentor’s please join us for an exciting and emotional night!
As the year winds down I find myself reflecting on how this program has affected me. When I first heard about SOHO I felt compelled to volunteer after hearing that these girls often come from difficult home settings as that is something that I could completely relate to, having a complicated upbringing myself. Each girl in this program is a member of the 6th grade class of Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School, a small independent school that focuses on high potential youth with limited resources in Richmond’s East End. There are 12 girls in total, each with a POHO Personality of her own. It was so rewarding to see them evolve and feel accomplishment through the year’s many projects, and to watch and celebrate with my fellow mentor’s successes and breakthroughs through out the year.
The program is run and organized by a talented team of ladies including Jordan, Liana and Tesni. The amount of patience, organization and understanding these ladies exhibit is awe inspiring, to me especially as I embark on welcoming our second child into the world, in just a couple weeks. It is not always easy to take a group of pre-teen girls who have been couped up in an especially long and snowy winter and keep them focused on the fastly evolving tasks at hand, and these woman did an amazing job at teaching us how to approach difficult situations.
Being a creative and artistic person, one of the things I especially loved about the program was giving the girl’s experience in many different studio’s of the Visual Arts Center. We were able to throw pottery, make jewelery, do some woodworking, print our own photos and of course paint and sew.
One special night, we got to take an exciting field trip to the 1708 Gallery where the girls heard VCU professor and artist Sonya Clark speak about her Hair Craft exhibit exploring how hair styles are very much an extension of art.
Every girl got to express herself in her choice of color scheme and fabrics for their makeover, and even design, sew and applique their own pillows.
We even experimented with Fabric Dye for window treatments and custom quilts.
Admittedly I am not the greatest sewer, so getting a few lessons from Tesni (top left), who teaches sewing classes at the Visual Arts Center, was a great asset!
Each week our projects were stored in a secret spot for a big final reveal of the work we’d done all year. Seeing the girls remember and cherish their hand-made items was especially heartwarming.
But nowhere near as heartwarming as the actual room transformations. As you can see in Marcella’s very enthusiastic thumbs up above, this was by far the best project of the year!
And finally here is how my ladies room turned out! Furnished with a new desk, dresser, rug, bedding, lighting & a life size cut out of Justin Beiber, thanks (Catherine!). We spent about 6 hours in each space, organizing, cleaning and setting up a literal space of her own. The sheer determination of the girls and volunteers to get these spaces in pristine condition was completely emotional (maybe that is also my pregnancy hormones talking) and awe inspiring. I will have a hard time forgetting that day and these experiences.
To everyone who makes SOHO possible, I’d like to extend a very sincere and heartfelt Thank You. I really do believe this program is making an impact for the better on these girl’s lives. U-Fab was a sponsor in-kind for all of the fabric for curtains, pillows and quilts, and will continue to support this program for many years to come. If you have any interest in volunteering or supporting SOHO, please join us at the closing cookout this Thursday from 5-7 at the Visual Arts Center.