This is a blog

Seeing as our Heston time is almost over, I’ve started to become very aware of the fact that I need to somehow turn this amazing experience into a single, concise paper in order to fulfill the requirements to receive academic credit for this internship. I kind of lost track of the fact that I don’t just get to have my Heston Summer Experience, I have to produce something too. Woops. Trying to pick what has mattered most to me so I can write this paper is going to be super hard. I foresee a lot of anxiety about not being able to properly articulate how AWESOME my summer was.

What’s been on my mind most as I think about my project is how social programs can be handicapped due to the inability of their target populations to access them. At the Circles meetings we’ve attended, a lot of the Circle Leaders shared their experiences with the welfare system in America, and how hard it can be to actually access the type of aid that could help them break the cycle of poverty. For example, one single mom talked about how long she waited to get government subsidies to help pay for childcare, and how for months and months on end she had to pay an exorbitant portion of her meager paycheck to pay for her son’s childcare. We’ve all heard parents complain about the hassles summer vacation can cause as they try to keep their kids occupied while school’s out, but for this woman summer vacation could have meant financial ruin. She would have had to pay even more for daycare because her son would never be in school for three long months. Luckily, her subsidy had come through in time, but not everyone has this kind of resolution to their problems. Again and again we have been told how hard you have to fight to make the system work for you and make sure you don’t get swallowed up by it. We have a habit in America of blaming the victim I think, and the Circles Leaders all talked about how much judgement and prejudice they face in everyday life for being on welfare, when really all they want is to be independent and self-sufficient. I think the cuts LIU has seen further emphasizes this trend. We expect immigrants and migrants to assimilate into American society as quickly as possible, but we frequently make it difficult to do so. The Adult ESL class lost its funding because it directly served the parents of migrant families, and not children or the family unit as whole. It’s ridiculous for us to expect a migrant family to get onto solid ground though if we don’t help the parents. We as a country like to talk about how we want all children to have the chance to thrive and pursue their goals as far as possible, but in my mind cutting a program like the LIU Adult ESL class is counter-intuitive to these values. Children need the support of their families, and parents cannot fully support their children if they don’t have the support and tools that they need first. This has been a frequent source of frustration to me this summer, and I just learned this week that there will be no funding whatsoever for the class after mid-August. Gettysburg College picked up the tab to keep the class going through the summer, but it’s all going to end soon. I’ve come to really enjoy spending time with the families who come in every Tuesday and Thursday, and I hate that they are about to lose this class. I feel like the class isn’t just about learning English, it’s also about building a sense of community and a support network for families who are in a similar situation, facing similar challenges, and seeking answers together. I feel like we’re moving backwards as a country when I see all the fatal cuts that are happening to such valuable programs in the community and it really frustrates me.

On a brighter note, however, I have had a lot of really fun experiences lately too! The girl who had never cooked a meal in her life before becoming the Campus Kitchen intern was put in charge of a cooking class. Considering what an inauspicious beginning that story has, I’m still impressed Sunday went as well as it did (My mom might actually faint from shock when I tell her about it). Chandra and I demonstrated easy and yummy recipes for humus, kale chips, veggie chili, and fresh peach cobbler. Things were hectic at first, but started to calm down when Yaou and Maura (you guys are actually saints) volunteered to take all the kids outside and provide childcare. But we had to keep things interesting of course, and it was soon discovered that neither our stove nor oven worked. Apparently that’s one of the hazards of moving into a new kitchen and not testing all the appliances to make sure they actually work. One of the fathers attending the class actually saved the day by discovering the right breaker box somewhere in the depths of the maze that is SCCAP, and getting the electrical circuit running again. Luckily we were able to move past all the ‘technical difficulties’ and ended up with a pretty delicious meal! My favorite moment from the class came from Alicia. Alicia had attended a Healthy Options farm tour of Bill Mickley’s orchard, and while there informed Bill that he could be selling one of the weeds growing on his property because it’s actually edible. We got her a supply of the weed (purslane) and some other ingredients, and she proceeded to whip up a batch of purslane salsa during the class. It was a really awesome moment of community cooperation, and I’m so glad she was able to teach us all something so cool.

Our garden at the Senior Center has also been doing really well. We harvested kale and lettuce this week. We didn’t have much luck getting any of the seniors to actually take any of the produce for themselves, but we were able to take a lot back to the Kitchen to use in meals for Meals on Wheels. Some of the ladies actually seemed personally offended by the idea of eating kale when we showed it to them, but everyone seems to enjoy it when we put it in salads. At least I hope they do… I think they’ll be much more excited once it’s time to harvest the tomatoes, because a lot of the women have told me they’re holding out for tomatoes. I feel like I’m quickly becoming a produce nerd (It’s all your fault Chandra), but I really hope we’ll be able to pick some of the tomatoes before we leave.

I actually have photos this time! Thanks to Kim and Chandra’s generosity with their own pictures at least…
#1 is the kale chips portion of the Healthy Options cooking class on Sunday
#2 is Alicia teaching everyone how to cook with purslane
#3 is a picture of purslane for anyone who is curious and may want to embrace their inner-forager
#4 is our lettuce pre-harvest. It was pretty beautiful if I do say so myself πŸ™‚
#5 is another shot of the garden. Plus me. This one might also make my mom faint from shock considering how good I’ve always been at evading yard-work at home.

Other than that, I’m looking forward to another weekend of Heston House bonding and farmer’s markets πŸ™‚

Melanie

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