Since the second week of BAyUP, I’ve been spending most of my work days helping with a program called Oakland Based Urban Gardens (OBUGS). OBUGS is a children’s afterschool/summer program for kids in a poorer part of Oakland. For the summer program, we began each day helping the kids prepare for themselves a healthy lunch using mostly ingredients from the garden on their school grounds. After lunch we would teach the kids basic science about the environment, play educational games, and help the kids with various art and gardening activities.
The first week at OBUGS was no less than a struggle. For my first experience ever with kids, they were disobedient, rude, and didn’t seem to care at all about the activities we had planned for them. However, it was during this week that my mom’s cancer was healed, and God gave me a renewed energy to pursue his presence amongst these unruly kids. As the weeks went on, the kids began to trust and respect us more, and I started to really enjoy spending time with them at camp! As I got to know the kids better, I began to realize some of the struggles these kids face in their day to day lives.
One of the youngest girls, Halimah, was frequently getting upset during camp. We began to realize that she was always coming to camp tired because she would stay up late at night watching TV while her mom, a single mother, worked. Another girl, Shailyn, opened up to Sarah about her brother who was shot about a year ago. It broke my heart to learn about these struggles in the kid’s lives in the context of our BAyUP programming, which looked at the huge disadvantages these kids have in education, and the ways that they’re being set up for either gang life or sexual exploitation in the future. One day while taking the kids on a field trip, the same girl from above, Halimah, who is only six years old, asked me how we could be friends when I’m white and she’s black. Even at her young age, she is already being corrupted into our broken world mindset that chooses to look at race first and ask questions later.
These problems in the OBUGS kid’s lives began to weigh down on me, until God reminded me that their struggles are not my burden to carry. He reminded me that the best thing I can do is lift them up to Him, and pray that God provide what is needed for these kids to find Him in their lives. OBUGS concluded last week with a camping trip to Bodega Bay, which was the first and potentially only time camping for most of the kids. It was very saddening to say goodbye to the kids, but I was reassured with the fact that from now on I can carry these kids in my heart and remember to frequently lift their names up to the God who can intervene and save them from the most broken of situations.