Thursday was a doozy. As I lay in my bed, hoping to catch a few hours of sleep, I have to think hard about what 8AM looked like for me and my group here in D.C. It’s a good feeling though, going to bed physically, emotionally, and even spiritually exhausted. I feel like being challenged on multiple levels is one of the reasons that students like myself choose to go on an immersion trip, and let me tell you – I have not been let down.
Before we even started our scheduled activities for the day, my group came together and one of the members of the group talked to us about human trafficking. It is moments like these that make me cherish the beauty of the students at Belmont. They are all so passionate, and they educate themselves on causes that they care about and then go on to tell others about it. And on the receiving side are students who want to learn from their peers, and who have a lot of respect for their fellow students. This is something that I cherish about Belmont, and for certain never want take for granted.
At 10AM Debra came to us at the pilgrimage and took us on a multiple layer tour of D.C. called “Beyond the Monuments”. Before leaving for our “non-touristy” tour of D.C., we learned about the lesser known facts of the different quadrants that make up the economic dividing lines of the city. We talked about the current poverty levels then dug deeper into the causes and effects of poverty. Education, food, employment, housing, health care, and transportation are all facets that make up every person’s life and are things that are also extremely effected by poverty. As we drove around the city Debra asked us what we were currently seeing as we drove by certain parts of town, then explained the history that came with those neighborhoods. The most eye opening part was that we could relate a lot of the sections of D.C. to neighborhoods around Nashville. It definitely gave me a new perspective of how longtime Nashville residents might be feeling about all of the renovations, changes and new residents that are currently on their way into the city.
After our unique tour around D.C., Bianca, who is the leader of a program similar to ours at Luther’s Place (another church in the city) talked with us about how we can make a difference in our communities. One of her main points was that we need to stop looking at problems from a Micro level, which involves interpersonal thoughts and actions, and start looking at them from a Macro level, which involves institutional and structural changes.
While we were at Luther’s Place some women from the Craft Community Collective came and visited with us, informed us about their organization, and then gave us an opportunity to contribute by purchasing their products. The Craft Community Collective is another great example of an organization that is working hard to make changes in the homeless and poverty stricken community.
We ended our day by attending a WIN (Washington Interfaith Network) Action meeting that was specifically for the D.C. youth. 5 out of the 7 candidates for Mayor attended and had the opportunity to share their beliefs on youth homelessness, affordable housing, and jobs for people re-entering the job force. Although listening to the candidates was an integral part of the event, the more important thing that happened Thursday night was that the young adults of D.C. were given a voice. These young voters were able to show that they care about their city and the issues that it currently has.
Overall, today was an amazing day filled with education and adventure. My group has been learning about leadership in a way that I never thought of before. We have been learning about social problems that can effect anyone, but we’re not ending the conversation there and simply going back to our comfy lives. We are learning how to take our information and put it into practice so that we can make more than a short-term difference, we can make a social, political, and cultural change.