Newark – last day of service! :(

So today was our last day of service here in Newark!  It started off on an exciting note because the team that usually stays at the Girls and Boys Club was able to go to the United Way of Essex and West Hudson headquarters in the morning.  Most of us sorted clothing donations for an outdoor market tomorrow but I went with two other people to clean out the parking lot for the market.  It was nice to get out of the Club for a little bit and work on different service projects in the morning.  It was also great to see how much effort people put into sorting clothing for the market.  One of the things that has been stressed to me in life is service with respect, meaning that the people we work with deserve the opportunity to shop for clothes that have been sorted and organized to make it easier to find articles of clothing.  In the afternoon, we came back to the Boys and Girls Club and worked with the children one last time.  It was great to see how many children remembered us and ran up to us.  We had a wonderful afternoon that consisted of decorating bags for the egg hunt we planned for the children.

I had a particularly striking conversation with a 9 year-old girl today.  She was working on homework and labeling the capitols on a United States map.  I started talking with her about school and she told me that she loved math and that she learned her times tables when she was in first grade.  This blew me away, because everyone I’ve known didn’t start multiplication until third grade.  She told me she was advanced for her age and that her dream was to go to Harvard and study math.  To hear such ambitious goals from such a young girl was inspirational, and I pray to God that her circumstances will not hold her back.  Our team was reflecting later about how so many of the kids here are so smart and observant.  We wondered if maybe the person who could cure cancer one day was born in an area suffering from urban poverty and a failing education system.  These kids have so much potential but are unfairly being held back by circumstances beyond their control.  Working with the kids this week and hearing their stories really helped me understand the effects of urban poverty and why everyone needs to care about this social injustice.  Beyond the ethics of the situation, when one group of people is being subordinated, all of us suffer.

This week has been eye-opening, to say the least.  I am so proud of our team and the work we accomplished.  Everyone was so engaged with the kids and had multiple conversations throughout the day, everyday, about the causes and effects of urban poverty.  I am grateful to United Way and the Boys and Girls Club of Newark for making this experience possible and for my incredible team for being beautiful (this was suggested by Damilare).

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