Friday, December 24, 2010

A Path of Generosity - Something Santa Told Me

As I do this work in the less fortunate neighborhoods of Los Angeles I am constantly inspired by those who have so little and yet who walk a path of generosity and love. Jeiser, our young intern at YMC, took a big step on that path yesterday. When I got to my desk and saw the small envelope with a Christmas card inside and inside the card was a $5 gift card for the “Food for Less” store. The card simply read “thank you Tony for everything you do for me”. Then the buzz around the office started. Jeiser had left similar cards for everyone. There were some who said “We can’t accept these. He can’t afford this!” However, when somebody gives you something, you rob them of their giving if you don’t receive it openly. So in receiving Jeiser’s gift we honor him and complete the flow of giving and receiving.

Jeiser, Derrion, Allisha
and George (Jeiser's Mentor)
Some were simply moved to tears by his simple act. Spontaneously a collection was taken up to give back to Jeiser. My first thought was that we should just accept his gift and honor this spiritual practice that he had found. But then I realized that he had simply stepped into the flow and that’s how it happens: a small act of generosity begets another and the flow of giving and receiving envelopes us all.  I am reminded of how much joy it gives Jeiser when he does a task around the office that helps someone else. I’ll catch him sneaking a peak at me when I go in the kitchen just to see my reaction to his spotless cleaning of the coffee machine because he knows that gives me pleasure. So, today Jeiser is our teacher. For the next few days as my family and friends gather and gifts are exchanged I will set aside concerns for a consumer culture (plenty of time to pick those back up later) and just give witness to the joy that giving brings to those who give.
There are those who give with joy,
and that joy is their reward.
And there are those who give with pain,
and that pain is their baptism.
And there are those who give and know not pain in giving,
nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
They give as in yonder valley
the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space.
Through the hands of such as these God speaks,
and from behind their eyes He smiles upon the earth.

Kahlil Gibran

peace and blessings,


PS Boojie (who came up with the title for this blog) would like to add that "giving feels better than getting"!
Boojie the wise

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What if she doesn’t like Britney Spears?

I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous when I first signed up to be a mentor. What if she thought I was lame?  I don’t have much contact with teenagers and I can be awkward, I admit it.  What if we didn’t have anything to talk about? WHAT IF SHE HATED BRITNEY SPEARS??!! (Disclosure: I’m a huge fan.) 

I’ve been Angie’s mentor for approximately a year now, and to this day, I’m amazed and absolutely delighted over how naturally our mentor-mentee relationship has blossomed.  Angie is really creative and we’re both interested in fashion and design.  I thought she’d enjoy learning how to make jewelry (which just so happens to be my favorite hobby), so I invited her to come with me to Santee Alley to pick out jewelry fixings, followed by a jewelry-making session at my place.  We must have spent hours lurking in the bead stores, wandering the aisles in search for the perfect beads and brainstorming design ideas together.  Finally, with our purchases and our Subway sandwiches in hand, we headed back to my place for a crash course in jewelry-making by yours truly. 

In the many hours that followed while we hung out making jewelry, our discussion ranged from designs and techniques to celebrity gossip and fashion to how she's doing in school, stories about our families and being the oldest daughters, and her goals in life.  Meanwhile, Angie took the basics I showed her and absolutely ran with it in the most fabulous way!  She ended up creating 1 gorgeous ring, 2 amazing necklaces, and 2 of the cutest bracelets (one was for her baby sister).

I had a blast, and when I got back from dropping Angie at home, my roommate told me that from her room, she could hear us chattering non-stop the entire time.  And so, I just wanted to thank YMC from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity to meet and mentor the amazing Angie!

Oh, and ps: she’s ok with Britney.

-Nasya Lee

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

CHLA Junior Matches!

Here are your matches for CHLA Junior 2010-2011!

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee- Tiffney & America

"I would like to thank my mentor for being there for me and supporting me through the ups and the downs. I knew she cared because she listened to what I had to tell her, and she always came to the group sessions and one-on-ones. From this program I learned I have to maintain good grades. I learned that people hear me better if I am patient".


Thursday, December 16, 2010

MTV/BET 12.15.2010

During the last session of the year, the MTV/BET program played the white elephant game.

Paramount I and II 12.14.2010

Mentees played the white elephant game for the last meeting session this year, before going on break for the Holidays.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

CHLA JR Second Meet & Greet!

