PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE: Getting to know homeless families

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

By Nancy Yancey

Rainbow Village has so many wonderful success stories from the more than 300 families (almost 900 men, women and children) who have found homes and hopeful futures here during the past 22 years.

Rainbow Village is a story of hope, transformation and permanently breaking cycles of homelessness, poverty and domestic violence for today and many generations in the future.

It does “take a village” in order to make this important work possible. We are grateful for each family member, staff person, board member, and more than 1000 volunteers last year. Everyone who becomes a part of Rainbow Village becomes a part of the story and all our lives are transformed by the love, grace and mercy witnessed.

A Rainbow Village friend and volunteer who began working with a 10-year old deaf boy in the program writes . . . “My passion is working one-on-one, on ASL and English language development through fun activities, particularly with this deaf child in the Rainbow Village program. He is energetic, fun-loving, sweet, inquisitive, and loves to tell stories about his day at school and about his family and friends. He loves life and is looking forward to a happy future. I teach through activities ranging from art projects, games, and storytelling, to simple instructional time. I was first introduced to Rainbow Village through my church and interested in working with him since no other individuals were identified who could meet his need.”

And this, firsthand, from a recent Rainbow Village graduate . . . “My journey at Rainbow Village was full of lessons learned, and I thank you for providing me with the ability and tools necessary to learn as much as I learned and to grow as much as I have. And now I begin the journey we all worked so hard to prepare me for. I’m ready, and I thank the entire staff at Rainbow Village for working with me to make this day come to pass.”

There are many family successes at Rainbow Village. Here are just few in 2013:

Developing financial independence is the most crucial aspect of long term success for graduates. In 2013 Rainbow Village served 21 families (69 people ranging in age from 3 months to 54 years old.)

Six families moved to homes of their own without subsidies and a solid plan for the future.

100 percent of adults are continuing to build their Rainbow Village savings accounts and life skills to sustain them and their children now and for future generations.

100 percent of adults increased their wages through the work force development program.

100 percent of residents completed their taxes thanks to the assistance of Rainbow Village partner, Wilson Lewis CPAs.

We look forward to sharing all their successes in the upcoming 2013 Annual Report. Please sign up for the newsletter to receive the report.

Rainbow Village children and youth continue to excel and live up to their potential in our after school and evening programs. All children passed the CRCT as a result of excellent tutoring from Gwinnett County School teachers. After school is not all work but involves play as well. In fact, we believe so much in the importance of play in children’s lives that one evening weekly a “big recess” program is held following a community meal. Thanks to our community partners, they also participated in one field trip per month. Last month, two members of one of our faith partners, within a few hours after posting a challenge on social media, had reached their goal of purchasing tickets and lunch for all Rainbow Village children and youth to visit the Georgia Aquarium. Needless to say, every child was thrilled! They also attended summer, winter and school break camps thanks to our partner, Duluth Rotary Club that provided scholarships.

With assistance from Community Partner, HomeAid of Atlanta, construction of a third three bedroom apartment building for an additional six families will begin next month. These families will join the current 12 in our community. At the completion of the capital campaign, an additional 12 apartment homes will be available bringing our capacity to 30 families who will call Rainbow Village home and break the cycles of homelessness, poverty and domestic violence. The Community Center is under construction and we will add early childhood education to our comprehensive program by year end.

There are so many stories of transformation, hope and possibility every day. There are many opportunities to get involved now and in the months ahead. Each of these stories and accomplishments touches the hearts of those privileged to work, volunteer, invest, and serve at Rainbow Village. We encourage you to become a part of the story. Please visit www.rainbowvillage.org to learn more, sign up for the monthly newsletter and get engaged.

Nancy Yancey is CEO of Rainbow Village.

People Helping People is a publication of the Gwinnett Coalition for Health & Human Services.

For more information contact Ellen Gerstein - ellen@gwinnettcoalition.org or at 770-995-3339.