“I started attending meetings for YoungLives,” Kurtzman said in an interview with the Citizen. “And I really began to enjoy the heart and spirit of the YoungLives program. It’s just a huge outreach. We get together, have fun, play games, and most importantly of all, build relationships.”
Kurtzman now mentors two young Norwalk mothers through YoungLives.
“It’s about interacting with the girls,” she said.
YoungLives, an umbrella initiative of the larger YoungLife organization, is tailored for teen moms. Once a month, YoungLives, which offers programs in both Bridgeport and Norwalk, holds meetings to foster friendships among young mothers, their children and area mentors.
“YoungLife doesn’t start with a program,” explains YoungLifes’ mission statement. “It starts with adults concerned enough about kids to go to them, on their turf and in their culture, building bridges of authentic friendship. These relationships don’t happen overnight — they take time, patience, trust and consistency.”
“I’ve gone grocery shopping with the girls,” Kurtzman said.
“I also help get them to and from work. I’ve been invited to their children’s birthday parties, and we went pumpkin picking in the fall. It has just been a lot of fun. And I’m not just bonding with the girls, but with their babies. I’m trying to show them that I love them, even through crises.”
Kurtzman fondly recalled how she attended a YoungLives summer camp near Lake Champion in upstate New York this past summer.
“I was privileged to go to this,” she said. “There were about 200 moms and 200 babies. You have meal times together, and you have heartfelt talks. You’re also having lots of fun, but at the same time you’re building relationships with the girls.”
The camp, set in the bucolic Catskill Mountains, offered zip lines, boating and other outdoor activities for the mothers, their children and mentors.
“It’s an opportunity for the moms to just be teenagers,” Brown said.
YoungLives is open to any teen mom. Mentoring usually occurs every week, with monthly meetings scheduled to get all of the moms and mentors in the same place at the same time. Often times discussion groups will help the young women delve deeper into life issues. YoungLives also provides practical assistance with basic needs like food, baby items, schooling and employment needs, as well as referrals to health, education and other social services.
“Many of the mentors are from local churches,” Brown said. “So interest in the program spreads by word of mouth.”
“The organization embodies integrity,” Kurtzman said, adding this advice for prospective mentors: “I think the rewards of participating just outweigh any concerns you might have. The joy you get from imparting God’s love on these girls is just wonderful.”
For information, visit http://younglivesfairfieldcounty.younglife.org .