[Video] Village “Happy” Dance

This week marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” announcement, which introduced legislation that would significantly grow the government’s role in fighting poverty.

Today that “war” is far from over and the need to find solutions to the entrenched causes of poverty and its numerous negative effects remains urgent.  Yet while we should feel disquieted about the justice that is still to be achieved, there are many small victories that we can and should feel proud of on this anniversary.

Here at N Street Village we are witness to moments of healing, happiness, and joy every day.  We are privileged to stand in solidarity with women and families who are overcoming their personal struggles and reaching out to help one another.

What better way to celebrate this feeling than through…dance. Recently, our community was inspired by a Pharrell Williams’ 24-hour interactive song and video called “Happy.” Knowing that we have a very talented community of movers and shakers, we decided to join the “24 Hours of Happy” viral movement and create own Village “Happy” dance.  We wanted to “share the love” with you today – we hope you enjoy this moment of happiness N Street Village-style.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCClw_vhaNk&w=640&h=360]

May the daily and inspirational achievements of those we serve give us strength and courage for the journey ahead. 

Much happiness,
Schroeder Stribling
Executive Director of N Street Village

The Spirit of Leadership

SarahBy Sarah Pope Miksinski – Sarah works at the Food and Drug Administration.  She originally hails from Louisville, Kentucky, and she currently lives in Washington DC.  She has a B.A from Earlham College (1994), and a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Oklahoma State University (1999).

“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” ~ John F. Kennedy

The human spirit. 

I first visited N Street Village in the spring of 2012, and the first word that occurred to me as I walked through the door…”spirit.”  It was over a year ago, but I remember it well.

20130807-IMG_8911I visited N Street Village as part of the Partnership for Public Service’s Excellence in Government program, a leadership training program that included approximately 25 colleagues from various federal agencies.  At the time of our visit, my colleagues and I had worked together for about six months.  Our work included various “benchmarks” that exposed us to many types of leadership experiences and provided opportunities to discuss leadership in various venues.

Before we arrived, N Street Village was simply a venue on our agenda – one of many benchmarks and assignments for us as we pursued our training.  And yet, right as I walked through the front doors, I knew there was something incredibly special about the Village: people smiled and issued friendly greetings to us as we literally disrupted their daily routine and invaded their space. Not to mention, the sheer success of the organization’s mission, the commitment of the staff, and the unquestionable importance of the services that N Street Village provides to the community.

As I now look back at that visit, what I remember most is the human spirit in the people we talked to.  I remember their stories, their challenges, their struggles, and their courage.  I remember their willingness to share their experiences without reservation, and I remember their strength and perseverance.  Admittedly, some of the stories were quite difficult to hear.  Women described incredible struggles with addiction, homelessness, and domestic violence.  Others had stories of abuse and/or rape.  Their strength and courage were impressive, and I remember being absolutely humbled and speechless at multiple points throughout the day.

On that day at N Street Village, I learned one of the most important lessons I have ever learned as a leader: the spirit of leadership is everywhere. 

IMG_7585A leader may be the man or woman standing at a podium in front of hundreds of people, the person who directs others in terms of tasks or vision, or the one who possesses the ultimate authority to make high-level decisions.  However, a leader can also be the woman who rebuilds her life entirely from a life of abuse and homelessness, a person who volunteers and gives of their own time to help those in utter despair, the young woman who shares her powerful story without hesitation or remorse, or those who remain steadfast in their commitment to do the right thing for themselves, their children, their families, even in the darkest of times and when it seems that no one is watching.

I will always remember the leadership spirit of the N Street Village community itself – the leadership shown through the quietly dignified sharing of a difficult story, the leadership shown by a simple smile on a rough day, the leadership present in the sparkle of hope in a person’s eyes, and the leadership shown through a quiet and unalienable commitment to those who are enduring the darkest of times.

As I walked the halls of N Street Village on that day, I made a decision: I would give back to N Street when I could, in honor of the incredible spirit of leadership I witnessed that day.  So, as I enter this holiday season, I now take a moment to celebrate the inspiration and leadership spirit of N Street Village.

To the special people at N Street Village:  I hope this is the first gift of many, and it was my distinct honor to meet you all.  Thank you for your leadership, and thank you for sharing your inspiration, courage, and hope with us all.

It’s no SNAP.

N Street Village AmeriCorps volunteer Sarah Thappa reflects on her experience with SNAP benefits and the program’s impact on the N Street Village Community.

Food Stamp ApplicationAs I stood there, my frustration surmounted and I gave into the tears. Grasping onto my bike helmet, I managed to stammer, “You mean, you want me to bike to the Anacostia food stamp office?” The office staff member just looked at me and nodded yes.