Mentors and Mentees get to really know each other!

CHLA III Year End Celebration

CHLA III ends the program with some karoke!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Mentoring, Giving and Consumer Culture

 “Give whatever you give with love. Then even the tiniest pebble you offer will have great meaning. Its fruit will come back to you a thousand fold, because it is not the pebble that you give, it is love.”
From the book: “Resonate with Stillness” by Gurumayi

Mentors often ask us for guidelines on appropriate gifting for their mentees. The following advice may be helpful for uncles, aunts, teachers, coaches, and others as well. Sometimes in our desire to serve and to be giving we end up promoting this culture of consumerism and devaluing what we really have to offer our youth. So, here are some guidelines to accompany the thoughtful gesture of “giving”.

It is certainly okay to give your mentee a modest gift for the holidays, or for his/her birthday. However, please keep in mind that when you give of yourself (your time, energy and caring) you offer the greatest gift of all.

For material gifting, here are some things to consider:
  • Keep it simple and inexpensive. When your gift is too extravagant you risk being seen as a source for material goods, which changes the nature of the relationship.
  • Gifts that say, “I’m thinking of you” or “I really value this relationship” are the best. Some examples would be a framed photo of you and your mentee at an activity; or something relevant to what you’ve been discussing together, such as a book on careers, or a sports book, or something simple related to your culture. 
  • A good alternative to a material gift would be to take your mentee someplace special.
  • Do not give your mentee a gift that his/her family could not afford.
  • Never give your mentee a gift in the presence of other mentor/mentee pairs. Some students may receive gifts and others might not, which creates problems at school and resentful students. This may also put other mentors in a difficult position.
  • If you are part of a work-site mentoring program your company may decide to give a gift to each of the students participating in the program. That’s okay, because it is seen as coming from the organization, and doesn’t impinge on your individual relationship. It is still recommended that the gifts be modest.
  • If you know that your mentee has a real need for something you can provide, but doesn’t fit into the parameters above, you may want to find a creative way for the mentee to earn it or ‘win’ it from the program. This challenges you to examine your motives, because you don’t get to be the generous ‘Santa’. It is the program that is giving the gift and not you. We believe that in the long run this will serve you, your mentee, and her family better.

Again, we want our youth to understand that the purpose of having a mentor is not to receive cool gifts, but to develop a friendship with a caring adult.

Examine your motives and then give with love.

Peace and blessings,


Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday's Follow-Up

It happens all the time in heaven
Read Tony's blog about how some things are not too different from how they were 700 years ago.

Tuesday with Mentor & Mentee - Monica & Monica
Monica thanks her mentor Monica for showing up for her and showing her that strength rather than weakness is what makes your character.

CHLA III Closure!
Check out the pictures from our Children's Hospital III closure session!

CHLA IV White Elephant
Check out the pictures from our Children's Hospital IV Holiday Celebration!

Thoughts on the DREAM Act
Read Agueda's blog about the DREAM Act debate.

Have a great weekend!


Agueda's Thoughts on the Dream Act

When listening to the DREAM Act debate on C-SPAN I could not help but feel that those opposed to the bill were simply voicing their fear; fear of the unknown; fear of those they do not know, cannot identify with or do not understand.

Opponents of the bill victimize American citizens, claiming American Citizens will suffer negative effects from the passage of the DREAM Act. Also, opponents claim that such a bill will lead to chain migration and will increase “illegal” immigration. Finally, one representative called the bill an “affirmative action amnesty nightmare.”

In an effort to not fall into the role of the “oppressor”, those of us who are passionate about or are effected by the DREAM Act must try to understand where the opinions and ideas of the opponents come from. The media and government have done such a great job of instilling fear among the masses. How can we not expect people to oppose the DREAM Act when we constantly hear talks about how immigrants are taking American jobs, exploiting social services, overcrowding schools, etc.? With all those things being said, is it really a surprise that so many people suffer from xenophobia (the fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners)? The reality is that it is NOT our responsibility to change those opinions because:

a. People are entitled to their own beliefs

b. Individual realities shape perception

c. They give us more reasons to push for change

So, when a representative from Texas says that we must only be compassionate towards American citizens we must remind them that citizens or not, every person in this country deserves compassion. On top of that, we must remind ourselves that, oppressing the oppressor will not get us anywhere and we must remain committed to the struggle of equity and social justice.

