A Sense of Home
Podcast #123 — Aired March 6, 2017

Imagine being 18 years old and having no family to lean on. That’s reality for many former foster youth once they age out of the system. Enter Georgie Smith and A Sense of Home, a non-profit that transforms the lives of former foster youth by helping them create their first ever homes. This week on BetterWorldians Radio, we’re speaking with Georgie about her organization brings volunteers together to give young people in need a place to live and a community to count on.

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Georgie Smith
Co-Founder, A Sense of Home

Georgie Smith is the co-founder of A Sense of Home, a non-profit that transforms the lives of former foster youth by helping them create their first ever homes. Georgie Smith is a filmmaker, chef, and designer with a passion for giving back. Georgie responded to a cry for help from a former foster youth after he saw one of her cooking and design videos on Georgie Smith HOME. Georgie and her co-founder, Melissa Goddard saw the impact they had on the young man and so they took the concept of A Sense of Home to experts in transition aged foster youth. With that guidance, Georgie and Melissa developed A Sense of Home into a sustainable program.

 

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
Hi, welcome to BetterWorldians Radio! BetterWorldians Radio is a weekly broadcast whose mission is to uplift and inspire you to make the world a better place. I'm Ray Hansell joined today by my co-host, MarySue Hansell. BetterWorldians Radio has brought you by A Better World Foundation and is co-hosted by the family team that created the popular social game on Facebook called A Better World. It rewards players for doing good deeds while helping to raise money and awareness for charities. To date, over 40 million good deeds have been done at A Better World by more than 4 million people in over 100 countries. Joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio is Georgie Smith, co-founder of A Sense of Home, a nonprofit that transforms the lives of former foster youth by helping them create their first ever home. Georgie Smith is a filmmaker, chef and designer with a passion for giving back. Georgie responded to a cry for help from a former foster youth after he saw one of her cooking and designing videos on Georgie Smith Home. Georgie and her co-founder, Melissa Goddard, saw the impact they had on the young man and so they took the concept of A Sense of Home to experts in transition aides to foster use. With that guide, Georgia and Melissa developed A Sense of Home into a sustainable program. Today, we're going to talk about that program and what's become of it. Hi, Georgie. Thanks for joining us today on BetterWorldians Radio.

Georgie
Thank you Ray and MarySue.

Raymond Hansell
You're very welcome. We want to talk a little bit about A Sense of Home and with your partner Melissa, also. How did that all come about? What inspired you to do this?

Georgie
Well, as you mentioned in your intro. A young man named Barry reached out to me and having seen his cooking and design videos and said, Could you help me? and I didn't know what that meant. But seeing him in his first ever apartment with a few belongings in garbage bags, I did what I would do for my nephew, a friend, a child. I just asked everyone I knew for hand-me-down furniture and we created a home here and I saw a radical transformation in him. And I then looked around on the internet that who else was doing this so that I could refer to all of the friends who are now asking me for help. I was wanting to refer to what I thought would be an existing nonprofit that would be doing this because it seemed so obvious to me and I was stunned to find that no one was doing it. And I thought that it was such a simple way for the community to get involved and to share what they have too much of and to share their time and resources in a way that built healthier communities and so I just kept doing it. It wasn'tit just seemed to be the right thing to do when I didn't have anyI just kept doing it. There was just no turning back, really once you see something you can't unsee it and so I continued because no one else was doing it and I did see that this was the way that the youth that have never ever felt like they belonged in a home ever in their lives to create this first time what is vital to setting up a foundation from which they could thrive.

Raymond Hansell
What a wonderful inspiration and you know that's an awful lot of our programs about charities like yours and frequently, they kind of stepping stone into this little by little. As you say once youve seen it, you see it so what are you going to do about that. So what's it like for young person aging out of the foster care system, what kind of challenges do they face?