I wanted to scream and tell him how unreasonable that was, how far away that was, and how I couldn’t possibly go there and still make it to work on time. But, I refrained because I knew it wasn’t his fault. That’s the system. That’s our nation’s food stamp system. It’s frustrating, irritating, and demoralizing. At that moment, I began to understand only a bit of what women in need of N Street Village services go through.

It took two weeks and four trips to get my Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. I went to the wrong office in Petworth in my first attempt. Two days later, I woke up at 5 a.m. to wait in line outside the H Street location. I triumphantly walked out of H Street location hours later with my approved documentation, but that was just the beginning. You have to go back to pick up your card 24 hours later.  I made sure to call before I biked over to the office.  They were open and told me to come over. By the time I got there, the computer system had crashed and the staff told me to go to the Anacostia office. At that moment, I was so frustrated and had neither the time nor the will to bike to Anacostia, so I chose to return two days later to finally pick up my card.

During my interview to become an AmeriCorps volunteer, I made sure to ask about the feasibility of living on an AmeriCorps stipend in Washington, D.C. The interviewer assured me that it is doable. Not easy, but definitely doable—especially with food stamps, which I would qualify for as an AmeriCorps volunteer.  It took weeks for the food stamps fact to sink into my system. I remember people at the grocery store pulling out stamps and having to put food back when I was younger, and I wasn’t ready for that. But, I decided I had to be okay with it if that’s what it would take to survive on an AmeriCorps’ salary. Today, SNAP benefits are now accessed using a look-a-like debit card, so I can swipe with fewer stigmas. However, I still get irrationally nervous and self-conscious when I use my benefits because I fear that someone is going to pass judgment.

To get SNAP benefits, a person must bring the completed government paperwork, a copy of your license, government identification, proof of address, a bank account statement, and a letter stating your income. That’s a lot of information to collect.  For me, I could call home or print another copy if necessary. But, I kept thinking, ‘What about the women I work with at N Street Village?’ I began to internalize N Street Village Executive Director Schroeder Stribling’s words from orientation about always aiming to be in solidarity with the women using the Village’s programs. Going through the benefits application process was a peek into what our city’s most vulnerable go through every day. They fight for access to a system that can be helpful if you have the knowledge and the means to navigate it correctly.

Friday, November 1, 2013, marked the day that 47 million Americans experienced cuts to their monthly SNAP benefits. One of those people was me. While my monthly decrease is only $11, that manifests as a weeks’ worth of yogurt, milk, and carrots in my budget. Many will experience larger benefit cuts. The $39 billion budget cuts to SNAP benefits over the next 10 years seem much more real when I think about the impact it will have on the women I work with every day. Living on $6.30 a day is a challenge for me, but then again, that’s $6.30 more than many of the women at N Street Village have.

SARAH THAPPASarah Thappa is a member of AIDS United’s AmeriCorps National team with the Washington AIDS Partnership and serves as the HIV Health Promotion Specialist at N Street Village. She does HIV education, counseling, outreach, and testing in addition to health promotion classes on various topics. Sarah hails from Northern Illinois and graduated from Carleton College ‘13 with a B.A. in Biology.    

 

Photo of the Week

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Bethany Women’s Center staff enjoy their new conference table, which is rumored to have once belonged to Hillary Clinton.

Staff Spotlight – Nicole Robinson

Photo1Meet N Street Village Permanent Supportive Housing Advocate Nicole Robinson. Nicole began working at N Street Village a year and a half ago.  As an Advocate with our Permanent Supportive Housing program, Nicole works with a team to provide intensive case management to 42 residents who live in shared apartments at our flagship location and are managing one or more of the following; chronic homelessness, mental health-related disabilities, addiction recovery and chronic physical illness or disability. Originally from Brooklyn, Nicole earned a BA in Sociology from Vassar College and an MSW from Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Let’s get to know Nicole:

NSV: What inspired you to work at N Street Village?
NR: N Street Village’s strong reputation for providing quality services to women and takes a holistic approach to recovery.

NSV: What do you do on a daily basis at N Street Village?
NR: I collaborate with my fellow intensive case management team members to provide information and encouragement to residents.  I assist residents in reaching their housing, income, education, mental and physical health, as well as substance recovery goals.

NSV: What is one of your favorite N Street Village memories?
NR: Our “Tea Time” events provide such a wonderful opportunity to laugh and celebrate with one another.

NSV: What do you wish other people knew about N Street Village?
NR: I wish for everyone to know about the level of commitment and care that goes into creating a welcoming and safe place for women.

