“Imagine if you are a child in foster care and there are no caring uncles and aunts around,” Pediatrician Dr. Penny Grant told us. With that in mind, Dr. Grant introduced us to Culture for One at the Fall Lunch she co-hosted. They provide cultural excursions, creative workshops, arts scholarships, and mentoring for foster kids to facilitate healing and empowerment.
Dr. Grant – who became one of the first Board Certified Child Abuse Pediatricians in 2009 – told us, “When you take a child out of a home, they perceive it, intuitively, as some form of rejection, even as we perceive it as protecting and healing them outside of an abusive environment. Taking a child out of a home deemed abusive or neglectful is still removing them from their home; a home they trusted to provide for their needs. The shattered trust must be rebuilt, yet many children are reluctant to trust, to speak openly in a traditional therapy session. How can the barriers to trust be overcome? By alternate means of engaging these children. Exposing them to alternate means of therapy, via art, music and theater gives them ways to grow stronger.” They literally draw out their feelings, and find their voices. And they form bonds with the volunteers who take them. “The message is,” Dr. Grant continued, “This is not a foster person who is being paid to be with me. This is somebody who is taking their time, on their dime, to connect with me as a person. Therefore, I must be worth something.”
Founder Linn Tanzman, Executive Director Kathleen Cooney Clarke, CFO Volunteer Donnell E. Smith, CFO Volunteer and Program alumni Khadija Adula spoke. Host committee members and sponsors included Harold Koda and Alan Kornberg, Lenore Cohen, Lizzy Markus, Penny Grant, Kathleen Cooney Clarke, Eileen Schien and Jeffery Sobel.
Somali born Khadija Adula, talked about her eight year relationship with Culture for One Founder Linn Tanzman. “Our home in the Bronx was overcrowded and I was battling the facts of being raised by an oppressive, abusive father and the chaos of living with a polygamous home,” Adula recalled. “Three years later, I was placed in foster care. My first home was a group home and I felt liberated, but it lacked order and stability.” A year later, she returned to her birth parents. “But,” she said, “my home life still had not improved.” She ran away, and, at age 13, underage and undocumented, found a job in a fast food restaurant in Harlem. “At 17,” she continued, “I witnessed drug addiction in Harlem and escaped prostitution twice.” But, Adula dreamed of becoming a doctor and re-entered the foster care system to help her do so. “This time,” she said, “I got a caring case worker, got into community college and two years later was accepted to Cornell University.” She met Lynn Tansmin who took her to her first Broadway play, Memphis, and out to dinner where she offered guidance and resources.
You would think this was the happily ever after ending to Adula’s story. But, making friends and keeping up academically wasn’t easy. Adula suffered from depression and dropped out of Cornell. Thanks to Tansmin’s support, today, Adula has a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from City College and a job in Mount Sinai Hospital.
Want to take a kid to a museum? For more information: www.cultureforone.org.