Georgie
Well, they stay out on their own so they don't have family, they dont have community; theres no one for them to turn to. So at 18 or 21, depends on where they are when they're exiting the system, they have been a ward of the state so they've been in an institution that has done everything for them in a very you know, bureaucratic away and then they're out fending for themselves. So theyre very much without life skills and have extreme trauma that theyve overcome and that they're still dealing with and they'reyou know imagine what you were like at 18 trying to figure out the world on your own, making your way, trying to get a job, go to college, trying to find a place to live. It's incredibly daunting so the statistics on them is really astonishing. 50 percent will become homeless, 50 percent will become incarcerated and a very high rate of the girls will be sold off to sex life trade. It's a very uphill battle for them. So when they actually achieve getting themselves their first ever apartment that's why we felt it was so important to celebrate them and to provide everything that they need. Fridges, bed, absolutely everything one needs to set up a home and the really important aspect of it it's not the stuff, it's the people showing up or the volunteers that come with such love to say you matter, you are worthy, you have made it. Were going to celebrate you because they've never had that before. They've never had someone that wasn't paid to show up in their life to say you matter. So all these strangers showing up, giving them hope that they can trust in humanity gives them hope for a brighter tomorrow having overcome enormous odds.

Raymond Hansell
I can see that and you know, the famous philosopher Woody Allen once said, Eighty percent of life is just showing up and it's amazing

Georgie
Yeah.

Raymond Hansell
That these people show up and I got to believe that such a feeling of, Hey, I'm worth something. Look at this, these people don't know me and they showed up for me. Look what they've done. So talk to us a little bit about what the process of actually setting up that home is? A little bit more detail I mean how do you?

Georgie
Well, so we have an old former foster youth staff so that is really key to what we do is that we haveyou know, I accidentally came across this and what I realized was that there isnt an organization for them, run by them and that was the best possible example for foster youth is to learn from their peers because I'm an Australian with a funny accent. I'm white and have had a good education and loving family; I don't know anything of their experience. So seeing the youth that we've hired, seeing how they are flourishing and coming to create the home is vital. So I came with 7 foster youth staff to, run the entire operation so that means that we collect donated furniture from the Los Angeles area and then we store it in our warehouse. You know, inventory needs to happen and then once we are set to create a home which happens 2 or 3 times a week, we're pulling that inventory and we're staging it in the warehouse according to the inspiration you know, trying to create the most inspired home for that particular youth in need and passion and then we load it up in the truck and the team meets volunteers. Anywhere from 15 to 30 people depending on the size of the space. We meet them at the location and everything is labeled according to their rooms so its color coded according to the room and then the volunteers get color coded on their name tags according to the room and we set out and create the home. So we unload the truck, we stage it, we clean everything, we make it look beautiful and that can happen as quickly as 60 minutes because we have such a seamless process and then the most important part of the home creation is the housewarming and so we fit in a circle and we share what we want for the future of that individual we've just were created for. And most importantly, are you, who are our staff, are conveying their stories and what it means to them and why they do what do and they often do that in spoken word of songs which tends to resonate more deeply and that really an intrinsic part of that shift [00:08:31 inaudible]. It's a very healing process that happens so they can see this magical thing thats just taken place but just to hear someone thats been through what they've been through and their ability to trust and to grow and to have heart and to have purpose in their lives is very, very impactful. So in that moment, being in that really intimate space at home that's the shift that occurs for them is that there is an ability to trust that there is a broader tomorrow.

Raymond Hansell
Thats fantastic. Now, how do you find the locations for these home experiences?

Georgie
So foster youth is eligible for section eight so they get a section eight apartment. Sometimes they don'tif they have too manyif they're earning too much money so they might have a couple of jobs and they might be studying but that might be too much. They might be owning too much for section eight so theyd have to get the apartment on their own so that is, they achieve that themselves so we say we will meet you halfway. Well meet you 50-50.

Raymond Hansell
Okay.

Georgie
Which is setting up, the concept of building healthy relationships, of showing up in a relationship. If you do this, we're going to meet you halfway so we do not do the section eight process for them. They achieve that and then we come in with absolutely everything from toothpaste and shampoo to curtains and floor rugs and dish soap and absolutely everything you can imagine that you need to function and we give them a week's worth of organic frozen food. Everything that they need to begin anew.

Raymond Hansell
That sounds fantastic. So that really is very comprehensive. Is that pretty much the entire scope or are there other services that you want to mention on the air?

