A lucky group of children from Beaumont and Port Arthur Independent School Districts visited The Giving Field in Beaumont on Friday, April 26, for an Educational Health and Wellness Fair to celebrate Global Youth Service Day 2013.
More than 50 Ben’s Kids participants worked for several months toward this year’s Global Youth Service Day project, an Educational Health and Wellness Fair for more than 100 Beaumont and Port Arthur ISD fourth and fifth graders. About 20 IEA Ben’s Kids offered elementary students experiences such as a fitness demonstration including yoga and dance, a tomato planting station, a healthy habits scavenger hunt, a photo booth, vendors to promote healthy lifestyle choices, and general fun for the children. Children shot hoops at a mini-basketball game booth at the fair and received gifts like a backpacks discouraging smoking and watering cans.
IEA – Inspire, Encourage, Achieve – helps area youth who have experienced hardships and difficulties in their lives by initiating enhanced educational, rehabilitative and other support services. Last year, IEA staff and volunteers worked in the Minnie Rogers Juvenile Justice Center (MRJJC) with more than 325 youth who received counseling and other therapeutic services, including anger management, art and yoga. Staff also provided parenting classes for nearly 100 parents, who benefited from a supportive network of resources enabling them to strengthen their parenting skills and develop stronger support systems. Only four of the 92 “Ben’s Kids” enrolled in IEA’s outreach program returned to the MRJJC for a new offense while participating in Ben’s Kids activities.
The Giving Field is a community garden at 2895 Liberty St. in Beaumont that donates items to citizens who do not have consistent access to healthy and nutritious food choices. Coordinators Sharon Begnaud and master gardener Mary Mahlie work throughout the week to see that things run smoothly. Begnaud, who is planning to attain master gardener credentials this summer, said the groups at Friday’s event learned how to plant tomatoes, but also about nutrition and environmental care.
“It’s not just about gardening,” Begnaud said. “It’s about what the food does for you. We do a lot out here organically, as organically as possible. That way, we are not leeching chemicals into the water table. … They can eat the food right off the plant because there are no pesticides used.”
Begnaud said students from the St. Anne Catholic School across the street have spent time working in the garden, as well as IEA kids who helped build the initial beds.
“They are just a great group of kids,” Begnaud said of the IEA participants.
She said she was thrilled to have BISD and PAISD students participating and learning about gardening at the fair. According to Begnaud, anyone interested in helping with the garden is welcome to come out the second Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to Noon.
Llarence Turner represented Get Above the Bar Fitness and sold T-shirts at Friday’s fair. He said his organization teaches people to get fit without buying a lot of exercise accessories.
“No weights or equipment are used in our program,” Turner said. “You just use your body.”
Anyone who wants to learn more or purchase a Get Above the Bar tee can visit the group’s website at www.getabovethebar.net .
The Julie Rogers’ “Gift of Life “Program brought in educators to teach kids about the dangers of tobacco as part of its “Don’t Smoke Your Life Away” initiative. Children received T-shirts and backpacks printed with the life-saving message.
Mattie Phelan with IEA distributed tomato plants to kids for the planting demonstration and helped make the day special for the children. Her parents, Mike and Janie Phelan, also volunteered time to help with the Educational Health and Wellness Fair.
“They have been out here since 7 a.m. this morning,” IEA co-founder Regina Rogers said of the Phelans. “This has been a successful day because of people like them and Mattie.”
“It’s all about the kids,” Mike Phelan said at the event.
Rogers said she could not take credit for the fair and pointed out IEA president Kevin Roy, IEA executive director Angeliqueca Avery and Beaumont Athletic Club director Coach Landon Ardoin who she asserted were some of the people vital to the success of the event celebrating Global Youth Service Day 2013.
“IEA is an excellent program that allows kids to experience things they may not be able to on their own,” Roy said of the program. “It teaches kids about love. It’s all about encouraging these kids. … Today is an opportunity for the children to interact with each other in a positive way. It teaches them there is more to life than receiving. Giving is a part of life.”
All of the harvested food from the garden goes to area soup kitchens to feed the hungry. Rogers said the IEA kids have been working on the gardening endeavor for two years and even cooked for Some Other Place.
“They are learning empathy and what it means to give,” Rogers said of the IEA experience.
Avery said Ben’s Kids participants from MRJJC were not able to join the group at the garden Friday but participated in their own way. They created placemat designs that were duplicated, laminated and distributed to the students in attendance at the fair. Children were presented with award certificates and all the students received a laminated place mat. During the presentation, Bishop Curtis Guillory addressed the group of students and encouraged them to practice healthy living.
“Exercise and eat right to have a healthy life,” Guillory said to the listening throng of children.
When asked what they learned, students had varying answers.
“Eat healthy to have a good heart,” one Pietzsch MacArthur student called out.
“A tomato is a fruit,” another asserted.
“Don’t talk over others who are trying to teach you,” a third shouted.
Roy said he felt the day was a success and the IEA participants and the students all enjoyed the learning experience.
“The kids worked for months to put this together,” Roy said of the fair. “It’s come a long way, and I think it is an integral part of teaching kids about giving and love.”