Friday, September 28, 2012

The joys of direct service

With my internship at the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, we are not able to do direct service very often because our primary focus is on advocacy. This week, however, I came to understand more fully the joys of direct service and how inspiring it really can be. Both this week and next, our organization is focusing on getting as many individuals who are living on low incomes or who are homeless registered to vote. I organized the voter registration drive and was able to go to Ballard Food Bank this past week and help some of the people there register to vote. It was an amazing experience and I could tell many stories about it but one story particularly stood out to me:

One man came through the line to get a sandwich for lunch and we asked if he was registered to vote and he told us he was not registered because he couldn't register to vote. We asked him why and he said he was a felon. Now many people do not know this, but the law changed in 2009, and felons can vote as long as they are no longer under the Department of Corrections (i.e. parole). So because of this law, we asked him if we could ask him one more question and he said sure. We asked when he had committed a felony and he answered over thirty years ago.  We then told him that he could ABSOLUTELY register to vote. At first, he was skeptical, but we explained the new law to him and told him that as long as he was no longer on parole he had the right to vote. Seeing the joy on his face once he found out he could vote was amazing. He told us that he had wanted to vote all his life but he had thought once he committed a felony his voting rights were stripped away for life. We helped him register, and as he completed the form, his face began to light up; he realized that voting was finally becoming a reality for him and that he would have a voice.  He told us as he was leaving that we had made his day and that he couldn't wait to vote and would definitely be casting his ballot in November.

These are the kinds of stories that make you want to get up in the morning and continue working in non-profits, even when you are exhausted and worn out. This experience warmed my heart more than I ever thought possible and I am so excited to continue to register voters this week in an effort to make sure that every voter counts and is able to have the opportunity to register!

- Kathryn

A Splendid Torch

"A Splendid Torch"
George Bernard Shaw

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible 
before handing it on to future generations.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Meditatin' and Stuff

     Yesterday was such a cool day, minus my parking ticket. And since it’s unhealthy to vent excessively over little things that are insignificant in the grand scheme of my life, I’ll focus on the meditation.
All 4 of us interns headed down the street to a compline service at an Episcopal church down the street. It’s supposed to serve as a reverent end to your week, and boy oh boy it did the trick for me. The one thing that I thought was awesome was the sheer number of people in attendance. Here I was, sitting on a pew with strangers on both sides of me, some that may not even be Christian, but we’re sharing this moment of reflection together, and I thought that was a really sacred thing. Then, mid-reflection, I was reminded of one of my friends back home attending Notre Dame. He once talked to me about the goosebumps he got thinking about all of the people who shared their thoughts with God in the famous Basilica of the Sacred Heart, past and present, and the same phenomenon certainly struck me on that peaceful Sunday night.

     Then, the choirs started singing, and I just sunk into an even deeper state of peace. It was truly a serene place, both outside, and those who shared the place with me. Part of the experience that made it extra special was the informality of it all. People were laying on the ground around the pulpit, and curled up with blankets all around the sanctuary. It was a nice change from the normal, rigid structure of worship.
Finally, the organist performed, and he blew me away. Apparently he’s one of the best organists in the country, and doesn’t perform very often, but we had the pleasure of listening that night, and it was a great thing to share that presence with everyone.

     This was an amazing start to the week (and the other interns, too, I think), and really got my mind in the right place to engage in another week of tedious, yet rewarding, work. The more time I spend within this city, the more I enjoy it, and I really do feel blessed to be able to share it with three awesome Washingtonian friends and roommates. You guys rock.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The first two weeks

"We can pledge that whenever one person speaks out in ignorance and bigotry, ten voices will answer. They will answer resoundingly against the offense and the insult; answering ignorance with enlightenment; answering hatred with understanding; answering darkness with light." -Hillary Clinton

These were the words posted on our church bulletin today and I felt like they were the perfect words to start off my blog post. For me I felt like they defined what this year is and hopefully the rest of my life will be all about - working to make the world a better place.  While this may seem like a loft goal for one year, I think it is achievable because even just by changing one policy to help one group, we have helped make the world a better place than we found it.

We have now been in this Young Adult Service Community Program for two weeks and at our work sites for one week and it has felt like we have already been here a month because so much has happened. I don't want to bore you with all of the details so I will just touch on some of the highlights. One of the big highlights of the program so far has been something that took place our very first day here. On move-in day, I was walking into the church, trying to find our apartment and all of the sudden I was pulled in as an extra into a music video for Macklemore's song "Same Love". It was being filmed in All Pilgrims, the church we are living in, and it was quite the exciting introduction into the program and our new living space. We were then extras in the night reception scene as well. They will have to cut a lot of footage so we will see if we end up in the final video but we will be sure to post it on the blog once it comes out.