Georgie
Probably the most important aspect of it is that we are bringing them community; theyd never had community.

Raymond Hansell
Okay.

Georgie
So all those volunteers that come in then become their community. Now again, you have to show up in that community. It doesn't just exist. So having become further immersed in the community, is by paying forward. So once you've had a home created then you come and create the home for next youth. So often the youth that begin to pay it forward they don't stop so they then find mentors and job opportunities and were then able to vouch for their work ethic because we're seeing them in a clean environment, a work environment so we can recommend them for jobs, the careers, career programs, educational scholarships. So we connect them to various [00:11:20 - inaudible] in a program and we are actually going to be beta testing an app that will, it's called Ying and it's the first of a global time banking app and it will be were the test case for it whereby when if a foster youth pays it forward, theyll get credit for it and they can then use that for somebody else thats say, giving a free meditation class or free yoga class in exchange for that. But they will also be able to get help from people that want to help them with their cause like you know, just the basic things like a mechanic. They don't have you know an uncle or friendly friends that can help them with a car, they usually don't have a good car. Well, they need help finding a car. They need help with their credit, they've often got terrible credit so people that can help them with credit, people that can help them with their resumes. So we're going to be there and at connecting them to see a broader community because we've been doing it manually and now [00:12:20 inaudible], we want to expand that village to everyone that volunteers in the A Sense of Home community. They can connect to a youth that establishes what they need and stuff.

Raymond Hansell
And the app is called Ying?

Gerogie
Ying. It hasn't been launched yet, were testing it next month that it is something that was being heavily researched at the London School of Economics and so it's a kind of, it's time crediting so they do that within small communities that this is going to be. But this will be the first app to enhance that and the time credit will be able to use at certain companies, certain merchants will be taking on credit o you can buy food and groceries with it and things like that.

Raymond Hansell
Is that an acronym? Ying?

Georgie
Meaning the ying and yang, its the

Raymond Hansell
Oh, ying and yang. Okay, all right. I thought maybe

Georgie
Its that were doing service you should be rewarded for.

Raymond Hansell
Oh, I see. Okay. Very, very, very great. Very interesting. Very interesting.

Georgie
Yeah, so we should probably get them on your podcast.

Raymond Hansell
Yes, absolutely. Yes. Well, we're going to talk more about A Sense of Home in a moment. Right now I'd just like to take a brief break and tell our listeners a bit about our game on Facebook called A Better World. A Better World encourages habits of love and goodness, positive mindsets and giving to social causes like these that we're highlighting today to make a positive difference in the world. Players actually do things like sending hearts and love, expressing their gratitude, sharing random acts of kindness in the real world and sending get well notes to real world sick children and so much more. Each month we partner with a different charity, a real world charity and challenge our players to do a certain level or number of good deeds within the game. When they do, we release funds directly to the charity part of the month. We're happy to announce that this month we are partnering with A Sense of Home. When our players reach a do good goal, we will release funds to help create a home for a former foster youth. You can find out more at abetterworld.com and please check it out. So now here's my co-host, MarySue Hansell.

MarySue Hansell
Thanks, Ray. I'd like to now welcome Yolanda Elon. Yolanda is a former foster youth who now works at A Sense of Home as a program director. Hi, Yolanda. Welcome to BetterWorldians Radio.

Yolanda
Hey, thank you for having me.

MarySue Hansell
Can you tell our listeners a bit about your situation and how you came to A Sense of Home for help?

Yolanda
Yeah, so I you know, before I found out about A Sense of Home, I actually wasI had a lot of challenges and struggle. You know, finishing up college and I didnt have a stable place to live. So I was kind of bouncing all over the place. Anywhere between like crashing on a friend's couches to sleeping in my car and it was a really tough time for me and I was trying to make it through college. So finally I was able to save up enough money to get my first like, little studio apartment and it was really small and I found out about A Sense of Home because really, after I had just got my apartment I had nothing else to get. And so that's when I came across A Sense of Home for help to see if they could come and bring me furniture and see how they could best you know, help me on my journey.

MarySue Hansell
So what did they do? Tell us exactly what happened. Its so interesting.

