As part of Camp Hope’s collaboration with NMSU’s Counseling Education and Psychology Department’s Community Advisory Board, which we have been participating in for several months, Dr. Lisa Grayshield asked me to come to her “Psychology of Multiculturalism” class to introduce them to Camp Hope as a project of MVCH, and speak about my own personal experience as a homeless advocate. I must say I was a little nervous to have almost three hours to talk before graduate students, probably arising from the fact that college was something I had to put on the side as a result of the trauma I endured as a lone Hate Crime survivor. I did bring two guests of my own, James Vonbehren and Dother Sykes, both fellow volunteers at Camp Hope, who both always make me feel at home anywhere. We arrived at O’donnell Hall Rm. 241 at around 3pm, and spent the first hour just absorbing Dr’ Grayshield’s class, listening to her speak to her students about what her expectations were and her getting them focused on learning how to “LISTEN” in terms of approaching counseling as a profession. The diverse group of students, about 22 in all, some older, some younger, all seemed very intent, focused, and eager to learn and share.
After an hour, around 4pm, It was my turn to speak. Over the next hours I gave them a little history of the Camp coming into formation and its relationship to MVCH as a homeless service agency, and the benefits of the proximity of the other agencies on MVCH’s Campus to the homeless who reside there. I also introduced Cafe Salud, a new project hosted by St Luke’s Health Care Clinic, spearheaded by Exec. Dir. Pamela Angell, who was interested in rounding up some student volunteers. Dr.Grayshield then asked me to speak about my own background and personal experience that led me to become part of the Camp’s leadership. It is always a challenge for me to speak before groups as a Hate Crime survivor, but as I spoke I realized what a privilege it was to be able to voice my own perceptions about what it means to really heal and be self-determined, as a free gay person of color, as a homeless advocate, and as part of a new community arising out a diverse co-operative of like-minded people who also desire to create those changes in their own lives and for others. By the end of the class, hearing the questions some of the graduate students asked, I could tell that they were all ready to help Camp Hope in any way they can. I even got two emails the next morning from a couple of students asking how they could help and offering some ideas to get the ball rolling.
It will be an interesting and challenging Autumn this year, with all the new re-zoning the Camp must adhere to and the changes that will follow. Yet with all of this support coming from all these corners for us, I have no doubt we will rise to grow through these changes. We will find new and exciting ways to expand mental health services for the homeless, and even more so, integrate a larger sense of community that Camp Hope IS creating from all of its amazing residents volunteers and supporters. They are reaching within and reaching out to embrace that, “we are all in this together”, as Dr. Grayshield closed her class, reciting words her tribal elders speak at the end of a gathering.
Thank you Dr. Grayshield for sharing this opportunity with me, and Camp Hope, and thank you Students for your dedication and hospitality!
Watch some video clips of Dr.Grayshield’s class!