Love is Not a Given

February 25, 2014

Julia Venable is a second year AmeriCorps member serving through the YWCA Central Alabama with Girls on the Run and Heart Gallery Alabama. Previously, she served in the YWCA's domestic violence department as a Healthy Relationships Instructor. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, she is currently working towards her MA in Counselor Education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. As a Birmingham native, she was happy to return home to fulfill her years of service!

The YWCA AmeriCorps program is a unique experience.  As I hit the halfway point of my second year of service, I am reflecting more on how my service is shaping and preparing me for years to come. AmeriCorps is about adapting and giving your all. We serve, we don’t work, and we generally provide service at some point that makes us question our own beliefs and expand our reality. 
 
This year I have spent half of my time serving with Heart Gallery Alabama, an organization with the mission of helping children in foster care find forever homes. We recruit photographers and videographers to capture the unique spirit of each child, and we share the media on our website and in exhibits all around the state. 
 
If my service here at Heart Gallery has taught me one thing, it is that I take love for granted. When I am able to help with our photo shoots or just view our children through our videos, I see their resilience and their wisdom. I understand that their reality is very different than my own, and sometimes it is really hard to bear. Our experiences determine how we view the world, and I am constantly impressed by our children’s outlooks on life, but I am also burdened with the unfairness of it all.
 
I am so amazed by the families willing to open up their homes to children they do not know and accept them as their own. However, I realize that adopting through foster care is not right for everyone.
 
I encourage you to visit the Camellia Network—a network for individuals who support youth between the ages of 18-23 who are currently in foster care or were previously in care at age 17. You can create a profile similar to Facebook and begin supporting youth as they transition from foster care to the real world. The statistics are not on their side. Through the network, youth are able to set up profiles and a registry of up to $500 in items needed to help them reach their goals. 
 
When I meet our children or watch their videos, I cannot help but to remind myself that love is not a given. The support I have received from family members and loved ones is priceless and has gotten me where I am today. I encourage you to recognize the love in your life you may take for granted and acknowledge how individuals have supported you through the years—no matter how small.
 
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