From the beginning, different factors and people involved in our upbringing influence us deep within through experiences, knowledge and emotions. We all usually find someone to look up to and idolize. Intrinsic success, or a feeling of success from within, is a fulfillment that fuels us to accomplish whatever we set out to achieve. Whether it is a parent, sibling, family, friend, mentor or colleague, chances are, we have all looked up to someone at every junction of our lives for support at various levels. This is what one would relate to and consider as leading a normal life with a healthy childhood.
Unfortunately, that is not a truth for everyone. Lacking this crucial element when growing up can be detrimental. It is even more complicated for individuals at a tender age, at an age of development or at an age of self-discovery. Oftentimes, teens are stuck in the doldrums of eternal confusion and lack a sense of belonging. There are quite a good number of options for orphaned kids or children in need of mentoring at a young age through adoption and coaching, but one considers the age group of young adults and teens where adoption means are far and few in between. At an already complicated age, there is often nowhere for them to call home.
Blake’s House in Plano is one nonprofit organization that caters to this exact demographic by providing support and enrichment resources, specifically to girls. The organization exists to help transition homeless young women and those aging out of foster care into independent individuals by helping them cultivate long-term life change. “Blake’s House typically caters to girls from 18-25 years of age. We select our candidates based on how tough their circumstances are and their need to develop skills for survival,” says Marcie Bazor, the founder of Blake’s House. Residents come in via an application process and go through an interview to determine their candidacy. Sadly, many of them usually come in with a scattered mindset, often marred by their troubled experiences. They are predominantly in survival mode.
Typically, there are three to four girls enrolled in the program, which is segmented into four levels that each individual needs to complete. These levels are purely achieved at the individual level and have checkpoints built within the program that the participants need to complete. “Skills-building, life coaching and spiritual development are facets addressed in the program to ensure a holistic development and healing for participants,” shares the program director, Hope Broomham.
When children “age out” of the foster care system, many hardships are experienced. A staggering 51 percent of them end up homeless, in jail or dead within a year of leaving foster care. The program aims to help girls live free from government assistance, gain the knowledge and skills to get further in their education and help them develop big aspirations and goals for the future.
“Troubled by unwilling parents who broke down mentally, I felt abandoned and had nowhere to go,” says Shelly, 18, who is a current resident. Shelly aspires to pursue a culinary career. Residents feel, while there is some security through financial assistance, miscommunication is a major problem in most fostering programs. Shelly feels that a willingness to relate and teach is her favorite part and a key differentiator with coaches and mentors at Blake’s House.
Age is a huge challenge to many individuals in this group. They are neither young enough to be dependents or old enough to be completely self-responsible. Not having enough financial resources and not having any credit history impedes them to be self-sufficient on many fronts. “The inconsistency and insecurity of hopping between homeless shelters was my only option,” says Tessa, 18, who is also a Blake’s House resident. The inability to secure shelter and ever-changing circumstances has really impacted her. Tessa discovered Blake’s House through references and found out that even though there are rules, they help her lead a structured life. This gives her a lot of independence to express her thoughts and feelings. Having graduated from high school now, Tessa is pursuing college and works part-time, like most residents. “We value the support system the most, and, as an animal lover, I foresee myself pursuing a career as a veterinary technician,” she shares, with a sparkle in her eyes. The sense of family residents derive from each other and the gratification they get through weekly and quarterly reports helps invigorate them.
Deprivation of resources and love is one problem, but abuse is another. Any form of abuse adds another layer of obstacles toward self-development. It hinders the level of acceptance towards one’s basic necessity: trust. Daedra, 24, found Blake’s House through her online search to seek help rejuvenate just that. She values the life skills taught, the ability to volunteer and the efforts of mentoring as the most valuable traits towards her holistic development. Things did not look so clear for her before entering the program only seven months ago. The influence of Blake’s House and its program has been so great that Daedra and some of the other participants eventually want to open a similar program to contribute back to the community and nurture others in need like themselves.
Blake’s House has a unique financial model so participants are able to save rent as savings for their future use, while partially paying for basic necessities. From private contributions to fund raising, as well as benefit concerts and local sponsorships, they put in immense effort to reach out for support.
At Blake’s House, there are celebrations for the accomplishments of every individual. This makes the residents feel special, wanted and like family. “Coming into the program, they are insecure, scattered and in survival mode, but going out, each one of them is focused, driven and, more importantly, rested. Now, residents believe in people. They have a winning mindset and revived trust,” explains Ms. Broomham. The participants feel it is a home and not an institution, and it is about quality and not quantity, which stands out!
These girls, the burgeoning women of tomorrow, need only a few things at this tender age, but those things include security, support and trust. Like any normal teen, they have hobbies, and want to have a few laughs and rely on a supporting shoulder during rough times. If you are willing to volunteer and help make a difference, visit blakeshouse.org for more information.
Vikram Venneti is a business leader, technology evangelist, tree hugger and food connoisseur. He loves to run and hike and is a dad with a penchant for writing.