Junior Youth Group

The Difference Between American JYG and the Rest of the World

I have a bad habit of only taking pictures of dogs and not of the kids who come to the core activities.  At least I have really cute puppies.

One thing that I have found interesting is how hard it is to have junior youth groups in the United States.  We hear glorious stories around the world about how the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program has taken off and these young ones have taken off and are arising to serve.  Yet in the United States, we are not seeing the same growth.  At times I have wondered if it is the animators who work with these youth.  Are we the ones incapable of really striking a chord with them? Are we misdirecting their energies so that they do not want to be part of this world-wide movement of change?

I heard a story once from the Southwestern Regional Assistant for Junior Youth Groups about a man from Africa (I think it was Cameroon or some other country in the West). He apparently had groups of 50 or more kids where he was from.  He came to the US and was eager to serve, especially when he heard that groups here were only about 10.  After a few groups meetings he said that he had never managed groups so difficult to manage.

What about our American society makes kids more disruptive and unwilling to grow up and take on more responsibility? It reminds me of this article my friend Amanda shared on her facebook.  Why are American Kids So Spoiled?

Today we had 6 girls over for Junior Youth Group, and of course Amelia was here to help.  When Kevin came home from work today he asked her how it went.  She said “it was interesting…” and I replied they were good today.  Amelia said “Wow, really? They were so crazy!”

Of course, I have seen groups of children in China.  They are so much better behave than groups of kids here.  But why is that?

In our group today once we were all gathered we had an interesting conversation about how certain people in the neighborhood see the Baha’is.  One girl mentioned that there was a woman in the neighborhood who is Chinese and Christian named Miss Big Bird. I checked with the girls that they weren’t making fun of her and that was her actual name.  They said that she has classes at their home every week where they sing songs and learn about virtues for the kids.  Apparently one of the junior youth told her that the  “Baha’i classes are more fun.”  Lupita, the one who was talking about Miss Big Bird, went on to say how many things were bothered by the other woman.  I should point out Lupita is a JY but she has assisted with children’s classes before.

I didn’t want to create disunity with others serving in the neighborhood, and I didn’t want Lupita thinking that the services we are trying to do are different.  I tried to change the subject to focus on our own qualities and how we can improve ourselves using everything we know.  I also wanted to point out that the classes were for everyone no matter what they believe, and we happen to be Baha’i but people who are not are welcome to learn with us.

We know that when the Baha’is are making an impact, people will rise up against what we are doing.  I’ve heard only a few stories of individuals in the neighborhood saying things against us.  It seems that these kids so far are happy to be with us and do not pay attention to what others say about the activities.  I pray for their strength and steadfastness against peer pressure and the pressures of the society around them.


If Life Gives You Lemons… Sell Them!

Today was the day of our service project.  Unfortunately it was so crazy that I didn’t get any pictures of the actual project as it was occurring.  We had about 30 junior youth from the neighborhood come out to help plant some lavender and evergreen bushes.  The other groups of kids divided into different areas of the neighborhood and sold lemonade, jamaica and lemon-bars.  We raised about $76! Which covered the costs of the plants and new soil for the ground.  Pictures of the gardening project will be added to a later post.

It was a very interesting experience.  First of all, we had 3 adults helping – not including Kevin and myself.  It probably would have been good to have 1 more, but those extra 3 were very important to the success of it.  They helped make sure that the JY were constantly engaged with their work and helped them get what they needed.  Kevin was in charge of the gardening portion, and it was some heavy lifting for him, let alone the junior youth.  After 2 hours, they were only able to put in two plants.  Hopefully the soil was changed over enough so that the plants will live forever.  Past gardening projects had poorer results, though they were able to actually plant more at the time.

Most of my time was spent going from group to group making sure everything they needed was there, whether it was more ice or more lemon bars.  We ended up moving everyone away from one area because there was no one walking by where they were.  At one point I had to go to the store to buy more soil.  At the end everyone came back for lunch and to relax.  Several of the boys hosed themselves down because they were so sweaty.

Later in the evening, a friend who used to serve with us in this area but has since moved to China came back to visit.  Armando now works as a 4th grade teacher in a Baha’i inspired school in Macau.  Though people mostly speak Cantonese there, he has elected to study Mandarin since has wants to some day move to mainland China.  He practiced his Chinese with her and we learned about some of the efforts in Macau.

JYG and The Fruits of the Garden

This weekend there will be a mini-servie project in the neighborhood.  For the last several weeks we have been prepping for it.  We have gone through a few different streets asking for people’s lemons.  We have made that lemon juice into lemonade and lemon bars.  This morning some of the junior youth girls came over to help make the lemon bars.

Afterwards I went over to the Santa Inez apartments just to help build my friendships with the kids there.  There was a new boy there who spends most of his time with his father in Hayward, but visits his mother here in San Mateo.  I spent some time talking with his grandmother, and she expressed her concern that he spent time with people who were good influences.  We planned to go to my house to play with the dogs, and he wanted to come, but usually his mother told him to stay behind (to be careful who he spends his time with).  This time I talked to her and she said he could come along if she went as well.   So the mother, grandmother, little brother and Alex all came along to play with the dogs – plus the other kids from the JYG.  It was really fun, and it was very refreshing to see a mother who wants to ensure that her children are around good influences.


At the same time as all this, we’re hosting a new dog at Chez-Trotter!  His name is Dizzy and he is a Bichon.  This family is paying us to watch him, but really he is such a treat to have around I feel blessed to get to watch him.


We also harvested our first fruit from the vegetable garden the junior youth helped plant.  It was huge and very watery.  Photographic evidence.  Tomorrow is the junior youth group service project!

Junior Youth Service Project

In the past I have mostly focused on children’s classes in the neighborhood and in the cluster.  However, due to a change in the community, I have started working with more junior youth.  This summer the group planned a service project to put in a garden in the neighborhood that was just dirt before.

To raise money for this project, the junior youth had the idea to sell lemonade.  And instead of buying powder from the store, we thought it would be best to take from the thousands of lemons in our neighborhood.  Last week the youth went around with a paper and clipboards and walked down three different streets looking for houses with lemons.  They asked the owners of the house if we could have the lemons to raise money for a gardening project nearby.  Everyone was happy to help, and happy to get rid of their lemons which often just fall to the earth and rot before they get eaten.  Today we went around in two groups with ladders and boxes and picked over 200 lemons.

After the junior youth went home, Kevin and I proceeded to juice all of them (we didn’t want any to go bad, and it was a lot of work that only 2 people should do).  From that we got just under 2.5 gallons of lemon juice.