Summer 2011 Indigenous Leader: Brenda Polio

Jul 18, 2011

Thanks to the Casa Chiri newsletter readership and their generous responses, we were able to hire a second indigenous leader for summer 2011.

Brenda Polio, nineteen and a mother of a beautiful two-year-old daughter, first came into our lives two and a half years ago when she moved into the apartment across the courtyard from ours. She thought we were “crazy gringos” when we knocked on her apartment door simply to welcome her and her family to the neighborhood.  At that point, she decided to maintain her distance.  However, over time, she kept hearing about this “program that helps kids called Kids Club” and she began inquiring. Last summer she finally warmed up to the idea of “Casa Chirilagua” and began asking if her little sister, who had some academic struggles, could be in the program. However, there was no space for her in the program. Both Brenda and her little sister began to wear us down, asking us every time they saw us (often multiple times a week) if there was space in Kids Club so we came up with a plan.

Part of the reason we couldn’t add more students was due to a lack of volunteers. We proposed “a deal.”  If Brenda volunteered with Kids Club at least twice a week, we would open a spot for her sister in Kids Club. Brenda quickly agreed and her sister rejoiced. It was one of the best decisions we ever made organizationally. By the end of first semester, her sister’s grades were significantly higher and the teacher’s comments on the report card included paragraphs of praise for improved efforts. By the end of the year, Brenda’s sister had raised her reading assessment from “Below Level” to “On Level.”

Brenda came to Kids Club faithfully, often more than twice a week.  We began seeing her almost daily. Then she offered to volunteer in the office, as well, to help us out and gain more experience.  When she wasn’t being a mom or studying for her GED, she volunteered with us entering Kids Club data into spreadsheets, making copies, scanning documents, doing research, making phone calls and even re-organizing what she called our “messy piles” and “over-crowded bookshelves” which she commented, “They give me a headache.”

We are glad to announce that Brenda’s internship with Casa Chirilagua this summer is her first work experience and so far, she will receive from us a “great recommendation.” (Though, we wouldn’t want to lose a superstar volunteer like her to another job when the school year starts).  Brenda’s internship role is the 4th/5th grade classroom assistant.  Her responsibilities include: morning classroom set-up, leading morning meetings, leading games, monitoring classroom behavior, preparing the daily snack and sometimes teaching the daily Bible lesson. In addition to gaining applicable skills working with children, she is also learning how to complete a job application, fill out tax forms, and stay on top of time sheets.  In the area of spiritual development, she completes daily assigned reading, participates in morning staff prayer and is entering into areas of accountability with people she trusts.

We are very proud of Brenda for her hard work, dedication and continued growth. Thank you for supporting the indigenous leaders program, making it possible to invest in promising young people like Brenda.

We are a community of people “learning together to love our neighbors as ourselves” in a Latino neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia.

As a faith-based Christian non-profit with a small staff and over 100 volunteers, we serve alongside more than 100 families and their children (1st-12th grades) each week through our community programs.

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Our relational network of volunteers and donors reflects a diverse group of individuals from all over the Washington, D.C. metro area. As a non-profit, we rely on the community for assisting program directors on-site, being mentors, supplying the needs of our food pantry, and everything in between. Each member of our Casa community holds a unique gift, whether time, talent or treasure.