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  • As I walk up to the door of the Bohermore Youth Project, a little boy runs by me, nearly knocking me over with his Hurler, and hastily knocks on the door. The door opens and Audrey, one of the directors of the program, smiles but sternly reminds him to sit down and get to work because he only has one hour. I sit down to work with a little girl whose pigtails flop about as she asks me where I'm from and giggles at how I "talk funny." The room is full and there are children working diligently all around me. I am impressed by their level of self-discipline. It seems that Bohermore has given the children structure in the midst of city chaos. Every so often, there is a knock on the door, and more children have stopped playing outside, and have run in to get to work. Later on, during the teen group, I am quizzed on all things American, and asked if I know how to play various games like Knockout and Spoons. They are surprised and delighted to have a younger person in Bohermore again, to play teenage games and to chat with them.

    Every week since, when I have walked in, I am greeted with big smiles as kids ask me to help them with homework. As they leave one by one, taking the hands of siblings and friends to either run on home, or to stay and play outside, I am taken aback by what an integral role Bohermore seems to play in their daily routines. They come from school, full of energy, ready to play outside in the paved yard with makeshift goals and a colorful mural backdrop. One by one, they file in to get help with their homework and then return home, because by then, their parents will have returned home from work. They walk to and from Bohermore together, unsupervised, but somehow it seems perfectly okay, natural in fact. I am told that Bohermore is a community of sixty percent travelers, forced to settle down due to new legislation. Their community has struggled to maintain their tight knit culture, as they are forced to assimilate into stationary life. Bohermore however, gives the children a place to carry on their culture by remaining close. Many of the children come from low income families, and Bohermore has been able to provide stability to them. It is clear that all children seem to enjoy this safe space where they socialize with kids outside of their immediate school. Eventually, when the teen group comes in, they are greeted and proceed to share positive encounters with adults who genuinely care about what they have to say. When they get to Bohermore, all the children and teens are accepted. In a place where the school system is dominated by the Catholic Church, school is strict, and a community struggling, it is visibly refreshing to come to a community center meant for help and fun without judgment.
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