Tag Archives: Housing

A Living History Museum Providing Training for Successful Living in the Future

19 Jan

Living History MuseumDo historical museums bore you? Walking from room-to-room seeing pieces of paper and objects from times long since passed, feeling cold and impersonal. What if a museum were more like theatre? If you could actually meet the people who the possessions belonged to and hear their stories? If this sounds interesting to you, well, I’ve found the perfect place. It’s called the Bremer Geschichtenhaus (Bremer Story House), in Bremen, Germany, and it’s not only a combination of a museum and live theatre, but most of the “employees” are either volunteers, or are found through “bras eV”, an employment and job-training agency (through governmental support) which works with the local government to help the jobless and homeless get back on their feet.

When people file for assistance they’re connected to bras eV which provides a variety of classes, training and life-planning programs. Their methodology for Life/Work Planning is based on “What, Where and How.” The “What” is an analysis of a person’s abilities based on a detailed biography. The “Where” helps them figure out in what industry and which companies they might like to work and be a good fit. And the “How” helps them research which companies have positions which might suit their interests and qualifications as well as understand which skills they need to further develop and how to go about applying successfully.

But where does the Bremer Geschichtenhaus fit in? In its most basic form, it gives employees what’s known as a “1 Euro Job.” While it pays only slightly more than €1, it’s the term used for a low-paying job that’s not meant to be permanent, but a transitional job to gain confidence and skills. And that’s what the Bremer Geschichtenhaus unquestionably does.

I met Herman who has worked there for exactly one-year. His journey began five-years ago when his father died. He was a truck driver and stayed home to take care of his mother. He lived with her until she went to a care facility which is when his brother stopped paying the rent on the rental house they were living in and Herman’s life began falling apart. He ended up homeless for four-months before seeking help at a mission. As is the norm, they housed him for six-months (it allows for people to get their heads together and try to get back on their feet on their own). After six-months his case-worker sent him to the museum. He enjoys what he does as he has interaction with visitors and learns new skills all the time. He plays the part of historical figures of Bremerhaven and likes performing a variety of roles which bring history to life.

I also had the opportunity to meet Silke who’s been working at the Bremer Geschichtenhaus for four months. After losing her job, her apartment and her boyfriend, all within a two-week period, her life also fell apart. She started working at the Bremer Geschichtenhaus in October and found it difficult at first. She felt overwhelmed by the regular schedule and expectations. This is a basic part of the training that the Bremer Geschichtenhaus provides – training people to stick to a regular schedule and be on time for work. It can be difficult when you’ve lost your self-esteem.

The Bremer Geschichtenhaus, which opened in 2006, is the brainchild of business partners Sara and Mick. Prior to opening the Geschichtenhaus, Sara worked in theatre as a director. When she was approached to be a part of the Geschichtenhaus, she thought it was a crazy idea that just might work. She decided to take a chance and join in the project to open a living history museum which could entertain and inform while assisting to help those in need. It was a win/win situation. While Sara handles the performance side, Mick deals with the business side including the partnership with the bras job center. They also employ three other full time people who help run the place.

Coffee MerchantThe shows cover the time period from 1635 until just before WWI. The performers tell the stories of the characters they portray who might be a coffee-maker, for which Bremen is well-known, or Heini Holtenbeen, who walked with a pronounced limp due to an accident. As he could no longer complete his apprenticeship, he made a career out of collecting the discarded stubs of cigars in the market square and selling the tobacco as pipe tobacco. You’ll “meet” the adventurous fish merchant, Fish Lucie, as well as Bremen’s most famous poisoner, Gifts Gottfried. Known as the “Angel of Bremen” she was convicted of poisoning fifteen people using arsenic-laced butter and her execution was the last public one held in the square. The stories are informative and entertaining with a little comedy thrown in. And audience members can actually ask the characters questions about their lives and the times. On Fridays they have shows in English.

The museum receives approximately 30% of its funding through paid admissions and pays 30% of the wages to employees referred through bras, while bras pays the rest.

The Bremer Geschichtenhaus is located in the heart of the Schnoor District of Bremen and welcomes visitors daily. They also have programs for school groups as well as catered private parties. They appreciate volunteers to help with general administrative duties, guest relations, catering and even performing. And they’re grateful for any donations which assist in operating costs such as costuming, laundry, rent and general needs. Please visit their website listed below for all information.

