The power of sharing experience forged in adversity can echo across generations and uplift the spirit through word and artistic expression. As a member of South Pasadena Girl Scout Troop 15441, South Pasadena High School sophomore Anya Baranets recently worked to tap into that fire by leading women in a poetry and art workshop at Pasadena’s Elizabeth House as a part of her work toward the Gold Award, the Girl Scout’s highest achievement.
A native of South Pasadena, Baranets joined her troop in kindergarten at Arroyo Vista Elementary and continued on to South Pasadena Middle School and the high school. Over her years of scouting, she started to gain a strong love for serving others, which her mother, Troop Leader Rozanna Baranets, helped encourage.
“I really like all the community service that we do because I feel that’s just the most rewarding thing,” Baranets shared with The Review.
When her mother told her about Elizabeth House, a nonprofit residential shelter program which serves to support the health and welfare of adult pregnant women and their children who lack shelter and prenatal care, Baranets felt drawn toward being a part of it. She consulted with house supervisors and ended up crafting a course with poetry and classes which she held with five women over seven weeks for one day a week.
“It’s been so important because these are all very interesting women,” said Baranets. “They’ve been through a lot in their lives.”
At first, Baranets was worried the women might not take her seriously as a 15-year-old but she was continually surprised to see how much they opened up to her with their own life stories. In the workshop, she presented the class with examples of haiku and various poetry examples, providing pens, journals and rhyming dictionaries. In span of an hour, the women dug within themselves to share their joys, sorrows and sometimes nothing at all. In her first class, Baranets recalled that she presented a poem prompt asking them to share memories of their childhoods and one woman decided not to do so for her own reasons.
“She said ‘I didn’t like any of it,’” recalled Baranets. “She grew up in a really rough household.”
That moment caused her to pause and reflect on where people are currently at in their lives.
“That kind of stuck with me,” Baranets shared. “I was like ‘Wow, they’ve been through a lot and they might not want to share everything that they’ve been through.’”
Throughout the workshop, love for children was a reoccurring theme.
“You can just tell everyone loves their children so much and they just want to talk about them all day,” said Baranets.
With the end of the workshop, Baranets held a poetry reading with the group. She is now working on self-publishing an anthology of the women’s poetry and artwork which will be provided solely to them and the staff of Elizabeth House.
Looking back on the experience, Baranets said she was grateful for the lessons the women taught her during their time together.
“You don’t really know a whole lot about a person just by looking at them, or looking at where they come from, or who they appear to be,” Baranets expressed. “You really get to know a person more by listening to what they have to say, especially if it’s in the form of a poem or a piece of art of a writing that they do.”
To learn more about Elizabeth House, visit elizabethhouse.net.