We are all chasing something, aren’t we?  Maybe we are chasing financial or professional success, or the approval of someone we love, or, if you’re like me, you feel like you are chasing your own tail just trying to keep up with all that life brings your way!  Back in December, a new, experimental “program” was birthed at Challenge House 3 and we call it CHASERS – Challenge House After School Enrichment.

The neighborhood children know that they can come by my house any day at 4pm and get an afternoon snack.  And during this afternoon snack time, sometimes we invite them in to take turns on the laptops or to just hang out and play with toys. A lot of times we end up in our backyard jumping on the trampoline, playing with hula hoops and jump ropes, or even just blowing bubbles.  But, I want more for my neighborhood friends.  That’s what we are here for, after all!  I didn’t sell my house and move across town just so I could feed the masses every afternoon!  I want to pour into these young lives so that they know they are loved and cared for and that there is more for them in this world than just sitting at home looking for trouble to get into.

Thus, with the help of a new friend, Toni Riley, we birthed the idea of an after school program called CHASERS.  The idea is that on Tuesdays they get more than just a snack.  They get to try out new things like baking, origami, knitting, and crochet.  Everything is not for everyone, but that’s the whole point!  I want to expose these kids to lots of different things hoping they will find something(s) that clicks for them.  It is my opinion that children with a hobby are going to be less likely to fall prey to trouble.  They just need something to keep their hands and minds active – something they can be successful at doing.  A lot of these children struggle in school, for one reason or another, so they need something else they can be good at.  I’m not saying that education is not important – I used to teach school.  I’m saying that maybe, if they get a boost of self confidence from being successful at something like chess or origami, they will try harder to have that same success at school.  Maybe they will give that math problem a second try instead of just leaving it blank or maybe they will think before they talk back to a teacher.  Maybe, just maybe, they will pick up some valuable life skills by participating in a fun activity on a Tuesday afternoon.

CHASERS does have some sense of a schedule and we do have some basic rules.  We start out with about 15-20 minutes of study buddy time.  This is where the kids pair up with each other or with a volunteer to do homework, read, or practice flashcards.  I LOVE this time, because often I see older children quizzing younger children on their colors, numbers, etc. It’s great!  We usually transition from study buddy time into snack time, then get into our activity for the day.

We have some basic rules like if you leave early you can’t come back in, show respect to everyone, no cursing, etc.  We have had to send children home a time or two for misbehaving or being disrespectful.   We are still learning and adjusting as we go.  For example, we have learned that when we have a large group, it is best to split them into smaller groups for the activity.  We have also learned that the more volunteers we have, the better the kids behave.  We have had our bumps along the way, but it gets better each week.  It is exciting to see the kids get excited over little things like hot chocolate with marshmallows or learning how to fold a ninja star out of paper!

Ultimately, I want this after school program (and everything this Challenge House does) to inspire these children to “chase” their dreams.  I want them to have aspirations of growing into successful citizens of our community.  I want them to grow up and come back to this neighborhood and change it for the good.  I want these children to break the poverty cycle they were born into and inspire others to do the same!

Proverbs 28:19 “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.”

Matthew 4:19 “‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.'”