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Gane Bourgeois

Gané Bourgeois is the Madison House Educational Director
Interview by Norma Heredia, May 2015

What is peace to me?  Do you want the candid answer? The candid answer is the ability to sleep through the night without hearing bullets. I guess I am in a different situation than others because I do not live in the most peaceful of neighborhoods. I guess you can talk about peace as in solitude and tranquility, or we can talk about peace as in people getting along. And I would say this neighborhood defies both definitions. We see and hear the fights in the neighborhood. So you have a better understanding, my apartment is divided into two parts. It is like a duplex, to put it in better terms, but I will spare you the boring details. I compare my tranquility to my parent’s house in Seattle because when I’m there I am far better rested. I was there for Mother’s Day and before I left I looked at myself in the mirror for a long time. I noticed that I didn’t have the bags underneath my eyes that come from not being able to sleep without fear. I don’t have to worry if the rounds that were shot outside if they went through my house.

In my opinion, communication and understanding needs to happen in my community to make peace more prominent. Also, Christ needs to become more prevalent as well. The Madison House Mission Statement is “To shine Christ's light and offer hope through relationships, education, and activities.” If we want to uphold our mission then we must make sure Christ is present through these activities, education, and relationships for kids to have a relationship with God. To make this happen we have reached out to the neighboring schools. We go to Washington Middle School which is within a one mile radius from our location, and we are trying to go there as often as we are able to. Tony, the Madison House Youth Community Center Director, and I have been going once a week to read to ESL students (English as a Second Language). In the future we are going to try to go to Adams Elementary School which is also within a one mile radius. Our main objective is to make a connection through the kids because we are certain that they will take what they learn with us to their parents. This is a much better alternative than knocking door to door and preaching the gospel because the parents won’t find any personal connect to this. Whereas if their kids come home and begin to talk about God then, there is that connection.

When I first came to Yakima – fresh out of college – I wrote a poem titled “Fences.” In my poem I compared the fences to a person’s defenses because as human beings we have this automatic defense to not allow anybody in. This poem is about the physical barriers we put up because we don’t want people to bring down our emotional barriers. I was really taken aback by the fences these people in this neighborhood had because they were the ones with metal chains, about hip height, not all around, and they’re see-through. However, if I were to go twenty blocks up the street the fences in those neighborhoods are over eight feet tall and all wood. Therefore, if you go into those neighborhoods there it is like people don’t want to be a part of anybody’s life. They want to shut the whole world away. This is not the case in the neighborhood where I live. If my neighbor is having a barbeque he will make sure to invite me over for some food if he sees me. In other words, he wants to let me in. Again, this would not be the case in the neighborhoods twenty blocks up. The fence are so high that I have no sort of communication with them. All I know of them is what is cooking on their grill, but aside from that I don’t know who those people are. It is obvious that they don’t want to be a part of my life. The only way I will get to know my neighbor is if I take the initiative and knock on their door. This is the only way that the physical barrier will be broken. My point is we need more vulnerability and transparency within our neighbors, and know one another because we will feel much safer and at peace with one another.
Subpages (1): Sue Canfield