Taking Shelter

By Taylor Chapman, 2013 Raleigh Summer Fellow 

During the work week for Strong Home, the Strong Camp Raleigh team couldn’t help but notice the ironies laid out before us. We were planning for our last two weeks of camp where we would talk to our campers about healthy ways to sustain the earth, but we were noticing that we, as well as some of our campers, were facing difficulties at home. For some of us, it was that school was coming to an end, our leases were almost up, or we were soon to take jobs in other cities. For others, it was facing unsteady family dynamics, or wondering where we would lay our heads at night.

We began to ask ourselves how we should cover talking about the environmental crisis when so many of us were facing much more immediate crises of our own. Our solution was to create a class called “Heal My Home” where we would talk about differences among families locally and internationally, as well as what kinds of difficulties people face within their families and how to cope with those difficulties in a safe and empowering way.


As I was thinking about how I wanted to structure this class, I had the opportunity to travel home for the weekend to see my family for the first time in months. Coming from a very poor, rural area and a family that faces structural obstacles systemically as well as personally, I was interested to see what kinds of parallels I could draw from my own life to use within the curriculum of Heal My Home. I knew it would be difficult for me to talk about my family, but I wanted to show my campers that although I have come from a negative experience, I have used that experience in a way that has allowed me to live a more full and happy life.

When I woke at home the morning after I arrived, I was informed that a bridge near our house was flooded. I was worried about what that would mean for my family, their safety, and their ability to make it into town to access basic necessities. I drove down to the area where the flooding was happening, and after pausing for a moment to take everything in, I decided to get out my camera and take pictures of the flood. My heart was beating fast, because as I was documenting the flood, I was realizing how close it was to our house and how almost every road that leads into town was connected by a bridge. I found myself getting very emotional, unsure of what my family would do if the flooding got worse. Finally, I got all of the pictures and drove back home to be with my family. I played games with my brother and nephew, made them dinner, and we all went to bed.


As I was heading back to Raleigh the next morning, I saw that the water had gone down and that the bridge was no longer flooded. I don’t have any answers when it comes to knowing what my family would do in an emergency situation, but I do know that there are millions of other girls and women who live in conditions as bad as and worse than our own.

During Strong Home, I stressed to the girls that “home” takes many different shapes, sizes, and meanings. Some are good, some are bad, some are happy and safe, and some are not. I know that they know this because I know what some of them are going through. Regardless, I want them to take from this class the confidence of knowing that regardless of our situations, we are all sisters, and we are all in this together. At the end of the day, we are all each other’s Strong Homes, and we will do what it takes to help keep each other dry when the rivers start to rise.


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