Several students, teachers, and myself went to a march in Washington in D.C. to take part in the Ferguson protests. Although there were a lot of very large protests in New York City that day, we travelled so far because we wanted be part of the Friends presence in D.C., where there were people from all over the country. We marched towards the Capital Building where there were many speakers, including Reverend Al Sharpton and the families of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Eric Garner. It was moving both to hear the speakers and to see the crowd react in times of humor and sadness and determination. It felt so amazing to be surrounded by so many people who were so dedicated to making a change in the world.
Participating in the march really made me consider the movement itself and especially my role in it. As a white person, it is a slightly trickier role because I want to support the movement and yet I don’t want to detract from it. For instance, I chose not to chant “I can’t breathe” because white people can breath; our society was built to allow white people to breathe, so if I were to participate in that particular chant I would have felt as though I was devaluing the struggles of people of color in this country. Not to say that white people shouldn’t take part in the movement, but they should be there only to support and not to impose.
During August I returned to the Kilbil Junior High School in Janwadi, Pune, to resume volunteering with a class of fifty seventh graders at the school. Upon my return, I was greeted with many hugs and many kids excitedly asking “Do you remember me, didi?”. I was so lucky to be able to continue building my relationship with these kids.
Instead of helping with miscellaneous tasks, I decided to focus my work with the kids on a project about gender equality. We began our project with some powerpoints that taught the kids the basics, like “What is gender equality?”, “What is feminism?”, etc. After laying the groundwork for our conversations, we went on to do activities exploring gender-based pressures/norms, watch a documentary, and write poems surounding gender equality over the course of three weeks.
Hearing the kids’ thoughts on gender inequality and how we can achieve equality was inspiring. Despite the fact that many of the young girls in that classroom face severe gender-based oppression, they were are able to dream of a world in which they were treated equally, and come up with ways to reach that dream.
I will always cherish my experience at Kilbil and the kids that I’ve gotten to know there. The sentence “educating girls is the single most effective way eradicate extreme poverty” has popped up many times in my life during the last few years. Now, after interacting with girls and boys that are going to break the cycle of poverty, I am convincedthat this statistic-based claim is reality.
On January 2nd, 2015, I volunteered to help with cooking, serving, and cleaning at the Saint James Church. http://www.stjames.org/service/meal-programs/. This was my first out of school service done this year and it was very gratifying helping the homeless. We started by making food. We made shepard’s pie, salad, and brownies for the homeless. We then served all 75 of them. It was great seeing their eyes light up as we brought out the food. When serving them it felt gratifying looking at all of their happy faces seeing the fresh, delicious food. After everybody was finished with their food, we took their plates and cleaned up. Helping the needy is a very gratifying experience, and I am definitely going to help here again.