Urban issues, Non-profits and Community Recreation in DC

Three weeks initially seemed like a long time to be in DC.  The first week we were learning how to navigate the city, open ourselves to a history of African Americans that most of us had never heard before, and realize that there are many perspectives about economic development, affordable housing, homelessness, mass incarceration, education and gentrification that we would have to sort through personally.  By the end of our time together we reflected on how much we had learned, how easy it was to find our way to the next event and that the time actually flew by.  Here are some of our highlights and significant moments over the three week period we lived on Taylor Street, NE at the Washington Community Scholar’s House.

Statistics:

Miles Walked – Approx 120 miles per person

Hours at Local Rec Center – 3 hours every day ~ 63 hours

Basketball games played – Over 130 games.

Service Hours at Capital Area Food Bank – 210 hours

Kids Meals packed- 407 boxes

Seniors Packets – 2160 boxes?

Sorted 1 huge pallet of 50 lb bags of potatoes

Different Types of Restaurants- Peruvian, Ethiopian, Greek, French, Chinese, South African, Thai, Italian.

 

Non-profit Visits and Advocacy Day

Capitol Area Food Bank – We spent 15 hours volunteering at the Capital Area Food Bank, which was within a 10 minute walk from the WCSC house. At these volunteer sessions, we packed over 400 boxes of meals for children to take home with them for weekend nutrition, and about 2160 boxes of meals for seniors which would be delivered to supplement their food supply. These meals went to people in the surrounding D.C. area, as well as in Maryland and Virginia.

MANNA – was one of the many non-profits that we visited during our time spent in Washington D.C.  On our very first day in DC we joined with MANNA and many other non-profit housing groups for Advocacy Day sponsored by the Coalition for Non-Profit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED) in the DC Council Chambers.  We were surrounded by an ocean of yellow shirts.  During advocacy day, we learned about the different city budgets for the various affordable housing programs and how these non-profits were meeting with council members to encourage them to support and increase funding for affordable housing.  While DC is experiencing tremendous economic growth many long-time residents are being displaced because of rising housing costs.  Many units of affordable housing have been lost to redevelopment of upscale housing.  After advocacy day, we went to MANNA to learn more about what they do.  We learned that MANNA is a non-profit program that buys and renovates houses and then sells them to lower-income families for an affordable price.  All throughout the trip, we met people who are involved in MANNA and also people who have purchased housing from MANNA.  MANNA is one of several non-profits that are committed to help solve the D.C. homelessness problem.

Sitar – Sitar Arts Center offers after school and summer programs for children around the city. They offer different kinds of classes to take that help them improve their art skills and express their creativity. Some of the courses that are offered include dance, writing, music, visual arts, digital arts, improv, and many more. Sitar gives students a safe place to go after school or in the summer where they can be in a positive learning environment.

Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys –This school focuses on helping educate low income boys, mainly African American, grades K-6. The school is funded by donations from people and organizations in the community. The school’s curriculum is unique because the first six weeks they do not follow a strict lesson plan. The first six weeks, the boys learn to know each other, develop relationships with their teachers, work on basic respect and getting along. This school is special because they require the parents to be active in their child’s education by attending required PTA meetings and helping them at home with homework. The teachers and staff all have a passion for not only making sure the boys get a good education, but also are concerned with helping them deal with situations outside of the school.

Joseph’s House – On May 18, we were able to visit Joseph’s House, a live-in home for those who are homeless and suffering from terminal illness.  It was truly inspiring to see how passionate and committed the staff are to providing community and support to those who are suffering and in need.  Although Joseph’s House is not a large organization, it has been able to touch many lives, most often in the most vulnerable moments.

Christ House – On the first day of our cross-cultural trip, the group was split into three smaller groups and sent on a scavenger hunt around the city. One group took a walk by Christ House and figure out what the statue was that was outside. On Wednesday May 28th, the whole group visited Christ House to learn more about what they do and their mission. Christ House was opened in December 1985 as the first 24-hour residential medical facility for homeless men and women. Patients are sent to Christ House from area hospitals, shelters, and clinics when they are suffering from a variety of illnesses like cancer, hypertension, kidney failure, diabetes, amputees, etc. Patients tend to stay at Christ House for roughly 45 days. Some leave sooner, and some stay much longer depending on their health condition. Several days during the week, Christ House provides services to other homeless people, like allowing them to come take showers and also providing them with clothing. Christ House focuses on the holistic aspect of nursing by really trying to get to know the people and gaining that nurse-patient relationship while also providing medical care that they need. The mission of Christ House is to provide comprehensive and compassionate health care to sick, homeless men and women in the District of Columbia, and to assist them in addressing critical issues to help break the cycle of homelessness.

Restaurants

We have been to numerous of restaurants around the District of Columbia. The foods here in the city is really great! For example, one of the Ethiopian restaurant called Keren Cafe and Restaurant is an utensils-free sort of place, and the food is so good! The food variety is amazing from Ethiopian to Greek to French, Chinese, South African/Portuguese, and other diverse foods. We have stepped out of our comfort zones and tried something new and we loved it! The places to check out in Washington, D.C. are Keren Cafe and Restaurant, Chinatown Express, Tsim Yung, Sala Thai, Zorba’s Cafe, and Nando’s Peri-Peri.

Turkey Thicket Community Recreation Center – 1 block from WCSC house

After class for the day, majority of the group would go to the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center. At the recreation center, some members of the group were involved in numerous basketball games with members of the community. The most popular games played on the court were 2 v. 2, “Pig” and “Horse”. Brian, Travis, Kim, and Bailey were so competitive with the game, that they kept a running scoreboard at the house. The girls were able to hold their ground and were able to bring home the win. Throughout the three weeks, the students became friends with some of the children and learned about each other. Other students played other sports, including soccer, football, and Whiffle ball. The Recreation Center became a part of our everyday routine and we enjoyed getting to spend time there with the neighborhood children.

Highlights – Nationals Game, Pentagon, Shaw Tour (S. Street), Armor of Light, Time with David, Trial of the Big Bad Wolf.

Nationals Game – Friday, May 13th we attended a Washington Nationals baseball game at Nationals Park against the Miami Marlins.  The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and seventy-four degrees!  The game was a very low scoring game with a final score of 5-3, Nationals.  Almost everyone in our group sported the Nationals with different t-shirts and hats.  Everyone enjoyed watching the game, taking pictures of the field, eating the usual ballpark food such as hamburgers and hot dogs, catching baseballs during batting practice and of course everyone left the field happy with a Nats win!!

L