There are simply no words to put together this volunteer experience and the life long friendships I have built because of Leadership Camp. This by far is the most connected I have felt to leadership and campers and I think that has to do with the people in this program as well as the model that we are practicing day by day and eventually in life as well.
“A disability doesn’t have to be a social barrier. Good etiquette begins with inclusion not exclusion.” -Robert N. Hensel
Y’all let me tell you about this awesome group that I am apart of. If you haven’t heard of the David Garcia Project yet then here we are. Named after the late David Garcia, a worker in the World Trade Center in New York City who had an incurable eye disease and was killed during 9-11, DGP is a group of people who promote the work of empathy rather than sympathy for people with disabilities. We focus on many different types of disabilities such as visual, auditory, intellectual, developmental and many more. With these, we facilitate simulations for any one to experience the every day happenings of some one with a disability.
This group has given so many people the opportunity to open their minds a little more and learn about a part of diversity that not many people are exposed to.
After we had left the city of Detroit, our cohort had time to reflect on the impact that we made and the impact that happened within our selves during this service trip, but first let me give you the inside scoop of the activities we were able to partake in.
When we arrived in Detroit we showed up to a local charter school in Detroit rather known as Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. This day was dedicated to service where we could allow the Jalen Rose students to interact in the activities we were putting on, as well as potentially recreate these projects later on. I give the kids major credit for coming in to volunteer with 47 college students during the final day of their spring break. Although at their school, service is a requirement these kids voluntarily signed up and willfully wanted to better this community by doing more service. Cards for Veterans was the activity I facilitated, which basically was making cards that stated how grateful we were for the service that vets had put towards our county. I was able to interact with my group and get to know them each individually and the things that they wanted to do later on in life. They have allowed me to open my eyes and become aware of things that some of us might take for granted. One being a bus system. We never had to worry about not having to miss school because we either had a car or a bus to take us there. Well, here they have no bus system and some families might not even have a car so walking is that last resort even if they’re more than a couple miles away. Even for service requirements they have to find transportation to these events. This has allowed me to stop and think about the little things that we are offered everyday that may not be offered to others.
As we left Jalen Rose, we were able to bond over great pizza from Pizzapapolis and then we were off to the DIA (Detroit Institute of the Arts). This was an amazing and beautiful place where you could escape from others around you and dive completely into the culture of art.
I enjoyed the DIA, being a first time goer. Art allows others to express what they feel deep inside themselves and basically communicate indirectly with others. Leadership is a form of art in the sense that each person expresses it differently and paints their own picture of a true leader. Then we went to the DNR Outdoor Adventure Center, where its basically all nature and outdoors activities inside of a building. Cool Right? Bonding with the cohort like no other here where we did heads up, handstand contests, and an animal hunt.
The next day approaches and we head off to Cass Community Social Services. This place has so much history to it, but the main objective of it is to give those with intellectual disabilities job opportunities so they can make a living as well. Day in and day out people think that the state allows people with disabilities to live a comfortable life. Little do they know it’s hardly enough to get by. CASS is trying to change that. The place I went to was the paper shredding services. This is where people bring confidential paper work from doctors offices, lawyers or old checks that they want shredded up. Here they have people who might not be able to read so their information is held confidentially and the workers get paid their dues. Other job opportunities CASS offers are a catering service, shoe making and tire matts. There are probably more services they create for others around the city, but this is the main list. This has taught me to be selfless and make sure I can offer opportunities to others around me. Instead of thinking centrally, I need to start thinking developmentally and how I can better impact the community around me.
In the end this was a weekend of giving back to the community, whether it was indirect or direct service. Being made aware of the issues happening in Detroit and the social stigmas tied along with that, broke boundaries for me. Stereotypes were broken about the wonderful city of Detroit. If everyone was made aware of the issues happening there wouldn’t be any because those who are passionate about making change in this world would dive in and help the under represented areas. We would all say nice things about Detroit! The more we interact with the community, the more likely that we could make an indirect change. Instead of sitting on the couch seeing commercials on Detroit, how about you get off of that couch and start making a difference in the communities we live in.