Thursday, July 29, 2010

SWAT Team descends on DXC!

A SWAT team descended on DXC a couple of weeks ago, but it had nothing to do with a hostage situation or police.

Nearly 50 young volunteers from the American Baptist Women Ministry’s National conference in Columbus came to DXC to spend a Day of Service with us.

The conference’s slogan this year was “Strong Women Acting Together” or SWAT, for short, and except for the lack of weapons and the emergency circumstances, they certainly seemed to have the organization and dedication of their more militant counterparts.

The young women ranged in ages from early to mid-teens and were accompanied by their adult supervisors. They came from all over the country and there were even two sisters from Puerto Rico who spoke little or no English.

Having to abide by State Law, we divided them into two groups; one group, of girls 15 and older, stayed here at the main building and worked in the classrooms with the children and teachers under the coordination of Cardella. The other group went with me to the East Fifth Street site to volunteer their efforts on the Feed Dayton Urban Farm project we’re partnered with.

The group that stayed here at the main office, played and talked with the children here, helped teachers with their lessons, and gave the kids some much needed one-on-one mentoring. Some others helped out by cleaning and painting where needed, and making the place more presentable.

Everyone enjoyed doing craft projects and reading to the kids – and the kids loved it too. The learning was a two-way thing, though, because all the young girls in the group said they had enjoyed learning about our kids and what goes on in the classrooms.

At first, the smell of the compost and the thought of working in the dirt over on Fifth Street was not very appealing to the girls, but, as they listened to Ken Carman, Director of Feed Dayton and one of the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable people I know on urban farming, you could see them getting more excited about it. Soon, we had small groups of young women harvesting kale and banana peppers for the local food pantry, others kneeling in the rows pulling weeds, and still others filling buckets with compost and carrying them to their friends to be spread on the crops.

It was not a cool day and was overcast – rain eventually did cause us to cut the project short by just a few minutes – so there was a certain quantity of perspiration involved. Still, they never complained. She pitched in and did whatever was asked of them. Every once in a while, you’d here someone playing off their slogan, saying “Strong Women Digging in Dirt!” or “Strong Women Spreading Rotting Leaves!” The longer we went, the more creative and funny the slogans became.

We came back to the Main Office for lunch and then the young ladies helped out around here for a couple of hours before boarding the charter bus to return to Columbus. There were a few good natured comments about it being an “interesting” ride home as far as the aroma in the bus, and a contest to see who could be the first to call for a shower when they got back.

But in looking at the comment surveys after they had gone, it was very interesting to read that, almost universally, there was one complaint: “I wish we’d had more time so I could have done more.”

Maybe there is some hope for the next generation, after all.

Thanks, ladies – everything you did is greatly and truly appreciated.

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