In mid-June, Reader to Reader hosted a group of mothers from the Care Center for the Athena program, a week-long program aimed at imparting financial and nutritional knowledge, and empowering the mothers to realize that they have their own powerful stories within them through writing and recording spoken word poetry.
This year marked the ninth year of the Athena program.
Everyday, Chef Bill Collins cooked us breakfast and lunch, showing the mothers sample menus and illustrating the health and cost benefits of home-cooked meals as opposed to fast food options. Chef Bill also demonstrated cooking skills, such as carving a chicken and creating simple syrup.
One of our favorite activities during the week was helping the mothers make picture books for their children. They filled their books with pictures of their children and quotes, and wrote heartfelt messages to read to their children. As they worked, they relayed stories about their experiences with pregnancy and childbirth, including all the joys and pains of motherhood. The moms also showed off pictures of their babies and shared funny anecdotes.
Early on in the week, we also led a spoken word poetry workshop with all of the moms where they wrote poems that spoke to their experiences as mothers and with their families. On Tuesday, we went to record the poems that the moms wrote at Northfire Recording Studio in Amherst. While there, the studio’s power went out, interrupting our session, but fortunately, we were able to go back on Wednesday to finish all of the recordings. On the final day of the Athena Program, we went to the Care Center and played the finished recordings of the mothers’ poems for them and their classmates, to celebrate the great work they did this week, all while drinking delicious smoothies.
Another one of the highlights was a financial literacy workshop that was presented by Florence Bank. The mothers learned about budgeting, credit-ratings, and how to manage a debit and credit card.
Throughout the week the mothers received free books and clothes for themselves and their children.
It was a busy week filled with lots of different activities, and perhaps most importantly, lots of delicious food—we had a lot of fun, and can’t wait to create more memories next year!