Yolanda
You know, it's funny because when I thought of it as a home. Initially, I thought you know these are movers, they are going to come and bring me you know, furniture and leave it.

MarySue Hansell
Yeah.

Yolanda
But you know, they came. They came into my little apartment and it was like maybe about 20 people in this little studio setting everything up for me. You know just bringing me everything that I needed down to my [00:16:10 inaudible] to kitchen appliances and just they brought everything that I needed. And what I always say is that it felt like family for me because I've never really had that where people brought me stuff and you know, I didn't have to pay. There was no expectation there. So I just felt very blessed and the family part of it was the most significant part for me because that's what really hit deep with me and made me want to get more involved and stay involved with A Sense of Home.

Marysure
So Yolanda, did they ask how big the apartment was? I was just wondering how the process went? So they knew the size or they came and looked first?

Yolanda
Yeah, yeah. Well, they asked me plenty of questions and then also, I sent tons of pictures from different angles.

MarySue Hansell
Oh, I see.

Yolanda
And also a list of my needs that you know, items that I needed so they had a pretty good idea of everything that I needed and then also the size of my space. So you know, it's funny when they brought everything it fit perfectly and when I saw it I was like, That's not going to fit in my apartment. So yeah, it worked out.

MarySue Hansell
I bet it looked beautiful.

Yolanda
Yeah.

MarySue Hansell
We need to see a picture. Are there any pictures on Facebook?

Yolanda
There is, but you know it was a long time ago when I got mine. But there should be, it may just be a bit further back. Its been almost about 3 years.

MarySue Hansell
Okay.

Yolanda
When theyso I think there might have been a time but if you saw the picture you'd be like, oh my gosh. It looks that amazing.

MarySue Hansell
Well, you know I did look at all the videos on the website and it was very interesting. Ill recommend to our listeners to take a look because it's just a beautiful process to see.

Yolanda
Yeah.

Marysure
Now, Yolanda you're are currently employed by A Sense of Home.

Yolanda
Yeah.

MarySue Hansell
What is it like to get able to give back? So do you actually work there or you're a volunteer there?

Yolanda
Well, I started off volunteering as paying it forward so I would come, you know. After they did my home, I would come every weekend that they were doing others homes and basically, I just kept paying it forward until they hired me on.

Marysure
Oh, that was great.

Yolanda
So I was hired on as the program director.

MarySue Hansell
Now, tell us why you would encourage our listeners to help support A Sense of Home?

Yolanda
Well, I would encourage it one, because I think its you know, right thing to do and two, because I think that for the foster youth population, we're kind of this invisible population that a lot of people don't know about us or our struggles and if they do, it's kind of this stigma and so I would encourage people to get involved and to get knowledge. Not only as a gift for the youth that they'll be helping, but then it's also a gift for so many people that are part of our community.

MarySue Hansell
You know you're right. I never really gave that thought about foster children that get aged out and I bet most people don't so it's wonderful that we could do this show and let people know about it. So thanks so much, Yolanda.

Yolanda
Thank you.

MarySue Hansell
I'd like to welcome back George Smith now. Hi, Georgie.

Georgie
Hey there, how you doing?

MarySue Hansell
Great! You know, I'm curious. I bet your life really changed since founding A Sense of Home. Can you tell us about that?

Georgie
Yeah. Yes, my life had done a 180. I had actually no idea that I would bebut you know, yeah, it's a complete 180. It's not anything that I expected from my life and I didn't have experience with aged out youth. I had a sense of what was going on with them, but I didn't really fully understand it so for your listeners that don't understand it. These are youth that are put into the foster system but never get adopted. That they are placed in homes for a temporary period or in group homes and then at 18, they're out on their own. So I didn't have this understanding of what it was like to be out in the world when you're on your own and I grew up in such a loving family, such a loving community. I felt like I belonged to so many families because my community was so loving and I think that that now as I'm on this journey, I am so grateful for my childhood and all of that love that was given to me by so many different families and community members. I'm able to now give to the youth and you know, as Yolanda mentioned it. It was the way that we showed up without expecting anything and I think that that's what family is. Unconditional love, right and unfortunately that's what they haven't had. There have always been conditions placed on their arrangement with different agencies that have been serving them that they must behave a certain way and they'll get this. But this is just like you've made it, congratulations, you got it. So it's just beautiful transference of humanity. So the way that its changed my life is significant on so many levels, but what it mostly gives me is hope in humanity because every time we're doing a home creation which could be 3 times a week, were seeing people come together. Complete strangers of all walks of life who reveal the best version of themselves, the most beautiful, exquisite, loving nonjudgmental, generous, giving, kind, beautiful, creative versions of themselves. So I am so inspired and I often like if we don't do a home creation, I actually kind of come down a little bit and its like I'm coming down off a humanitarian high so.