Bremer Geschichtenhaus website: http://www.bremer-geschichtenhaus.de/

Bremer Geschichtenhaus website (in English): http://translate.google.de/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.bremer-geschichtenhaus.de/&prev=search

To donate or volunteer, please contact: fruchtmann-bras-bremen.de

Are you in Bremen, Germany, and need help getting back on your feet? Contact: http://bras-bremen.de/

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Grace

30 Nov

I haven‘t been lucky enough to have a child. Always wanted one. Heck, always wanted about a dozen. Just, well, just never happened. Still, I always thought if I had a girl I would name her Grace. Not Gracie, but Grace. I’ve always loved that word. Remember the show, “The Actor’s Studio?” James Lipton would ask people what their favorite word was. Mine is Grace. It’s peaceful, yet inspiring. It’s a word that can never be taken badly. It’s secular yet, when used, gives a sense of a higher power.

The other day, a stranger told me that the Rebel Project was the definition of Grace. He must have thought I didn’t hear him when, for a moment, I couldn’t speak, not even to express a polite thank you. At that moment, I realized that this project had become my child. I had been given my Grace.

So now I share the joy of my child with you. She’s not easy – no child is. She’s harder work than you can imagine, but she has brought such joy to myself and others. She is demanding of your time and attention, and can be quite exhausting. But she will open up your world because, you see, Grace is the goodness you share.

This project was about many things – paying it forward, keeping promises, giving thanks, and not keeping score. It was not just a journey across the country, but a personal journey to find out if one person can truly make a difference. While I might not have stopped hunger around the world, or saved the planet from global warming, or saved animals from euthanasia, perhaps I helped a homeless, single mom get on her feet, or kept her kids believing in Santa Claus for one more year. Maybe I helped an inspiring hurricane survivor to continue to help others. Or perhaps someone read the stories and realized that they too can make a difference. Maybe they can offer a job or other assistance to those profiled, or simply to someone they meet on the street. Or maybe, like me, they will look deep inside and consider how they might use their talent to help someone else simply because they can.

Thank you for joining me on this journey and I wish you Grace.

And The Winner Is . . .

30 Nov

Today I have the privilege of announcing the person you voted for to win my $1,000 donation.  First, a bit of an explanation as to why this has taken so long.

I had planned to have this project completed in September just after I joined the ship I work on.  Well, when you consider that I was driving 2100 miles, meeting people going through rough times and writing their stories well, that turns out to be pretty time-consuming.  And then I joined the ship.  I still had some follow-up interviews as well as some stories to write when I boarded.  This meant ship to shore phone calls and writing while working an 80 hour per week job.  Add to that, satellite internet on the ship, filming for the Phoenix NBC station (see video here) and technical difficulties on the website during the voting process and I’m very happy to be able to actually announce a winner.

The winner, with 22.9% of the vote, was Jose.  But just as in life, this project is unpredictable.  You see, another reason for the delay in announcing is that Jose is homeless.  If you recall, he was living in a shelter when I met him at a job fair.  I contacted the shelter and they informed me that he was no longer living there and had gotten a job.  They gave me the name of the café he was working at and I called to see if he was in.  They informed me that he had quit the previous week and they had no idea where he was.  I tried contacting him on a cell phone number that I had for him and left multiple messages on the voicemail.  I do not know why he quit and it’s not up to me to judge.  Still, I have found it impossible to get in touch with him.  This left me with a dilemma.  What to do with the money.

I have chosen to go with the spirit of the original plan – to let the readers decide.  As the 2nd and 3rd place winners were separated by one vote, I decided to split the money between them.  They are Stella and Shanika.

Stella, if you recall, was the hurricane Katrina survivor who, after living in a church for two weeks, invited 30 family members to live in her house which she felt blessed to find still standing.  When I phoned Stella to let her know of the outcome of the Rebel Project, she was grateful.  Unfortunately, the good news was tempered with the bad news that Stella has recently been diagnosed with cancer.  Stella has provided so much strength to others that I have no doubt that she will be in many people’s prayers.

Shanika and her four children were living at a shelter run by the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.  When I contacted the shelter Shanika was still there.  But, true to form, she was working to become independent.  Shanika has obtained a job cleaning houses.  While she hopes for a job which better suits her experience, she is grateful for the work.  Besides some money, the job has provided something more.  A home.  You see, The Coalition for the Homeless runs a program called Housing Now.  The Housing Now program provides assistance to those with moderate barriers to independence.  Participants must be drug free and have a job. It provides rental assistance, case management and supportive services.

