Michelle Potter, Executive Director of Off The Street Kids, asked us to write a blog post about our experiences creating the website for OTSK.org.
Living in a culture of easy abundance, it is easy to take for granted convenience items, such as the alarm clock. It even seems odd to call an alarm clock a convenience item, given the abuse that many of us inflict upon our poor alarm clocks daily just for performing their given function.
But you may recall a story that Michelle posted this summer about a young man from the Mamelani workshop, who had left care at 18 and had recently started his first internship. When asked how things were going, he said that he had learned a lot and was very happy with the job, but he confessed that he had not been sleeping well. He had to wake up at 4:30 every morning to arrive at work on time, and because he had no alarm to set he was terrified of sleeping late and missing work. He would only allow himself to doze off before he’d awake with a start, and would end up spending most of the night watching the clock until it was time to get up.
Stories like this are humbling, because these young people are humble, and hardworking, and want nothing more than to be given the chance to find their place in the world. They are estranged from their families and communities, and without support many will end up back on the streets for lack of any other options.
We are excited by the role that this website will play in serving the young people as both a resource and an outlet for expression. The five boys currently participating in the pilot project already have shown great interest in the website and the possibilities it presents. We hope that this website and blog will be a collaborative effort. Just as they help to shape the pilot program, we hope that these boys help shape the goals and features of this website to best serve their needs and the needs of others like them who will face the same decisions and challenges when they turn 18.
For supporters, donors and potential donors all over the world, we encourage you to read this blog regularly and participate. Share your thoughts and ideas, post comments to the blog posts, join our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter. The website will highlight specific contributions you can make along the way to help the program grow and expand. The Donate page lists several ways you can help fund the organization right now to help launch the pilot program. You can be the extended support network that these young people lack and that most of us take for granted.
For the three of us, working on this website has been the most rewarding and humbling experience we have ever had. We are awed by the selflessness of these young people and their willingness to help younger children in the same circumstances. We feel blessed to be living in an age when the internet makes it so easy to reach people a half a world away; regardless of age, geographical distance, culture, and situation, we are all virtual neighbors. We hope, in some small way, to enrich the lives of these young people just as they have enriched ours.
Kelly Eagan, Alison Groves, and Sarah Peters