Monday, October 31, 2011

The un-hollywood side of LA

Barry and I have been in LA since wednesday last week and we have had the pleasure of staying with our very special friends Bob and Tracey their daughter Stephanie, Sarah O and Sarah D.

We LOVE our LA friends and we wanted to spend some genuine catch up time with them before heading down under. Our hosts have been gracious enough to take us around and show us many different parts of LA. We really feel like we have seen LA now and we havnt just passed through like our other trips.

We visited a few architecturally significant buildings in the city like the Disney Concert Hall and the Los Angeles Town Hall and Cathedral. All beautiful buildings built in very different styles. We walked through the occupy LA and the protests outside the Micheal Jackson's Dr's trial. My observation was that most of the occupyers seemed more interested in getting stoned then sending a message but anyway.

The beautiful Walt Disney Concert Hall

We have had many highlights but my favorite things we have done have all involved the wonderful work being done in and around LA. I want to tell you about a few of the organisations we had the pleasure of meeting with and touring their facilities.

Sarah D started and has been running a program called Kids Hope in a Elementary school in Eagle Rock for the past 5 years. Kids Hope provides mentors for 62 kids from Kindergarten through to 6th grade. They meet with their mentor once a week either during lunch or after school for one hour. The mentors are paired with kids after the children have been referred to the program. Sarah O has been a mentoring Megan for the past 5 years and they have a very strong bond and trusted relationship.

Sarah and Megan

It was a really wonderful privilege to watch the classroom full of mentors and students doing homework, practising maths playing games and reading books. Each of the students has a special story, some of the children have lost parents, have no english speakers at home, troubled homes etc most are having trouble in class and the teachers depend on the mentors to help them reach the children and help them along the way. One of the little boys is actually in the gifted program but was referred to the program as he only has female influences at home and needed the imput and mentoring of a man. Sarah's program reminded me of the quote "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." Frederick Douglass

 Barry and I had heard about the Dream Center many years ago and Tracy and Bob took us to tour the facility. The Dream Center, is a volunteer driven organization that finds and fills the needs of individuals and families they currently serve over 40,000 people each month. The building is an old hospital that they have renovated floor by floor adding to there programs and services as they go.

Services and programs offered include residential rehabilitation programs for teens and adults, a transitional shelter for homeless families, mobile hunger relief and medical programs, and a foster care intervention outreach. Educational development programs and job skills training for homeless families and individuals. I was surprised at my over whelming emotions when we where told of a new program they had recently implemented. They have established a shelter and rehabiliation centre for victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is something we have recently seen in Haiti and it was really overwhelming to see a program to help turn around the life of trafiked women bought to the united states.
Dream Centre LA

Today we visited Home Boy industries. Home boy industries was started by Farther Gregory Boyle in down town LA. Father Greg had seen the terrible outcomes of gang violence. His philosophy was simple 'jobs not jail' There organization runs a two year program for ex gang members wanting a break. They offer gang tattoo removal, legal services, job placement, training and much more. They run a homeboy bakery and a home girl cafe. We ate brunch in the cafe today and then we toured the facility.  I was impressed, actually really impressed.

Meeting these men and women in another setting may be a scary encounter but you can truly see the difference father Gregs program is having. Last year becasue of the economy a number of workers had to be laid off as they simply didnt have enough money to pay them. The next day the laid off workers arrived at homeboy industries headquarters to work for free, becasue they simply have no other options and they are so committed to taking hold of the opportunity they have been given.

So if you are looking for a great place for a meeting or a nice breakfast or lunch venue then I recomend the home girl cafe its beautiful they grow some of there own vegetables and herbs, they have free parking and best of all you are helping to provide second chances or in some cases a genuine first chance.

Home Girl Cafe

So Halloween is not one of my favourite american traditions and I do hope that it doesnt get We also got to do some pumpkin carving but we made sure we stayed true to our aussie roots.

Just getting started

Pumpkin decapitation

We love Australia can you tell?

We have had a really great time in LA and we cant thank our fantastic hosts enough. Thank-you for lavishly loving us.

Get ready Brisbane here we come.

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