Friday, January 15, 2010

"Oprah wants your soul" -Robert Egger, founder of D.C. Central Kitchens

Day 9

We started the morning out on our usual route to the metro station, this time heading to Food and Friends. This organization works with people who have life-challenging illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS and cancer, to create specialized diets to meet the individual needs of their clients. Food and Friends is able to provide nutritious meals for people who would not be able to prepare much for themselves otherwise. In some cases, family members are also included in the meal plans, whether it be small children or elderly parents of the client.

Our job that day was to fill around 250 bags with pantry items for several people and their family members. One of the cool things about working as a team is finding a "groove" in your group dynamic; we all worked together efficiently, even occasionally without words. This was also exciting because it was the first time when everyone had an individual job, but we were still working as a team, depending on each other to get the job done.

Charles, our friendly volunteer coordinator, was great at keeping the ball rolling and providing the wonderful music (we assessed that it was a "NOW 6" CD). The incredible cherry muffins we received after working were not that bad either. Sometimes you gotta take one for the team.

Next, enter: DCCK- second shift of the day.

By this time, you are probably as familiar with DCCK as we are, so we won't bother explaining. This was our fifth time there, and we've continued to enjoy getting to know the staff( ex. Helen and Kait are now known as H-money and K-money, thanks to G-money). Five days doesn't seem like a big number, but we feel at home there now. It's also great to learn about the other people who come to volunteer, learning their stories and why they are there. We have met everyone from a Finnish World Bank employee to a couple celebrating their one year anniversary by doing service.

We completed our long, fulfilling day by splitting up into smaller groups to enjoy the different cuisines offered in D.C. These included Thai and Ethiopian dinners; we were appreciating the explosions of culture in D.C.

Day 10

Switch up! The group that went to Thrive D.C. last Friday went to Martha's Table this time and vice versa. This is the first time we had been able to develop expectations of an organization, because the other group had already had such distinctive experiences. Speaking of expectations, we followed up our service for the day with a White House tour. Because we know our readers appreciate organization, here is a list of our expectations:

-Katelyn Hancock wanted to sit in President Barack Obama's lap...and a gift shop
-Helen wanted to see the Obama bedroom
-Kait wanted to read every book in the library (26,000 on most every subject!)
-Ben wanted to see the parts of the White House in actual use ("Is that too much to ask?")
-Claire wanted to meet the family dog (Bo)
-Sarah P wanted to play dress up with Sasha and Malia
-VA's response was just...."Barack Obama". Is he real???

Even though these expectations were not met, we can all say that we have stepped into the White House. And America. Interpret as you will.

After we crossed the Arabian desert (aka walked from the White House to Union Station....thanks again, Kent), we ate lunch in the food court at the station. Then we headed over to DCCK to meet with Robert Egger (the founder!-Check out the picture!) to pick his brain about non-profits, know, the "usugh." We also got great advice such as the importance of appreciating your community, being aware of the needs and changes occurring around you, and, last but not least,...."Oprah wants your soul."

Back at the Pilgrimage, we had reflection that night and discussed in-depth our conversation with Robert Egger and what we believe makes for a good non-profit after our experiences here. It was fascinating to talk so much about an issue that people so seldom discuss in-depth; you often hear about people's thoughts on politics, football (in Alabama), science, and progress, but rarely can you talk so openly about homelessness. Considering that this is an issue which affects millions of people in our world daily, it's enthralling to hear all the different perspectives. Or even the extent of different perspectives on the causes, prevention, consequences, and solutions to homelessness.

Day 11

Team members went to Christian Group Community Homes again for Saturday. One of the CGCH's services is to reach out to the elderly who still live at home, along with those who live in provided housing. Yesterday, the team went to a home where the husband had been hoarding things for decades and had gotten to the point where the government was telling them to clean up, because the mess had become a fire hazard. It was surreal to see the living conditions that can come from holding on to everything. The team worked for about two hours and was able to clear away about 1/8 of the basement.

The rest of the day was dedicated to the Holocaust Museum. There is no way to articulate this experience, but considering what we have been learning about these past couple of weeks, it seemed appropriate. We had been discussing how we view each other-- especially those different from us-- and it was a good reminder of where prejudice can lead when we let ignorance and fear control us.

Day 12

Free day! Some slept in; some went to museums; but all reflected. We had written reflections and a great discussion before supper. By the way, props to the Bunting Center for allowing us to dine out one night as a group. Tonight's dinner was fantastic by all accounts.

We will leave you with a countdown:

-Approx. 4 dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts consumed by team (so far). When you do the math it's not that bad...but we don't do math. Remember?
-20 miles walked in one day (from White House to Union Station).
-1 mouse spotted in the Pilgrimage
-1 mouse still at large in the Pilgrimage
-4 team members were "Disney Characterized". (If you were wondering, Sarah Parkinson is the baby cat from "Aristocats", Ben Tracy is Pongo from "101 Dalmatians", Caitlin Barringer is Baloo from the Jungle Book, Sara Doughton is the mama cat from "Aristocats")

We will keep you updated.

Love from the Pilgrimage,

H Money and K Money