2019 House Update

December 27th, 2019

Hello from the Center for the Working Poor! This year there have been many memorable events, including an epic Thanksgiving dinner with many friends and family from our community.

We have gone through a lot this year in relation to Sara Kurtz’s struggle with her epilepsy. We started this year with an interesting experiment in which our whole community tried out the ketogenic diet, which involved us eating more bacon and fat than you can imagine. Paul went all the way from being a vegetarian since he was 14 to having more meat than the general population of some countries. In short, this diet was developed to support people with epilepsy, to put them into a fasting-like state that has been proven to be very effective, especially with children, in healing seizure disorders. However, in Sara’s case it had little effect on her night-time seizures. After several months we resumed our primarily vegetarian meals.

This fall, Sara underwent surgery to implant a device to monitor her brain activity in the hospital, to prepare for the possibility of brain surgery that will hopefully eliminate her seizures. This procedure resulted in a lot of good information and Sarah has scheduled her brain surgery for this coming January. She has recovered well from her two weeks in the hospital and is back to work.

Sara’s work at Social Model Recovery Systems has entered a new phase in which she has built a more sustainable program and staff that can hold the recovery program for people with serious and challenging mental health problems and drug addiction. Sarah felt incredibly grateful that the program she had helped to found was strong enough to thrive with leaders to guide it during her recent hospitalization.

Judy Esber and Brandon Youndt have spent their first year of marriage together. Brandon has become quite a leader in the Sunrise movement, as a coordinator of their art program and training. He’s especially known for his amazing keychains and movement swag. Judy has developed a talent for coaching people on their finances and is currently supporting people that need financial counseling.

We’re happy to report that Danielle Raskin just accepted a job as a field organizer for IfNotNow, a movement of young Jews trying to end Jewish-American support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Prior to the new job, Danielle took some unemployment time for dedicated self improvement, which has inspired us all, including a retreat at Landmark Forum doing co-counseling, and training with National People’s Action, a national community organizing network.

We are sad to say goodbye to Clarissa Kern, who stayed with us for almost a year. Clarissa is an activist documentary filmmaker who was one of the producers of the very powerful and influential documentary Surviving R. Kelly. She found out about us through a Vipassana meditation retreat and immediately fit in with our culture and provided an amazingly guilty pleasure of homemade mac n cheese with breaded topping and collard greens. However, she got a job producing for Refinery29 in Santa Monica with sometimes over an hour commute, and needed to move to accommodate her work. We’re sad to see her go. But we know she’ll be coming back for community events and Thanksgiving again next year.

This last year, Paul has traveled quite a bit to the east coast to work with the Ayni Institute and his work partner, Carlos Saavedra. Carlos and Paul have done two social movement ecology trainings for community organizations and social movement leaders from across the country. The demand for the training has been overwhelming as well as the response. It has given language to people’s understanding of all the different ways people participate in creating change in their communities. And recently Paul has returned from Spain, where This Is An Uprising, which Paul co authored with his brother Mark, has done well. Their book reached number five on the bestseller list in Catalonia, and Paul was invited by activists there to attend a conference and give a book presentation. For three days, Paul was taxied around with his Catalonian publisher and a translator, going from one interview or talk to the next, from 9 am to 11 pm. Paul was interviewed on the most popular political radio program in Catalonia, two major TV stations, and a dozen newspapers and magazines. The book presentation was at the largest bookstore in Barcelona, filled over capacity with 250 people sitting on the floor and standing in the back. Paul also had a wonderful time hanging out with organizers from Novact, a strategic nonviolence training organization in Europe and North Africa.

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