NSV: If you could go to a concert tomorrow, what artist/group would you want to see and why?
NR: Prince!  Two words: Musical. Genius.

NSV: Describe N Street Village in 3 words.
NR: Renewal. Respect. Solidarity.

 

It’s A Pesto Party!

pic3Friday, July 26 was an unusual day for an intern. After a large amount of basil was harvested from the Village garden by visiting Susquehanna University students, a few staff and clients (myself included!) put aside our heavy workload and headed up to the Village kitchen to turn those fragrant green leaves into a batch of fresh pesto for a community dinner that very evening.

It was quite the educational moment for me personally. Prior to this experience, pesto had been a foreign word to me! As a Caribbean descendant, we most enjoy spicy dishes.  Initially, I was skeptical to taste this green, creamy sauce but with a little encouragement from my peers, I gave the sauce a try and truly enjoyed it!  I can honestly say pesto is now one of my favorite pasta sauces!

20130726_150842So what goes in to the Village Pesto recipe? We thought you would never ask.  The recipe below is one of our community’s favorites. We recommend mixing it in with your favorite pasta noodles or simply using it as a dipping sauce with a nice hearty bread.  But, the most important way to enjoy our Village Pesto is in the good company of loving friends!  Bon appetite!

N Street Village Pesto

Combine in a food processor and process to a rough paste:
2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan
1⁄3 cup pine nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, or a combination
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled

While the food processor is running, slowly add:
1⁄2 cup olive oil
If the pesto seems dry, add a little more olive oil.
The paste should be a thick paste.

Season to taste using salt and black pepper

This recipe makes about 1 cup.  Use immediately or pour a thin film of olive oil over the top, cover, refrigerate for up to 1 week.

____________________________________

pic1By Kesta Medoit — Kesta is a summer Development Intern at N Street Village through the Washington Center Internship Program. When she isn’t interning in D.C., Kesta resides in Florida where she is finishing her undergrad studies in Business Marketing and Management at the University of South Florida. Some fun facts:  Kesta is “francaise” (French), an advocate for the arts, and she is always searching for new professional opportunities by attending networking events.

Photo of the Week

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Happy Birthday to you…this week our community celebrated the 70th birthday of our amazing Wellness Center Manager Sharon Watkins.  Nurse Sharon is pictured at her birthday table with Wellness Center staff and Team N Street volunteers.

Staff Spotlight – Justine Finley-Simonds

New ImageThis month, we would like to introduce you to N Street Village staff member Justine Finley-Simonds.  In 2011, Justine began serving as an overnight supervision and dinner volunteer at our night shelter, and her role there evolved into a full time program assistant.  Recently, she has transitioned into a new position, a Bethany Women’s Center Advocate, at our drop-in day program.  Justine shared with us more about herself and her experience at N Street Village.

I moved to DC a few summers ago with the hope that I could indulge in the city’s historical gems for a few months, and then go back home in the fall to continue my graduate education in World War II military history.  Shortly after I arrived, a friend told me about N Street Village and its volunteer opportunities. Stirred by faith and interested in a service opportunity during my summer stay, I started to spend the night as a volunteer at Luther Place Night Shelter. I quickly began to understand more about the people of this great city that are often overlooked and felt a compelling reason to stay longer. It’s been three years since that summer, and I’ve gone from a transient student volunteer to a Washingtonian and a proud member of the staff at N Street Village.”

NSV: What inspired you to work at N Street Village?
JFS: I was initially inspired by the staff and the comprehensive nature of the facilities; I liked the way each program was so well-rounded. Ultimately, however, it was the women who inspired me most. These women, who have lived entire lives before coming to us, find the strength to begin again. Ask any staff or volunteer – it’s always the women.

NSV: What do you do on a daily basis at N Street Village?
JFS: I recently accepted a new position in a different department at N Street Village. I am working as an Advocate in our day program, Bethany Women’s Center and I am really excited about it! On a daily basis I assist our crisis care program, teach a class about the power that women hold in the world, teach classes in our Learning Lab, and coordinate all of the meal and activity volunteers for Bethany Women’s Center.

NSV: What do you wish other people knew about N Street Village?
JFS: N Street Village breaks the mold for women’s social services. I wish every member of the District knew that there was a place for them at N Street Village, whether it be as a staff member, volunteer, or client.

NSV: As someone who works with N Street Village volunteers nearly every day, what impact do you see our volunteers having on our community?
JFS: Volunteers have a huge impact because they are 100% a part of the community. I love being witness to the relationships that are carefully grown and maintained between our volunteers and clients. I have an enormous amount of respect for the long-term folks that commit to their community like our volunteers do, and even more respect for the women here who open up to them and let them become a part of their daily lives.

NSV: Describe N Street Village in 3 words:
JFS: Engaging. Comprehensive. Gracious.

NSV: What is your favorite YouTube video and why?
JFS: I love this little girl’s enthusiasm. She is the most positive person I’ve ever seen, not to mention adorable, confident, and hilarious. She is so grateful for the little things like pajamas, school, and haircuts. I think everyone should give thanks the way this little one does!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg&w=480&h=360]

 

Photo of the Week

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This week our community celebrated our three amazing service corps volunteers as they complete their year of service. From left to right:  Kate van der Zwaag (Health Promotion Nurse, Discipleship Year), Grace Park (Residential Support Services Program Assistant/Lutheran Volunteer Corps), and Netti Faratci (Wellness Center Program Assistant/Avodah Volunteer Corps)

Meet N Street Village’s Health Promotion Team

By Nettie Faratci – Nettie is a member of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and serves as the Program Associate in N Street Village’s Wellness Center. 

N Street Village’s Wellness Center offers programs and services that take a holistic approach to wellness, addressing the mind, body, and spirit. I sat down with Kate and Ugo, two members of N Street Village’s Health Promotion team, to learn more about what’s going on at the Wellness Center and their visions for the Center’s future.

Kate and Ugo

N Street Village Health Promotion team – Kate and Ugo.

Nettie: Tell us a little about yourself.  What brought you to N Street Village?
Ugo
:  I’ve always been interested in maternal health and working with underserved populations.  Having lived in an underserved area in Nigeria, I learned that there are a number of external factors affecting one’s health. I wanted to learn more about these issues through focusing on women and children.  When I learned about the opportunity to work as a Health Promotion Specialist at N Street Village, I thought it would be a good fit and would allow me to focus on this particular population.
Kate: I am a recent nursing graduate with an interest in both public health and women’s health. I came across a service corps program that was offering a great nursing position at N Street Village, and it seemed like a great fit.

Nettie:  What is your role in the Wellness Center?  Are there any special projects you are working on?
Ugo:
I work as the Health Promotion Specialist in the Wellness Center. My main project is focused on  helping manage the burden clients face with diabetes.  One way I do this is by collaborating with partner organizations that have a vested interest in diabetes education and management through primary, secondary and tertiary intervention.  We link clients with specialists and also use the peer health partner model to empower clients to teach each other about their condition.
Kate: I work as the Health Promotion Nurse in the Wellness Center.  I work in a variety of ways to ensure that our clients’ health needs are being met. I conduct one-on-one meetings, help with problem-solving, help out in the medical clinic when needed, and lead a health education class. The special project I am currently working on is our reiki and biofeedback initiative. This initiatives focuses on providing clients with pain and stress management, while fostering personal wellness and equipping them with the tools to help others in the community.

Nettie:  When you think of N Street Village, what words come to mind?
Ugo:
  Innovation, empowerment, diversity, and community.
Kate:  I agree with all of those. I would add that N Street Village is holistic and caring.

Nettie: What is your favorite part about working at N Street Village and in the Wellness Center?
Ugo:
  I enjoy working one-on-one with our clients, helping troubleshoot when issues arise, and advocating for our clients.
Kate:  I really like walking through the halls and saying hello to all the women. It gives me a chance to check-in with them.

Nettie: What does “wellness” mean to you?
Ugo:
  Wellness means being complete. Being stable mentally, spiritually, physically and emotionally.
Kate:  Wellness is a sort of a comprehensive peace of mind and body, where people feel that they are in a good place with their health, both mentally and physically. They also feel equipped to manage the health challenges that come their way.

Nettie: What do you hope for the future of health promotion at N Street Village?
Kate:
I’m hope that we can continue to provide our services and foster an environment where people know that their health needs are being supported.
Ugo: I see a health promotion office where we are instrumental in advancing the mission of N Street Village. I hope that our work leads to more clients having an improved knowledge, attitude, and practice of health issues that they can use as tools as they transition out of N Street Village.

Nettie: If you could buy anything for the Wellness Center, what would it be?
Ugo:
  Hemoglobin AIC testing equipment to help the women we serve with diabetes management.
Kate:  I would buy an ice cream machine that lowers your risk for diabetes. One can dream!

nettie1About the Interviewer: As the Program Associate in N Street Village’s Wellness Center, Nettie coordinates programming and services in the Wellness Center, works with volunteers and community partners, and teaches a weekly nutrition class. Nettie is from Chicago, IL and graduated from Brandeis University with a BS in public health and biology. In her spare time, Nettie enjoys cooking, reading, and spending quality time with family and friends.