Gettysburg Week 1

First week of Heston 2012 Gettysburg! Today was a pretty mellow Saturday, Maura, Yaou, Chandra and I went around to a couple of farmers markets to pick up produce for the Campus Kitchen and then we all spent about 2 hours scrubbing our house down. How domestic! Living with everyone in the house has been pretty great so far. There have been some sing-alongs, card games, and movie nights as we try to figure out cheap things to do in Gettysburg with spare time. ‘Cheap’ being a very important word.
Work has been great too, although not entirely what I expected. One of the first things I learned when I got back to Gettysburg was that the LIU program that offers English classes to local migrant parents I was supposed to help teach had lost all of its federal funding so that was a bit of a shock. It wasn’t entirely clear if/how classes would continue. Apparently the problem was that the classes were targeted toward parents specifically, but the federal funding was supposed to aid children and families. This seems ridiculous to me since obviously a child or family will benefit if their parent gains English skills. It’s all completely interconnected, and it seems to me that everyone in a family must be helped if we want the families themselves to thrive. This program is really popular, and it’s had proven success, so to see it have it’s legs cut out from under it is really frustrating. LIU is just one of many organizations that are facing funding problems though, especially within the last few years. I guess it comes with the territory of working in the non-profit world, but it’s still frustrating. Luckily, it now seems that classes will continue, but only twice a week instead of five times a week, and at the public library instead of at the LIU center.
Because of the funding problems, I actually devoted all of my time to Campus Kitchen this week, and that came with a lot of really great experiences. Chandra and I have been doing some experimenting in the kitchen, and the other day we made a HUGE batch of zucchini bread and some chili that turned out great. We did a lot of improvising to make the ingredients that we had available work, so the bread turned into zucchini-applesauce-nutmeg bread, which was pretty delicious! My cooking skills were pretty negligible before I started this internship, so I’m hoping to pick up a lot as we go along. Luckily Chandra is a cooking god, so I should be able to learn a lot from her! We haven’t gotten a chance to do deliveries with Meals on Wheels yet, so I’m excited for that to start up. I’m also pretty excited to start helping Chandra teach chair yoga at the Senior Center. We came up with an entire routine that’s pretty fantastic and relaxing, if I do say so myself. Maura, Yaou, and Chandra’s boyfriend Nate were nice enough to let us use them as our guinea pigs so we could practice. It seems like we’ll actually be at the senior center fairly regularly because we’re also helping them out with a vegetable garden they have on their grounds.
Campus Kitchen was a great introduction to a lot of different programs in the community. We provided a dinner for a Circles meeting one night with SCCAP. That meeting was one of my best memories from this week. Circles aims to help people out of the trap of poverty through a structured curriculum and the support of ‘allies’ in the community. We talked to one woman, a single mother who is currently going through the program, and hearing her stories of the obstacles she faces and the hoops she has to jump through in order to survive was very emotional. I think we all felt extremely fortunate and maybe a little unworthy after listening to her story. I think her story was especially powerful to us because she was not the type of person stereotypes would lead you to believe could end up homeless or impoverished. She has her BA and was working on her Master’s when a series of obstacles involving an abusive relationship, single motherhood, and losing her job created an untenable situation that lead her to poverty. It was a perfect storm of circumstances that realistically could happen to anyone. I’m really glad we had the chance to attend that meeting and I’m looking forward to continuing to attend. We also provided some food for an LIU meeting/class/picnic that was meant to be a forum to explain the funding situation (and changes that would result) to the students who attended. Meeting all of them, attending class with them, and hearing their stories was also a moving experience for me. Hearing them voice their frustration about the cutbacks made it much more real to me. Sometimes I think we forget that budget cuts and bureaucratic restrictions have real-life, human consequences, and it was good to put faces to the numbers in this case.
Tomorrow morning I set off bright and early to act as a chaperone to a group of 10 middle-schoolers on a 5-day trip to DC sponsored by LIU. The trip seems like a great opportunity because it’s geared toward giving immigrant children (or children of immigrants) an up-close look at how government and politics works in America. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the concept that I’m now old enough to be entrusted to chaperone a bunch of middle school kids. I don’t yet know if it it’s flattering or dismaying. I’ll also be spending most of the trip with the other chaperones who will be real teachers and administrators, so I’m sensing there could be lots of questions about whether I’m in the right place or not. Hopefully it goes well!

Melanie

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