Let’s hope the Senate makes the right choice and passes the DREAM Act today! Let’s keep making those calls!!!

“It is absolutely essential that the oppressed participate in the revolutionary process with an increasingly critical awareness of their role as subjects of the transformation.” – Paulo Freire


Thursday, December 9, 2010

CHLA IV White Elephant!

Mentors and Mentees answer questions about themselves depending on the color of the M&M. Mentors also brought gifts for mentees to participate in a game of White Elephant!

CHLA III Closure!

CHLA III came to an end! Mentors and Mentees talk about what they have learned from one another throughout the year.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tuesday with Mentor and Mentee- Monica & Monica

"Thank you for adapting to my life style and putting yourself in my shoes. Also, for always making the worse problems seem like a grain of salt. You have showed up to my graduation and got a chance to meet my family and that meant so much to me. I have learned that weakness isn’t what makes you. The guts to show pain is what makes you strong"!


Monday, December 6, 2010

It happens all the time in heaven

At this time, as we approach the winter solstace, a time of celebrating the cosmic shift from darkness to light it seems that our collective consciousness can use a little shifting toward the light as well.   

I read this morning that gay marriage is going back in front of the federal courts and may be headed towards the Supreme Court, and of course there's Don't Ask Don't Tell and taxes and the Dream Act and so many other things that divide us.  The winter solstice celebrates the understanding that we still depend on the sun, the Earth and each other for survival.  Apparently 700 years ago we needed this reminder as well.  That's when Hafiz wrote:

It happens all the time in heaven,
And some day
It will begin to happen
Again on earth -
That men and women who are married,
And men and men who are
And women and women
Who give each other
Often will get down on their knees
And while so tenderly
Holding their lover's hand,
With tears in their eyes,
Will sincerely speak, saying,
"My dear,
How can I be more loving to you;
How can I be more



Tony LoRe
Youth Mentoring Connection / Urban Oasis

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Everyone Should Have a Mariela

Hello, my name is Valentina and Iʼm stealing from a Los Angeles non-profit organization. There it is. I said it. Iʼm stealing from Youth Mentoring Connection. Each week I get much more than I could ever give as a Mentor of this unbelievable organization. I should have to pay. OK, a volunteer is a volunteer after all, but the benefits of being a Mentor are astounding and humbling so, yes, in a way I am stealing.

When I moved to Los Angeles almost 5 years ago, I came in pursuit of my dream as an
actor. What became evident within 5 minutes was that I was in an industry that cared more about the “me” than the “we”. So I began looking for a place where I could establish Community and keep my sanity. All roads lead to YMC.

I went to the “Mentor/Mentee match-up mixer” with a sense of both intrigue and hesitation. It turned out to be a bowling event where Mentors and Mentees could find one another organically (much like a dreaded singles mixer, p.s.). Once I started talking to the young people though I was wooed by their intelligence, sincerity, and willingness to be who they are. Among all the “available” Mentees, there was one that stood out. She was loud and bossy, insecure and bright. I said to myself, “That girl scares me...please let me get paired up with the shy girl in the corner instead.” Nope. Didn't happen.

Mariela and I were destined for one another. We were matched up before we ever met,
matched up from the moment both of us signed up to be in the Mentoring program. She reminded me of me at that age, a loud, bossy, insecure kid with wild light in her eyes.

Four years later Mariela and I (“Marientina”) are still going strong. No longer
a McDonaldʼs-obsessed 12 year-old with scant interest in school, Mariela is now a beautiful young woman involved in organic cooking and excited about her future. We are mirrors for one another. She is a “little Buddha” who constantly speaks with such clarity and honesty that I have no choice but to fess up and deal with myself. We donʼt judge one another, we question. We donʼt criticize, we recommend. We donʼt blame, we thank.

There is a saying at Youth Mentoring Connection: once you have met the young people,
heard their stories, felt both their heartache and their joy you have officially “drunk the Kool-Aid” and you will never be the same. Well, I drank it, folks, and now I brush my teeth with it, bath in it, and add it to my coffee in the morning.

So I am here, coming clean, and thanking Youth Mentoring Connection for generously
allowing me to drink the Kool-Aid, year after year, without paying a dime.

-Valentina Garcia-Loste