MarySue Hansell
I could see what you mean.

Georgie
You know.

MarySue Hansell
I'd love to meet some of those people. They sound wonderful.

Georgie
You should come to a home creation!

MarySue Hansell
I would to love to. It sounds great. Now what have you learned, too from the young people that you do all this for?

Georgie
I think it's really, it goes back to the experience, takes me to a place, the very foundations of human beings. Because they have been stripped off so much, I'm getting to the core of what makes us off as human beings and I recently read by a UCLA, Im in Los Angeles. So it was a UCLA professor that man really got it wrong.

MarySue Hansell
Oh.

Georgie
That as important as water, food and shelter, human connection is as vital.

MarySue Hansell
Yes.

Georgie
And that's what I've learned is that human connection. Without that, people are suffering in ways that debilitates the entire community, that unless people are invested in society and feel a part of society, they're not going to work for society. So I think that Ive learned a very basic concepts ofit feels really primal. It's like very ancient lessons of like why the village worked? Why the village functioned and that is because people come together to work together with a common interest which is lifting up the community. So I've learnt so much and I kind of don't know how to summarize it in a few minutes but it's profound. It's taken me back to the who we are human beings and what makes us flourish and thrive and the youth teach me every day in ways. Their wisdom is immense I feel like they having overcome so much trauma, they can act out in ways that can be a very negative consequences to them, but they also have something that I don't see in other people that its almost magical in their wisdom and inside and the way that they look at the world. They have special gifts that really inspire me every day.

MarySue Hansell
Well, you know your story is very moving. As I was saying to Yolanda, I did look at a lot of those videos and saw a lot of people singing their thanks and dancing their thanks and the joy, it was just profound. So thanks so much for sharing that. Now Georgie, my last question and we do this ask this to all our guests every week. How do you believe A Sense of Home is helping to make the world a better place?

Georgie
I think it isan example, if you don't have any connection to foster youth, you might have a connection to homes. I think that if people are exposed to the story of A Sense of Home, they might become more grateful for what they have in terms of home, their family, their community but it also is a story, a universal story of how the most disenfranchised can become leaders for the change especially. But it's like Yolanda and her comrades in A Sense of Home, former foster youth. This is their organization and that theyre helping serve their peers and by lifting up all of their peers, they're building a healthy community and theyre doing that alongside fellow community members. So I think the example is how to build healthier communities by lifting up the most disenfranchised and empowering the most disenfranchised to become leaders of change.

Raymond Hansell
An excellent example. You guys are both better world leaders. Both you and Yolanda for your participation in this wonderful endeavor. I commend you both. You can learn more about A Sense of Home by going to asenseofhome.org. Georgie and Yolanda, thank you both for joining us today at BetterWorldians Radio.

Georgie
Thank you so much, Ray and MarySue.

Raymond Hansell
You're very welcome.

MarySue Hansell
Thank you.

Yolanda
Thank you.

Raymond Hansell
You're welcome, you're welcome, you're welcome. BetterWorldians Radio is brought to you by BetterWorldians Foundation, a 501C nonprofit whose mission is to make the world a better place by encouraging the best in everyone. Essentially, we believe in planting flowers not just pulling weeds. We focus on positive thinking, positive values and positive actions. In short, our vision is to bring out the BetterWorldian and everybody so that we could all make it a better world. Go to betterworldians.org. I'm sorry betterworldians.com to become a part of this important mission and until next time, be a BetterWorldian.