Finding bright spots, even in tough times
This holiday season, we've been featuring bright spot stories in our emails and social media. 2020 has been hard and we want to be intentional about acknowledging the good in an otherwise tough year. Today's bright spot story is a hard one to tell. I've tussled with whether it was appropriate to share this story, but ultimately decided that it's powerful and speaks to the power of our work at Spitfire.
It won't come as news to you that, while 2020 has been hard on everybody, Black and Brown communities have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus epidemic. Structural inequality is on full display, and we see the compounding and devastating impacts play out in our work at Spitfire, as well.
Today's story is about a longtime Spitfire girl who, against the odds, thrived in our clubs. Anna* had been consistently participating in Spitfire for the last two years. However, over the summer, she didn't have her camera on most of the time during our Spitfire Zoom sessions. When she did, she seemed distracted, and I worried that she wasn't enjoying Spitfire anymore, or perhaps the online experience was falling short. She had been consistently participating in Spitfire for the last two years and her mom had always been very supportive.
At the end of the term, our girls were anonymously reporting their elective reading totals and Anna sent me an illuminating private chat: "I'm taking care of my baby brother, so I don't have a lot of time to read."
Gut punch. Of course she didn't have time to read.
At Spitfire, one of the most challenging things we've had to grapple with is how the pandemic has impacted the care economy. Without access to safe, affordable, and reliable childcare, many adults have little choice but to have older children care for their younger siblings, in addition to housework and their own school work. This, plus so many other factors, has increased chronic absenteeism during virtual schooling as well as participation in Spitfire.
Anna stuck around after club that day and we talked about it. Of course I told her that any reading she does is fantastic, that her baby brother doesn't have to be a secret - he can join her for Spitfire any time - and that I'm proud of her and glad to have her in our club. She seemed reassured and she signed up for the fall term.
This fall, her camera was on more often, she participated more, and she read a TON. In a group of eleven girls, Anna placed fourth in her cohort's reading challenge! She didn't miss a single Spitfire Club session and she would often hang around afterwards to talk with Ms. Kara, her Mentor this term.
Anna’s resilience in the face of systemic adversity is a bright spot for us, and my hope is that we are also a bright spot for her; that the time she has in Spitfire provides her with joy and community, and that the books we're reading together provide adventure and escape at a time when we all need it. But most of all, I hope she knows that we're in her corner and we care about and support her.
Though there's light at the end of this tunnel, the pandemic isn't over yet. In 2021, our girls will return for another term of online reading, play, and community. We need your help, though: