On March 25th, 2016, my group was able to work with Iona Senior Services. This was a fun experience for me because we were able to work with a farmer’s market of sorts, and I have never been to one from the seller’s perspective. Even though we were not selling the food, we were still offering what we had to the members coming to our lunch and hoping they would like what we had for them. After they all came through the market, I was able to go in and help fix lunch. This was fun for me because I work in food service currently, and a lot of the meal that was being prepared was that of a catering sort. After, we served the meals to the guests and sat down and ate with them. This was fun because I was able to talk with one lady who wanted to know all about my major, and told me that she believed that I was going to be an amazing teacher, just from listening to me tell stories about the children and the things that I most loved doing with them. This was inspiring for me because she had not even seen me, and she believed that I should follow my dreams. After everyone left, we helped to clean the kitchen, eating area, and the area where we had the Farmer’s Market.
Today was our first day working with YSOP in Washington, D.C. We arrived early in the morning for orientation and then got into our assigned groups and parted ways. My group was headed to Martha’s Table. Martha’s Table is an organization that provides a variety of services to the homeless. Their main goals are to provide access to education, food, and opportunity. Our task of the day was to peel and cut potatoes. Although this job seemed unimportant, our supervisor explained to us how their operation runs almost entirely on volunteers like us. What seemed like a small task was actually going to be able to provide a meal to hundreds of people that night. Everyone we worked with was very friendly and also very passionate about Martha’s Table and everything that they do for the homeless.
On our last day in DC, our time volunteering was completed. We spent this day visiting the Holocaust Museum along with the few Smithsonian’s we were able to squeeze in. Our groups split up and conquered the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of American History. Once we finished our tour of the museums, we made our way to Capitol Hill and were able to see the front steps of the Capitol where most presidential inauguration speeches are given.
Looking back at the entirety of our time spent in DC, I learned a lot about our nation’s capitol that isn’t taught or shown in the media. I learned about the affordable housing system and the lack of available shelters, along with the process of supplying the hungry and homeless with their basic necessities on a day-to-day basis. I definitely gained a better personal understanding for those I may encounter in the future who are or who have experienced homelessness or hunger.
On Thursday, the 4th day in DC, my group was sent to Seabury which is a company designed to go to the homes of the elderly who need assistance taking care of their homes – inside and out. Here, we were sent to a woman’s house where we cleaned up her yard and revitalized her gardens. With the best weather we’d had all week, this task was a welcomed one. After we were done, the woman thanked us “Midwest folks” for coming to help make her lawn and garden look beautiful again.
After our volunteer services and reflections on this day, our entire group embarked on a walking tour of the monuments. Our first stop was to the National Mall where we saw the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool leading to the Lincoln Memorial. It was very humbling being in the same place that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his most memorable speech. From there, we saw the World War II Memorial along with the Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials.
Being in our nation’s capitol provided us with a wide variety of learning experiences, both from our volunteering and from the historical sites we had the opportunity to visit.
On the third day, we volunteered at a senior’s long term care facility. Here we were able to interact and converse with the residents. During our stay here we mostly kept the residents company. The employees allowed us to polish the female residents’ fingernails, since that was something they enjoyed. It was a simple yet very fulfilling task.
During this evening, we revisited Georgetown and spent time along the banks of the historical Potomac River. Although the volunteer hours were short this day, any time spent helping others is time well spent.
The second day of our trip, two of our groups went to the Capitol Area Food Bank. Here, we were able to help them re-package boxes of collected food that were to be sent out to different shelters and be distributed across DC. I was amazed at how large the food bank was when we first got there. The size was similar to a mid-size factory, and the amount of food they are able to store inside is incredible. It was a great feeling knowing that we were sorting through food and ensuring that those in need were receiving the best food available to them.
During this day, we were able to see the White House, even though the President was not in, and the National Archives and its documents.
Tuesday evening was my favorite experience of this trip. During my previous ASB experience, there was definitely more interaction between us and those who we were helping. Tuesday evening, YSOP brought our ASB group together with a group of elementary children from Baltimore. Together, we prepared and served a group of the first 40 or so people to enter into the church’s dining hall. Before the meal was served, we were able to sit and talk with each of them and play games with them. I found it very inspiring that despite how down on their luck some of them were, they never spoke negative about anything that they had gone through in their life. To them, everything that had happened, happened for a reason. Many of them still had faith in their beliefs, which is something even the luckiest of people struggle with. They were all very grateful to have us volunteers serving them and waiting on them.
There were no separate statuses in that room; there were no discriminations. Everyone was equal, and everyone was friendly.
Our first day volunteering in DC, my group was assigned to go to Martha’s Table, an organization who works to provide food, education, and opportunities. While there, we were assigned to help with the preparation of the evening meal. It was interesting to know that, although we only had 7 of us from NW and 2 other volunteers from the DC area, the meal we were helping with would feed over 500 people in need. That was an amazing fact to see how wide our impact could spread.
Once we left Martha’s, we explored the area of Georgetown, DC which showed us a glimpse into the upper end of city life. Something I noticed was that almost immediately after crossing the bridge between downtown and the Georgetown area, it wasn’t that the people living on the streets disappeared but that they were well hidden from the main street. After exploring the city, the whole ASB group met at the YSOP church for reflection which was when each group shared what they did and what they learned from it.
The evenings of this trip, our group was able to choose a location agreed upon. Monday evening we made the journey to Chinatown and were able to see some local attractions in the area.
Today we worked a place called Martha’s Outfitter’s which is an actually thrift store. Martha’s Outfitters is connected to a soup kitchen called Martha’s Table and a few other operations. However at Martha’s Outfitter they do more for those who are homeless, because they had a list of things that they were able to grab from the store. Three outfit, 1 coat, 1 pair of shoes, one household item then they got 2 pairs of socks, a pair of underwear(if it was a man), a bra(if it was a women), a shirt and some toiletries. Be began by going to the donation piles and hanging those up and bringing them to the front of the shop. We all did separate jobs, some hung clothes, some took donations to the back and Sarah and I work in the part of the store where the homeless people would check in with us and we would give them something’s. Sarah and I worked as a team and would bag the clothes and make sure they had everything right, for the last 30 minutes I took over the computer to check people in. When our time was up we left and walked back to YSOP for our final breakdown/reflection. That night we left from YSOP to walk the monuments that we had not seen yet. It took a few hours to get through all of the monuments, it was fun and we got to meet up with a recent graduate of NW who now lived in DC.
Today we got to go to our service site without Amy because she was sick and couldn’t leave the hotel. We took the metro transit all the way to Rockville, Maryland, which was 13 stops away which is roughly 50 minutes. When we got off the transit we had to jump on to a bus to go our site. Well, after we got off the bus we found a building that was describe in our direction but it didn’t have the correct building number. We looked around the street to find our building but could not see it, it was described as a white building. We had to call the head lady for Nourish Now to help us find the correct building which to happen to be on the opposite side of the street in a cream building. Nourish Now is a small non-profit that serve families in need of food by giving them a box full of fruits, veggies, and assortment of other things. If the family has a baby or small children they will help with baby food or anything that they have at the time. We started out by sorting through fresh foods and leftover food from catering companies into smaller food bags. Sarah, Brittney and I organized canned and packaged foods (mac and cheese, dressing etc.) until they ran out. While we were doing that, the rest of our group was making lunches from left over catering food. At the end of our time we took a group picture with all of the volunteers that worked that day and the people who ran the operation. The bus was coming down the street toward the bus stop that we were at. We were 15 minutes into the bus ride when we realized that we were going the wrong way, we hoped off the bus confused. We crossed the street waiting for another bus for 15 more minutes. When we finally got back to the metro station, the announcer said that the train was broken and that we would have to wait awhile. Once the transit started working again we finally made it back to YSOP. We all regrouped and decided what we were going to do that night, some went to a Wizards game, and some visited a few shops around the hotel. Than about 7 of us navigate our way to Georgetown. We went shopping, I took a lot of pictures, and just had a great night. I learned today to always check to see which was the bus is going and don’t assume they are all going the same way.
Today was a long day we went to our service site and also serviced dinner to some people who are experiencing homelessness. Our group and Marcy’s group all went to the Capital Area Food Bank to sort through their donations and other things that have purchased. Personally, I was in the group that went through the snack boxes and check the packaging for their expiration dates. Then we repackage them for churches and other organizations around this food bank to come and pick up the repackaged boxes. When we were done with our service for the day, we went to lunch and got to walk around the White House and other places around I Street and Pennsylvania Ave. When it was time to go back to the YSOP building, we regroup and got ready for our service dinner. We made Shepard’s Pie, Vegetable Stir-fry, baked beans and a Garden Salad, then for dessert we (the 7th graders or the other group) decorated the cupcakes. I was back in the kitchen making the Stir-Fry the whole time everyone else decorated the room and made all of the food and drinks. I had fun working with Jessica and Zach to make the Stir-Fry and with everyone else who was cooking in the kitchen. We had a quick meeting before they opened the doors then I helped finish the Stir-Fry. I walk out of the kitchen with Jessica, looking for a place to sit down to chat with some of our guest. When Marcy waved me over and introduced me to two men that were deaf or hard of hearing. I sat down not knowing what to do, super nervous but I was over reacting. One guy was really nice and would finger-spell slowly for Lacie and me, then he gave us sign names which was really cool. I finished the night with not signing a lot to our guests but I believe that since I understood most of the conversation it was a great accomplishment. I helped clean up and do some dishes with Shea, we had our reflection which lasted an hour. But with our reflection that we had I realized that I want to set a goal for myself for the rest of the week, which is to sign questions and have a conversation with a Deaf person when I get the chance to. Here are some pictures from my day: