Thursday, May 23, 2019

YSEALI PFP Day 18: Look Around, Look Around

7 May 2019

Donuts for breakfast.

Stan's Donuts - a recommendation of Brian

Decided to leave early and set course for Garfield station via the red line for the first meeting at Metropolitan Family Service Learning and Wellness Center, located in the annex of Libby Elementary School at 5338 S. Loomis Ave in Chicago. 

Comfy ride to the suburbs

Garfield Station

Arrived way ahead of time as I wanted to walk along the streets to experience a different part of Chicago. It was 11 bus stops away but it was a straight path down West Garfield Boulevard to the Learning and Wellness Center.

Probably only saw two other people walking on the streets

Many abandoned houses

Shops were heavily secured

Having heard of the frequency of gun shootings, the sight of a rather different side of Chicago put me on a state of heightened wariness.

 Cristy found me along the streets and picked me up, just as I was about to reach. I would later discover how at-risk I was to have walked those streets, and that would be my last of such adventure.

Metropolitan Family Services Learning & Wellness Center 

As the annex building of Libby Elementary School was left unused, Metropolitan Family Services rented the site, at no cost, and retrofitted it to run a childcare service for the community since 2014. 

Greeted by a very positive vibe 

I was led to a tour of the center, and got to ask questions along the way. The pre-school occupies the first level of the building.

To respect privacy of the students, I had avoided taking their photographs altogether.

The Center provides quality pre-school education and childcare services for children aged 0-5 years old, along with integrated health and wellness services aimed at nourishing the whole child, and a whole slate of services for the family. The Center operates from 7am to 6pm on weekdays. The Center also conducts a home visiting programme, which reaches out to parents who home-school their children. Metropolitan Family Services staff would visit these parents on a regular basis to impart skills to the parents. These parents and their children are invited to the Center monthly for their children to socialise with one another.

The Center practises a play-based education.

The strong emphasis on family can be seen in how parents are welcomed to be part of their children's learning experience. Parents can join in the lessons at any time to be with their children.

The Parent Oasis - where parents could gather and network with one another any time of the day

The Center has an in-house kitchen. Dietary plans are submitted to the board for approval.

Indoor sports area - allowing for physical activities, rain or shine or snow

The second floor of the annex building had facilities that were open for community usage.

Computer room open to public

Other community organisations could utilise the space for activities

New and used clothings neatly arranged according to age groups. Families in need of clothings could request for these clothings for free.

Wouldn't it be a good idea for every community to have such wardrobes to share pre-loved clothings

Outdoor playground

Teachers also bring the students to the nearby Sherman Park for activities.

The meeting room used for Home Visit Programme, where home-schooled children can gather and play at the back while their parents sit through workshops to better equip them in educating their children at home

Sensory Room for children

Interesting roller for children

The Center is not just an ordinary childcare service provider. It provides wrap-around services for families, prioritising its enrolment based on those with greater needs (for instance, homelessness). Parents can access all the services provided by Metropolitan Family Services, including domestic violence support; mental health support; job training and placement. The programme is funded by government and parents need not pay a single cent for quality education and services by Metropolitan Family Services.

I raised a query on whether a hypothetical case of a family, who started with a low-income status and gradually received salary increments, leading to earning more than what was defined within the eligibility criteria, would have their child dropped out of the pre-school. I learnt that the Head Start funding only assessed the family's eligibility at the point of entry into the 0-3 years and at the 3-5 years. This meant that parents who progressed in their careers or found better ones would not be disincentivised by doing so.  

Thanks staff of Metropolitan Family Services Learning and Wellness Center for patiently answering all my questions and showing me around!

Cristy drove and we discussed about issues on segregation and gentrification in Chicago. It seemed to be a vicious cycle. Companies would not want to be sited in high crime areas, and when they pull out, jobs are lost and services become less accessible. With unemployment, more crime happens. She parked near the Midway airport. Then, a shuttle bus came.

A. Shuttle. Bus.

In a carpark.

Shuttle Bus to ferry drivers to and fro their cars and the subway station

Boarding the subway at Midway station

Lunch at Urban Market at the basement of Chase Tower

It's been a long while since I got to eat stir-fried food 

So you pick a bowl, and fill it up as high a mountain of vegetables you can, and they would fry it with a protein item for you

Poster of ACT Now's Trivia Night event at Metropolitan Family Services staff dining area

After lunch, Cristy brought me around to get to know our colleagues in the office. Many name tags at the work stations had superhero images on them, and I got to know that it all started from a staff who commented on another who had to work overtime for a project that they were like superheroes. The staff then started to make superhero name tags for the rest of the colleagues.

When I was introducing myself to Micaela Garrido, who's doing outreach work on human trafficking, she suddenly pointed out my Singaporean accent.

How in the world?!

And so I got to know that she had lived in Singapore for a year. Of all accents!

A colleague had been in Singapore for an exchange programme, while another had family members working there. Not too bad for a small island state to have such connections, isn't it?

Also got to take up some time from Alex to learn about working with corporate partners and fundraising.

On the way to take the Metra train to Ida Noyes Hall of University of Chicago for a talk by Janet Napolitano, former US Secretary of Homeland Security  

Bought a train ticket from the Conductor in the train

Vintage buildings

Former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano served during Obama's term. She shared that in those days, 110 committees had jurisdiction over homeland security. She testified a total of 55 times to these committees, and lamented that "oversight can be overdone." She shared that the conflict between the executive and legislative branches of government had challenged the fundamental power of Congress in recent days.

Secretary Napolitano highlighted several areas of threat that had been overlooked, including global warming; cybersecurity and mass violence. She shared that climate change affects security as it had led to changes in migration pattern from South to North. It also leads to more hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts and other natural disasters.

She opined that to resolve the border issue, the government should do an assessment of the current situation and cut off migration at source by committing resources to render these source countries safer. She cited Plan Columbia as a successful measure.

Former Secretary Napolitano's "How Safe Are We?" book was also on sale and she remained after the session to autograph for participants.

A photo with former Secretary Janet Napolitano

Interesting name for a childcare centre

The ride on the red line back was an interesting one with interesting personalities. We were in an extremely cold train carriage. One man (A) was moving around and started to confront the ladies. I casually asked him, "Why not take a seat?" and we were pleasantly surprised he did. The next stop, a man (B) came in and stood by the door. A began to ask B to sit. B then launched into a tirade to say why he was not going to do so. The to-and-fro continued until we were the last souls in the carriage with them, and we finally decided to move to the next carriage. During our period in Chicago, we would often hear about the lack of mental health institutions and support.

Decided to watch a theatre since it was part of the local culture and the City had earmarked 2019 as the Year of Theatre. Reached just slightly late and managed to still purchase tickets for Hamilton over the counter at CIBC Theater.

Went into the theater with no prior knowledge on Hamilton. Was surprised that songs were rapped and they were so catchy. And I think I just could not escape politics in this programme, could I? And it was helpful to learn more about Alexander Hamilton, the ten-dollar founding father.

"Look around, look around at how lucky we are 
To be alive right now 
Look around, look around…"

Dinner/Night Snack