When told of the financial donation I was providing Shanika told me, “This could not have come at a better time.”  Her case manager will work with her on budgeting and the best way to use this money.  Shanika continues to do her best to be a good example for her children.  “Manners and respect carry you far,” she says of her philosophy on raising her kids.

This project was very personal and I thank you for sharing it with me.  I am not only grateful for the opportunity and resources to have taken on this project, but for all of your support.  In the spirit of the Rebel-With-A-Cause project, I will ask you to do one more thing – help because you can.

Voting Is Open

2 Oct

Thank you for joining me on this journey.  It’s not only been a geographical one across the country, but a spiritual one across economic gaps.

We’ve now come to the end – or perhaps this is just the beginning.  One goal of this project was to use my talent to help others.  We all have some talent.  I ask that you look inside yourself and figure out where your talents lie.  Is there a way to use that talent to make a positive change in this world?  We can all contribute, and it does not need to be cash.

Perhaps it’s time we stopped keeping score.  We can do good without thinking about what that person has done for us in the past or how they might help us in the future.  We can do good simply because we can. What I have discovered through this project is that when you begin to good simply for goodness sake, you are rewarded in ways you cannot imagine.  People share their story, which is the ultimate form of trust, and friends send endless supplies of kind words.  Finally, strangers find you and share similar goals.  You are also able to see the kindnesses that people begin to share with others through your inspiration.  There is no greater gift.

You’ve heard their stories, formed your opinion and now it’s time for you to vote Just click “Vote” at the bottom.  DIY Travel Deal has been kind enough to supply the poll and results.  You may vote for more than one person if you choose.  Just click again. Each must be done separately.  Voting closes at 11:59pm Eastern Time on October 15th.

Please remember that this vote is simply for whom I give $1,000 to.  If someone’s story has touched you and there is anyway you can help, please do so.  This does not mean contribute money to them; perhaps you can help them with a job, or a doctor or fulfill some other need.  Or perhaps it involves none of these people at all. Perhaps this has encouraged you to help someone else in need.

Please choose to vote.  And share the stories you have read.  Should you like to get in touch with any of those profiled you may feel free to E-mail me at crosen7646@yahoo.com.  Thank you for sharing this journey.  Please continue to share the goodness.

VOTE                                    

Stella – Stronger than a Hurricane

27 Sep

Stella lives in New Orleans. She has lived there all her life. While living in the 9th Ward, she experienced Hurricane Betsy in 1965. In 2005 she lived through Hurricane Katrina.

Stella comes from a large family with nine siblings. All lived close by. Her husband also has nine siblings. Stella’s husband is an Army and Air Force veteran with 20 years spent in the military. In 1997, when he was coaching an Air Force basketball team he was injured and was left a quadriplegic. Due to her husband’s condition Stella has a rule, “Anytime they have a hurricane that’s category two, I leave.”

When they received warning of Katrina they headed to Beaumont, Texas to stay with her husband’s brother. At first things were comfortable. Then more and more family members began arriving. In the end, 20 people were staying in the house. First reports were that the city had survived. But then the worst happened. “We weren’t expecting the levees to break,” she says. When they did, they were told it would be at least six months before they could return home.

“We all searched for places to rent.” They found one but, “as soon as we moved in we were evacuated for Rita.” So they found another hotel but were then told to go further north. “We got to feeling if we were going to die, let’s do it with family,” she says. So they went to San Antonio. There, the family stayed in a church. With them was everyone who had been in the house and more. There was no air conditioning but some n neighborhood ladies invited them to their houses to shower.

After two weeks in the church they went back to the rented house in Beaumont. They stayed there for just under two weeks before sneaking back to their own neighborhood which had been closed off. When they arrived, they were devastated to see that, of her family of ten and her husband’s family of ten, theirs was the only house left standing. So Stella invited all 30 people to stay with them. “As long as I had a place to share with others, I was very fortunate.” Stella and her husband even had a trailer put in the backyard to accommodate more people.

Eventually everyone moved out of her house. But it changed their family. All but one of Stella’s sibling’s decided not to return. “They don’t trust the politicians,” she says. “People say that they’re going to do for you and they don’t. The Corps of Engineers knew these levees weren’t strong.” Stella and her husband know the risks of where they live. “After Betsy in 65, I was always prepared. I lived in the 9th Ward then and we saw those bodies floating by.”

They stay because it’s their home, but they have a plan. Someone in the family is assigned to pick-up the small children, they have a pre-arranged meeting point and she keeps a hatchet by the door, just in case they need to climb up to the attic and exit through the roof.

Stella’s hope is that she’s taught her daughter to raise her children with character.

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