Anabelle outside her Mustard Seed office.
Annabelle started her journey with Mustard Seed last year as a Jesuit Volunteer where she embraced the Jesuit values of: spirituality, a simple lifestyle, community living, and social justice.
The Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) is the largest lay Catholic full-time volunteer program in the world. They aim to aspire the creation of a more just and hopeful world. Therefore, this service program “engages passionate young people in vital service with poor communities, fostering the growth of leaders committed to faith in action”(JVC).
Annabelle has remained with Mustard Seed as a student resource specialist. Therefore, she tests all the students that come to Mustard Seed to see where they are at academically. From there, Annabelle works with the teachers in developing an appropriate academic curriculum for the students to follow throughout their time at Mustard Seed, so that they are as prepared as possible for when they enroll into public school (i.e. tutoring).
She also attends Sacramento County’s homeless task force meetings with homeless liaisons to discuss ways to give children who are experiencing homelessness the necessary resources and tools to receive a successful education.
Below you will find Annabelle’s reflection on a family that taught her how to love with no boundaries.
Driving the children to and from their motels was one of the biggest highlights for me as a JV last year. I had the opportunity to drive a family of 5 for three months – a family that lifted me up and added onto the miracles, love, and compassion of Mustard Seed that I had felt the very first day I started working there. This family of 5 was always so incredibly excited to go to school and had such a strong family bond that was so visible from a mile away. I vividly remember during our car rides driving through a neighborhood to and from their motel and the children would point out houses that they would hope to one day live in – “That brown house! That could fit all of us!” They were always so optimistic despite the situation they were in because they had each other.
The last day of school was one of the hardest days for me at Mustard Seed. I prepared myself all week for that day, as I knew I was going to have to say my last goodbye to many of the children. In addition to saying goodbye to those children, I also had to brace myself for the goodbye that was going to come for this family of 5. I drove into the parking lot of the SkyRider motel, parked the car, and all 5 children unbuckled, got out of their seats, said their goodbyes and gave me their hugs, and walked into their motel room. And as children, I don’t think it crossed their mind that it may be the last time they saw me. I said bye to mom and drove away and the moment I left, tears fell down my face as reality hit me that that was the last time I was going to see them.
A week went by and the Mustard Seed summer program started. My co-JV, Emily, and I were in charge of planning a field trip based summer program for the kids and Emily and I were determined to give them the best summer they ever had. As opposed to during the school year where sign-ins are in the front office, sign-ins were now on the playground. We took out playground equipment, had all our forms, and were ready for the summer program to start. Many of the kids during the academic school year saw the flyers that were posted in the office, so they knew about the program. One of the 5 children asked their mom during one car ride if they could attend, but mom did not know how they would get there because transportation was not offered during the summer. I didn’t expect for them to come, but the miracles of Mustard Seed truly played out.
For a brief moment, I went to the PE closet to get a ball out for a child and that was when I heard Emily yell one of the names of the children & this family came running onto the playground. The family I was so sad about saying goodbye to, the family I thought I would never see once more, was there. My heart was so incredibly full.
The last day of summer program was another hard day, but once again, they came through that gate and came running onto the playground. Saying goodbye to this family for a second time was honestly more difficult than the first, but I’m forever grateful for the time I was given with them. This family, those children, changed my life completely. I have been blessed to be a part of their lives and them in mine. And despite how many times I say it, the children at Mustard Seed teach me more than I do to them – so to each child that I have had the privilege of spending time with, thank you for making me smile on my hardest days, for every hug that lifted my spirits up, and most importantly, for teaching me to love with no boundaries. I’m advocating for each one of you always.
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