30 SEP 07: AMSTER-DAMES
(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Guest bloggers are filling in while we're on a slow-paced vacation. This item was submitted by former WTVM/WXTX news anchor Deborah Singer.)
When Richard asked me to be a guest blogger, I have to admit I was honored, greatly. I have long enjoyed Richard's observant, witty, intellectual writings on his blog and in the news shows he has produced for WTVM and WXTX. There's no one like Richard. ; )
Columbus may remember me as Roszell Gadson's co-anchor on FOX 54 News at Ten and anchor of the 5:30 evening news on Channel 9. Two months ago, I left Channel 9. Since then, life has changed dramatically, but in the best of ways.
After leaving the station, I spent the month of August in Amsterdam volunteering at a Christian youth hostel in the heart of the city's red light district. At The Shelter City I met backpackers from around the world. When I wasn't swapping life stories with the travelers I was working in the hostel's café and working as a cook. I lived in a community house with 39 other people who hailed from places like Germany, Hungary, and South Africa. It was really fun connecting with people from such a variety of cultures.
So why go to Amsterdam? What took me there was an experience that happened 11 years ago. On a college trip, I stayed at the same youth hostel, as a guest, and learned about an inspiring outreach program to the city's prostitutes. It's called the Scarlet Cord. The organization's name comes from the bible story of Rahab, a prostitute who hid some Israelite spies and then saved herself and her family by dangling a scarlet cord from her window, to let the Israelites know that she had given safe shelter to some of their spies. Prostitution is legal in Amsterdam and women get sucked into it for different reasons. Some women choose the work as a quick way to get out of debt, others believe selling their bodies is the only option they have for a living. Still others, many others, are trafficked in from other countries. What the Scarlet Cord does is build friendships with these women and gain their trust. They then teach the women practical work skills and trades and eventually some of the women choose to leave prostitution for a better life. The stories of these women deeply touched me and I always wanted to return to Amsterdam to be involved with the work of the Scarlet Cord.
In May I saw a window of opportunity to return to Amsterdam. The youth hostel desperately needed volunteers for August. Since my contract was up at the end of July, I decided to go. It was perfect timing. My hope was to return to Amsterdam and work closely with these prostitutes. But upon my arrival, I learned my involvement would be limited. To build the trust of the women, the outreach requires all volunteers to spend at least a year in their program. My role would be behind the scenes, learning about the situation and observing the work being done as well as hearing the success stories of women who left the sex industry.
Going to Amsterdam was one of the best things I could have done, especially at this point in my life. Working ten years straight in TV news can leave you feeling burned out and a bit jaded. When you're reporting on murders, scandals; tragedies in general you have to remove your feelings from the story, which sometimes leaves you numb to the heartbreaking situations around you. But you never forget those stories and the people in them. Being in touch with humanity on a personal level is good and right. Meeting people from around the world and hearing the stories of their lives was inspiring. Amsterdam was a place of refreshment and life there made some profound changes to my life.
I'm back in the United States now beginning a new life in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I've taken a leap of faith, moving to a strange new city for love. I hope to continue working as a TV news anchor/reporter, but I'm really up for new challenges, in whatever career that might be.
I do miss Columbus. Staying three and a half years in the same city in this business is not common. I miss my church, cool co-workers, my charming Lakebottom hardwood floored, 10-foot ceiling-ed apartment and familiar hangouts like Fountain City Coffee. But there are new coffee shops to discover in this Arkansas college town (Go Razorbacks!) I get to see my boyfriend every day and I live in an actual house, which also has hardwood floors. Life ain't bad!
Thanks for reading this blog. And thank you, Richard for allowing me to share something personal, from my heart to your readers.
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BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: suspended for vacation