I work and volunteer for two organizations here in Portland, Oregon. I’ve written about them in detail in earlier posts, well, as much detail as I can. I work with youth, so I have to be conscious of keeping their privacy and can’t say too much. I wish we all were a little bit more consciousness of people’s privacies, but I think we are railroading out of that world. Privacy will soon be a commodity if it isn’t already. (Tangent.) The two places where I volunteer or work are at Write Around Portland and Playwrite Inc., both are incredible and highly valuable organizations.
Write Around Portland is all about writing. It is about building communities amongst those who are disadvantaged and displaced, along with a lot more “dis-words and social umbrellas that keep people isolated and oppressed. I work mainly with youth. It is all volunteer. I have been a volunteer facilitator for the past six years and I think I have put in around 240 volunteer hours including the 29 hours of training. I am not including any of the prep time that I have put into volunteering. I tend to lead writing workshops with eight to eighteen people (kids mainly). My most recent group were kids aged 11 to 14, my favorite group so far.
Playwrite Inc. works exclusively with youth. We work one on one with a student that we call a writer and we coach that student into writing a play. It is very emotional and we sometimes work with highly at risk youth, some of whom are in closed institutions that are likened to the equivalent of jail or medical facilities. We push the kids to reach into themselves to create strong believable characters. It would be challenging for any adult. The duration is two weeks. By the end of the two weeks the kids have a play. We bring in professional actors and the kids direct the actors and then we have the performance. I have coached one workshop (which was one of the hardest things I have done so far) and I have acted in four of the performances. (I’m a professional actress- isn’t that cool? Not famous but professional I actually got to put it on my taxes this year!) This is a paid job. It doesn’t pay a lot but my god it is lucky to even have funding for a program like this let alone pay people to work for it. I never signed up for it for the money, but it allows me to do more workshops when I get paid.
Last week, both organizations had events. On Tuesday, Playwrite inc. Had their Word Show, and I was asked and had the honor of performing one young students play on a big stage in front of a huge audience. It was inspiring to be around these kids and to feel their excitement and their energy and to feel how accomplished they felt. Many of these kids are unwanted or have been taught they are not worth much and here they are writing plays for the public to see. On Wednesday, Write Around Portland had their Anthology release party. I met up with my middle school kids for pizza (I had not seen them in two months) and then we went to the event. Each kid got their own book with their published work inside along with many other writers from all ages, genders and walks of life. The kids than stood up in front of all these adults and read their poems like they were one of them, because they were all one. One of my girls turned to me and said, “I am so happy I did this. I feel really important.” I said, “You are important.”
It was a full two days of theatre, writing and community building, which is pretty much all I want to do with my life.
*If you are at all interested in reading up more on either of these programs follow the links attached to the organization’s names.