My favorite aspect of being a staff at Sunrise is watching the relationships develop among our girls. Upon first arrival, most of these young girls seem anxious about their new surroundings. Let’s face it: we don’t typically experience “quiet times” at Sunrise. Here, we are constantly switching between events of the day from nutritious meals to enlightening groups to relaxed nature walks. So when these girls are introduced to this structured and exciting environment, they usually seem overwhelmed by all of the activity. As a staff, I want to help them learn coping skills to work through their first week or so until they adjust. But I’ve noticed our girls reach out almost immediately to begin building relationships on their own. Typically within the first few hours after a girl’s arrival, I’ll have at least two or three others approach me and say, “I’m thinking about writing the new girl a welcoming letter. I don’t want her to feel alone.” Now I know a “welcoming letter” probably isn’t going to ease this girl’s anxiety very much at this point, but I’m always so impressed by our girls’ willingness to help others in any way they can.

What I’ve noticed since working at Sunrise is that these girls are building relationships with depth among their community. No, it’s not a happy, sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns dance party 24/7, but hey! It gets pretty close sometimes! One of my favorite moments at Sunrise was late in the evening, just before bed time, when six of our girls – some relatively new and some relatively not – seemed to be playing an extremely odd game of which I’m not sure was ever given a name. They were all standing in a circle. In unison, three girls would squat and yell “ONE!” Then the other three would squat and yell “TWO!” The six girls repeated this until someone messed up and squatted at the wrong time. They would all bellow over in laughter before starting over again. I and another staff watched in hushed amusement and I was THRILLED when they asked me to record the game!

Another favorite, yet less thrilling, time at Sunrise is sitting in a Mutual Aid (MA) with the girls. I can’t say I have ever seen a bad MA. The amazing thing about these girls is no matter how many tiffs, arguments, or brutally honest statements that are had among them, their generosity and goodness always prevails. During MA, our girls can express their true feelings about any aspect of their lives and receive feedback – positive or constructive – from their peers. Every time, I feel a sense of pride and fascination with their incredible insight. Never in my life have I seen so much acceptance, willingness, and assertiveness come from any one person. Our girls help each other use these skills through nearly every aspect of every day. They remind us that building relationships is a matter of hard work and quality time. Not only do they have MA to express their needs, but they are encouraged to constantly hold themselves and others accountable with honesty and compassion. So many of our girls quickly learn the skills to help themselves and to help everyone around them.

So many awkward, hilarious, and outrageous things happen at Sunrise. Every shift can be so much fun as a staff! I have the incredible opportunity to watch so many amazing interactions among our girls as they are building relationships with each other. The daily structure of Sunrise seems to bring a sense of stability to our girls; they always know what to expect. I’ve often heard them express appreciation for our structured environment. But because of our strong focus on relationships here, the community feels more like a great big family. When a new girl arrives, I can understand how she might feel overwhelmed by it all at first. However, I feel excited anticipation for our new family member. Before long, that girl will be the one hollering outrageous, yet hilarious, statements; she will be the one creating outlandish new games; she will be the one writing a welcoming letter of acceptance.

 – written by Lyndsey Craig, Youth Mentor