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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.

How Can We View Homelessness?

 

By Ilana Krakowski – Ilana is a member of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and serves as the Program Assistant in the Health and Wellness Center. Ilana organizes Wellness Center programing, coordinates volunteers, and manages the Wellness Center receptionist team. Ilana is from New York City and graduated from Barnard College with a BA in Comparative Religion.

As I sit here on my last day working at N Street Village, I want to take a moment to share what I learned working with individuals experiencing homelessness.  The overall theme of the various realizations I’ve had this year is this: never think that you are immune to the challenges that other people face. Most of you would probably nod your heads, easily agreeing — but how much do you actually believe it could be true? What if one day you became homeless?

I believe that understanding the actual possibility of hardships like homelessness happening to us allows us to better connect with those who are currently experiencing them and eliminates the “us/them” mentality that prevents real social change.

It wasn’t until I started working with individuals who experience homelessness that I realized how little separated them from me.  While poverty and homelessness disproportionately affect some populations more than others I met so many women who do not necessarily fit into our preconceived notions of “the homeless.” Some held steady jobs and raised their children in their own homes, and suddenly — either because of hard economic times, divorce, or health issues — lost their income and housing. Even those who had friends and family willing to provide a temporary safety net eventually needed to find income and housing on their own again.

For a while I was really upset at the realization that homelessness could happen to anyone.  As the year went on, I decided to channel my feelings about this into really getting to know clients as individuals and focusing on how I could best provide services that would help them move forward. Now I see our clients as women working incredibly hard to overcome hardship while trying to enjoy each and every day.  That’s why I like to describe them as women experiencing homelessness rather than women who are homeless. This mindset is what makes it possible for N Street Village to provide clients with the high-quality and meaningful services that we would hope to have for ourselves and our loved ones if we were in their place.

Spending my service corps year at N Street Village has been an eye-opening and insightful journey. I am forever changed and committed to the act of leveling the playing field for all in society. Thank you N Street Village for allowing me to have this experience.

 

A Knitting and Crochet Movement at N Street Village

By Ilana Krakowski – Ilana is a member of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and serves as the Program Assistant in the Health and Wellness Center. Ilana organizes Wellness Center programing, coordinates volunteers, and manages the Wellness Center receptionist team. Ilana is from New York City and graduated from Barnard College with a BA in Comparative Religion.

DIY — Do It Yourself. It seems that as the world grows larger and more interconnected, people are seeking to empower themselves and their communities with a DIY attitude. DIY means the ability to create something original we’ve grown to assume can only be mass-produced in a factory and purchased at a store. DIY puts personal choices and money back into the hands of those who make their own products, and it also offers them inspiration, a sense of fulfillment, and increased self-esteem.  I’ve seen these results in the women who participate in knitting and crochet classes here at N Street Village.

Our first knitting class was introduced in 2006 by volunteer Jane Saari, who wanted to share her love of the craft.  Jane invited her friend Wendy Mayer to teach crochet skills during Jane’s knitting class.  Not long after tapping into her own talent, Barbara, one of N Street Village’s client volunteers, began to teach her own crochet class in the Wellness Center. This past January, Wendy and  Barbara started offering an advanced crochet class because so many women had mastered basic crochet skills and wanted to learn to read more challenging patterns.

Knitting and crocheting have become a part of daily life at N Street Village. Almost everywhere I go in the building I see women working on yarn projects – scarves, hats, blankets, and caftans.  I see ladies sporting knitted or crocheted garments that they have made or a friend has made for them. I see projects completed and new ones started right away. I see the distribution of new yarn skeins greeted with anticipation and excitement. Most important of all, I notice the growth of community and individuality among our clients.  While working on their projects, women chat, joke, develop friendships, and share information on different services available to them in the city.   Many women find their unique styles and voices in their yarn work.  Some shared their gifts outside our community by taking part in the Hyperbolic Coral Reef Project, while others started selling pieces at Luther Place Memorial Church’s art fairs and on Etsy. One client was able to quit smoking after she began crocheting, while others have completed something they’ve started for the first time, showing them that they have the ability to set a goal and achieve it. The Do-It-Yourself ethic inherent in our knit and crochet program really has and continues to change lives.

We are grateful for all of our donors and volunteers who continue to bring knitting and crocheting to N Street Village. Our community is always in need of yarn donations — now more than ever as many women are improving their skills and creating more elaborate pieces. Your donation of yarn will also offer newcomers the very experience that so many women have already benefited from. To make a donation of yarn, please contact Anne Steeves at asteeves@nstreetvillage.org.

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The 2012 Point-in-Time Homeless Persons Count

On January 25th, I participated in D.C.’s Point-in-Time Homeless Persons Count.  This annual census – one of 4,000 that took place nationwide this year — collects data on homelessness in our community.  Results of the census are used to see what programs may have worked to reduce homelessness over the past year and to help our local government develop policies that can ultimately eliminate it.

SA homeless woman sitting at a monument in Wash...ocial service agencies conduct the census at their sites during the day while volunteers search the streets for people at night. For the nighttime survey, each neighborhood in the city is assigned to a team leader who divides that neighborhood into several parts.  Two or three volunteers then search each area, armed with census surveys, information on emergency services, and gift cards to distribute. As a volunteer, my job was to walk around my assigned area for four hours to identify and speak with as many homeless persons as possible.

Within my few assigned square blocks in Foggy Bottom, we discovered homeless people in George Washington University’s emergency room, in parks, and under highways.  Many people were hidden under piles of blankets and tucked away in nooks in the dark. The last were the hardest to see and the hardest to reach.  After seeing the horrible conditions some live with outside, I found myself getting pretty upset.

The survey asks for as much information as a person is willing to share, including employment status; annual income; veteran status; histories of substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, and physical health; and social services utilized. At first, I was mortified by the idea of disturbing individuals to ask them these very personal questions. Yet, I found that most people were willing to talk to me and share their stories. Many people I spoke with attend programs where they can receive meals, clothing, showers, and case management; receive food stamps or other benefits; and even have part-time jobs – yet they still struggle with homelessness. Listening to them, I learned that navigating the social service system to get adequate help requires a lot of patience and a strong will. It also can cause humiliation and shame for those who have to share so much personal information and give up their independence in order to get services.

After four hours conducting the census, I was reminded, as I am every day at N Street Village, that those who find themselves homeless are people like just like me who have goals and dreams. It is so easy to overlook our homeless neighbors on our streets. The Point in Time Count is an important way to make the problem more visible and to encourage the public to demand more support for the homeless and for policy solutions that can end homelessness.

By Ilana Krakowski – Ilana is a member of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and serves as the Program Assistant in the Health and Wellness Center. Ilana organizes Wellness Center programing, coordinates volunteers, and manages the Wellness Center receptionist team. Ilana is from New York City and graduated from Barnard College with a BA in Comparative Religion.