Day 1 was lots of driving, but was nothing short of fun!!! We made a new friend named Beanz and had an interesting grocery store adventure. Beanz is a goat magnet on our fridge that has become our trip mascot, along with our hashtag #OshLouis (search for it on Facebook and Instagram!). The grocery store we were referred to was a Save-a-Lot across town. The environment was very different from what we were expecting. Once we got there, there were people sitting outside, some walking around panhandling for money, and once inside the store we felt out of place and outside our comfort zones. We expected to be pushed out of our comfort zones, but it’s another thing to be totally submersed into it and be in the middle of others’ realities and every day life. Once we got back we reflected on the experience, and went to bed after a loooong day.
Day 2: We woke up and headed across to street to the agency we’re partnered with, Kingdom House. Once there we were assigned to different ages within the day care, which was a vibrant and much needed start to our morning. The children ranged from six months to four years old within the day care area. We got to hang out with the kids, do different craft activities leading up to Easter, and played in the gym for active break. After that was finished we got a tour from our lovely Kingdom House volunteer coordinator, Julie. We learned that they have a corner style room for clothing and necessities that are not covered by most federal programs such as feminine hygiene products, toilet papers, diapers, and household cleaning supplies that are sold for only one dollar. Anyone that utilizes the Kingdom House for any program can stop in and by these products along with a variety of clothing. Down the hall, they have an emergency food pantry for individuals that are in a short-term emergency situation (leaving an abusive relationship, house fire, etc.). They also have a variety of classrooms for courses available for all ages focusing on different topics, such as financial advice- budgeting, after school programs, Kingdom House Academy (to help with St. Louis having a lower high school graduation rate), and then ACT prep and assistance with college and scholarship applications. They have done so much for the community since they opened in 1902. What makes them so different is that they are constantly changing to adapt to the actual needs in the St. Louis community and have strong connections with social workers that go out and interact with families on what they need most so that Kingdom House is as helpful as possible.
After volunteering and the tour we had 3 learning sessions focusing on racism. Our first session dealt with defining racism and prejudice and how they are similar and different in the way they impact society. An equation we learned was Prejudice + Power = Racism. We watched a few different videos on these topics and how stereotypes are harmful to individuals. Then we discussed the Department of Justice release report on Ferguson, focusing on the relationship between law enforcement and youth (especially black youth and families). Many of us first learned about “The Talk” families of color have with their children on what to do to come home safe at the end of the day. It was very emotional and heartbreaking and it made us very aware to what we need to do to be an effective ally- which was session 3. The 5 basic rules of being a proactive ally include understanding your privilege, listen and do your homework, speak up but not over, realize you’ll make mistakes and apologize when you do, and then repeat steps #1-4. “Ally is a verb; you’ve got to do the work.” A big takeaway of being an ally and knowing your privilege is that no matter how much you learn or understand about the issue, you will never experience it first hand because of your identities. Each person has differing intersections of identities in which we need to come together with mutual respect and kindness, and celebrate what makes us different from one another.
For dinner we had a very pleasant surprise! Missy Burgess (Assistant Director for Student Involvement) had arranged with her mother (who still lives in the area) to prepare a ‘feast’ for us volunteers at the apartment. She even made a cake for Kelsey’s birthday on Thursday! She was so kind enough to do this for us and we were completely taken aback by her generosity. It was definitely very appreciated by all!!!After dinner we decided to take a walk around the area and explore the city. We found trolleys, the Busch Stadium, and a closer view of the arch. It was a nice ending to our busy day.
Our session on racism