Stand UP DC #2: DC Central Kitchen and Street Sense

Hello from Washington DC! The past three days have been busy and we have been having a lot fun! As a staff, we have been thoroughly impressed with how excited and engaged our participants have been so far.
By Sunday evening, all 18 participants had gathered at our dorm at George Washington University, gotten a campus tour from a GW Hillel student, and had a great first night dinner all together at an Italian restaurant! After playing some fun games to help us learn more about each other, we dove right into our focus of hunger and homelessness in DC and the US by tackling stereotypes of poverty and homelessness.

In our first two full days of volunteering, we have helped prepare meals at DC Central Kitchen which makes over 5,000 meals every single day of the year for different organizations, shelters, and programs around the city, served dinners at Central Union Mission, participated in an amazing workshop at an international street paper called Street Sense, and brought and served healthy meals to a few of DC’s worst food deserts with Martha’s Table.

Somehow between all of this amazing work, we have had time to explore a bit more of DC. With the opportunity to choose where we wanted to go at certain times, the teens have had the opportunity to see places such as the National Portrait Gallery, the International Spy Museum, DC’s Chinatown area, and Arlington National Cemetery.
Here are some quotes from our participants about their experiences:
Gabi G (Westin, FL)
“This trip has already impacted my life. Each service activity we learn about or participate in teaches me something new. The stories we hear from the people experiencing homelessness were far off from my expectations, it was incredible to listen to these real life stories. The shelters that we visit, cook, or serve food at are so dedicated to helping the homeless, and it is so inspiring. I can tell I am learning so much already.”

Lauren (Manhasset, NY)
“In just a few short days, I’ve already learned so much about the issue of homelessness and hunger in DC. Getting to meet and work with people experiencing homelessness has forced me to question the many negative stereotypes associated with them and I’m really interested in talking to more people over the next week!”

Jordan (Scotch Plains, NJ)
“Very quickly I have become more aware of how most homeless people are treated on a daily basis in the US; sometimes they’re treated like they are in a zoo. Everyone is a human being… treat them that way, look at them that way, greet them that way… everyone deserves to be treated as a person with a life and a story.”
Corey (West Bloomfield, MI)
“Our recent experiences have already made me think a lot about how I can try to translate some of the things I am learning here into community action in my hometown of Detroit.”
Hope (Houston, TX)
“At Central Union Mission, there were many people waiting for food to be served, but a whole group of guys made sure that Billy, another homeless person who happens to be blind, got food before them. They quickly gave up food for another person who they felt needed it more and it was really amazing to get a glimpse into the community at this shelter. After I asked Billy how his day was going, he responded: ‘It hasn’t been great til ya’ll came in.’ This moment really warmed my heart and it made me so happy to be here.”

Shira (Cos Cob, CT)
“I thought it was cool how DC Central Kitchen is not only working to solve the immediate need of hunger by cooking 5,000 meals a day, but they also have an awesome culinary arts program that trains people and helps them find jobs, so that they can improve their situations in the long-run.”

Angel (Paradise Valley, AZ)
“We have only been here for a few days but so far the trip to Washington and the volunteering that we have done has further deepened my empathy for different sects and communities in America that haven’t been as lucky to have the privileges I have grown up with. The volunteering has opened up pathways, that haven’t previously been available to me, that have created tones for conversations with the homeless community. From this, stereotypes I previously held have been abolished. I have learned that education isn’t completely absent from these men and women’s pasts and the strive for change within their lives is clear in every word they speak. The gratitude I have been responded with by the community is an additional factor that gets me even more excited for the next coming days!”

We are looking forward to an amazing rest of the program as we continue to volunteer with different organizations, challenge what we know to be true, and take in all that DC has to offer!
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