September 4, 2012 (Smile #13, San Francisco) — Meet my “little sisters,” Jo’onnah and Talayah. I met the girls at The Thrive House for Youth which provides kids in underserved communities with a nurturing environment to succeed and thrive in life. Jo’oannah and Talayah are both already big sisters to siblings in their immediate family, but they both need someone else to be their Big Sister – someone to be a positive role model to help them realize their potential and build their futures. Since they are already best friends, it was only natural for me to become a Big Sister to both of them and do activities together to keep their friendship strong.

Fun Night #1

Fun Night #1: Jo'onnah (left) and Talayah (right) craved for pho.

Whatever the challenges, first and foremost, I thought it was important to give them an opportunity to see beyond their everyday world and dream big. It started simply by setting academic goals, helping them with their homework, and then planning “fun nights” when goals were achieved. It was fun letting them enjoy the things they already love to do like going to the movies and shopping, but at the same time, I was also there for them if they had broken hearts…and just to be their Big Sister when they needed me. Best of all, it made me feel good to see them forget about their adversity – even for a few hours – just to see them smile.

Fun Night #1
April 20, 2012: The girls craved for Vietnamese food so we went to Golden King Vietnamese Restaurant and ordered several Vietnamese signature dishes like pho and rice paper spring rolls. We completed the night with ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery.

Fun Night #2
May 4, 2012: The girls wanted to see the romantic comedy “Think Like A Man” and I’m so glad we spent our girls’ night watching this funny movie about love and the rules of modern dating.

Fun Night #2

Fun Night #2: The girls saw the romantic comedy Think Like A Man.

Fun Night #3
June 15, 2012: I promised the girls a shopping excursion at the end of the school year if they achieved their academic goals. I’m proud to announce that Talayah worked hard for her passing grades despite the struggles her family faces day to day. She and I went shopping together at Forever 21 and I treated her to some cute outfits!

Looking Forward To Another Fun Night
My journey with Jo’onnah and Talayah will continue. By simply changing their perspective of what the world can offer, I hope to start changing their lives for the better.

Where They Are Now
Jo’onnah and Talayah will both enter the 10th Grade the 2012-2013 school year in San Francisco. Jo’onnah is in a new public high school where she’s trying to adjust to new teachers and friends on top of keeping up with her academic studies. Fitting in is always a challenge.

Fun Night #3

Fun Night #3: Talayah and I went shopping at Forever21 and I treated her to cute outfits for the summer!

Talayah lives with her grandmother and cares for her at the same time. When Talayah is at home, there is usually no time for homework because helping out with family chores is the main priority. She will continue to attend Convent of the Sacred Heart High School where she is receiving a scholarship from Jennifer C. King and Timothy C. Fredel, the donors of The Thrive House for Youth.

Related Articles
Thrive House – A Nurturing Environment For youth
Building A “Foundation House” For Kids In San Francisco: So Urban Youth Can Thrive!
Thuy: Smile #10

About the Author – Rosemary Do
I officially started documenting “my happiness project” on January 30, 2012. Each day, I will publish the special person who has invited me into their life. I invite you to come along the journey with me and collect smiles and spread happiness to one person — one day at at time.

Follow me @SmilingRosemary or be my friend on Facebook.


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