Another highlight of the program was the march for the airport worker's rights that Jenn talked about in the previous post. I learned the hard way not to wear heals for a 1/2 mile long march but other than that it was a really powerful experience.  I hope that eventually we are able to help the workers get medical benefits, safe working conditions, and a living wage so that they are able to support their families.

All of that took place during orientation plus site visits and get-to-know-you happy hours and much more. However, the last week we have spent getting "oriented" at our work sites, though I would say mine has been less orientation and more just experiencing everything about my placement site, Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, which has been really exciting! My favorite part of the past week at work was the first two days which were a Youth Summit. On the first day of the Youth Summit we sat down with youth and young adults who had either previously been homeless or are still homeless and we talked with them about issues that are important to their daily survival and what they think should be changed. Then on the second day we took the youth and young adults to City Hall to meet with Seattle City Council Members to express their concerns and what they thought should be done. I went with a group who talked to Council Member Sally Bagshaw about shelters and it was a very positive and inspirational experience for everyone involved. She listened to the youth and was very supportive of the ideas that they brought to the table. It was so amazing to see the energy and passion of these youth and also to see advocacy at work for the first time! It made me really excited for our advocacy day in Olympia in the winter!

As you can see the past two weeks have been pretty busy with a lot of "newness" but we've also been having a great time and I'm really excited to see where this program takes me!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

March on Alaska Airlines

So much has happened since the four of us moved in a little under two weeks ago! Orientation week involved quite a bit more than the traditional team builders and visiting of internship sites. Don’t get me wrong- we did that too and there is no better team builder than moving bunk beds and couches around tight corners- but we also ended up doing some pretty unconventional introductory activities as well. One of the most exciting things we did was participate in a march on the headquarters of Alaska Airlines, which is located in SeaTac. Alaska Airlines contracts out its employees so that they do not have to take responsibility for their wellbeing and so they can save money. These contract employees work under harsh and demanding conditions making barely above minimum wage, which doesn’t allow most to pay for health insurance, and still not making enough to keep their family above the poverty level.  The CEO made a promise last May that he would meet with workers to hear their stories, but failed to do so within the 60 day window that he set. We were told that we were “meeting” with CEO Brad Tilden, but the meeting actually was a march with 500 workers and union representatives, as well as 50 clergy to the office of Brad Tilden and ask to speak with him. Not surprisingly, we didn’t get to speak directly to him but he did send down two of his executives to respond to the faith leaders and workers who had come to see him. It was so incredible to be a part of that movement and see how much the workers appreciated having so many people, and especially people from the faith community, there to support them and validate that their concerns were heard. One of the executives even had a tremble in his voice as he spoke and I don’t know if it was because he saw the flaws in the system he is a part of or was just wondering how he was going to go to church on Sunday morning, but it was a big step forward. I was able to talk to a lot of the workers and hear about how long and hard they work for so little, and while it was great to be doing something about it, the depth and breadth of social justice issues in my backyard was still striking.

This is the type of event that takes a lot of planning and preparation and some of the key players were our internship sites- including Puget Sound SAGE (where Marianne is), The Church Council of Greater Seattle (my site), and Faith Action Network (where Stephen is). This means that these are the types of events that we will be a part of planning in the coming year and that is what I am so excited for!

This is a link to the article that was written about the event!

Week One: The Ultimate Covenant

Week One: The Beast Named Time Has Consumed and Devoured Me.

I Have Met So Many People Ranging From Mike to Genevieve. I Have Read More Books on Public Policy & Community Benfits Agreements Then The Mayor. This Week Has Been So Long & Exhausting. As My Roommates Sleep (It's 3:02 in the Morning) I Think About The Fact That It Will All Begin On Monday. I Cannot Even Fathom Going To School At This Point. From Early Bike Rides to the Office, To Being Apart of a Protest...This Has Been A Long Week. I Am Doing My Best To Remain Optimistic & Appreciative. The Church People Are So Kind and Loving to Me. The Funny Things About Blogs Are The Fact That You Think of Something You Really Want To Write...But Then It Takes You 48 Hours to Come Around To It. Story of my Life. Well I Guess I Feel Accomplished In Knowing That I Wasn't Planning On Doing This but I Have at Least One Entry. It's Nights Like These...When You Are Restless Because Your Exhausted..That Reminds Me That I Am Actually Doing Something Beneficial To My Life & Others.

Marianne Haney

Monday, September 10, 2012


So here's the deal- you've found the blog of the interns participating in Young Adult Service Communities for the next eleven months! We're all living together in community in All Pilgrims Church (that's right- we live in a church apartment!) and working in four different social justice organizations. We are also working a few hours each week in a different United Church of Christ (UCC) Church and taking a social justice leadership class. We've only just finished orientation and have been extras in a Macklemore music video and participated in a march for workers rights- it's going to be an exciting year!

This will be a collaborative blog so you'll have a chance to get to know all of us as we grow, learn, and lead on this adventure together. Thank you for journeying with us.