I was able to volunteer 40 hours in Washington D.C. to work towards improving the social issue of U.C.A.F. through the Alternative Break program. My week long spring break servicing others in the Beacon House included cleaning and organizing tutor rooms, serving nutritious meals, and helping the kids with their homework. I felt like my efforts were worthwhile because every little thing we did, made an impact and difference on the place. We cleaned rooms that were once used for storage to be used for one-on-one sessions between a child and a volunteer or teacher. We organized closets and offices so that they could find the arts and crafts, games, or worksheets when needed. We gave the kids another mentor to inspire and help pursue their passions for the week. Was able to set up events for the children during the week, read books, color and play games, and create projects with the children. Every director or teacher I interacted with, I felt welcomed and loved. They let us know how much they appreciated and needed our help in the Washington D.C. area. The teachers were passionate and caring to every individual making it easy for others to come in and want to do the same. “The Beacon House’s mission is assisting at-risk children and youth to identify and pursue their educational objectives culminating in college or vocational training and to prepare them for productive involvement in their community and society.” The grounds of the social issue was founded in 1991 when a man found an overwhelming need for social service programs for youth in what once was a drug and violence community. Rev. Robinson responded by first handing out food and just helping a couple kids in the area. The warrants of the social issue was pursued when the Beacon House created this safe haven that implemented learning and exploring in the children lives. They implemented education programs that have raised the reading and math skill levels by one grade level. Additionally, their athletic program teaches the children sportsmanship, discipline, leadership principles, and gain behavior and social skills. The conclusion of the social issue was when the kids went to this donated basement apartment after school to receive meals and help from volunteers and partners. The parents and local community members were inspired to volunteer and donate their time and money to this organization. Their kids behavior changed dramatically along with their grades after attending this program for a month. After being with the program and the kids for just a week, I can see the effectiveness of Rev. Robinson’s efforts greatly.
One man inspired the community to work together and help the future generations become the best they could be. Beacon House is continuously being renovated and expanded to fit the children’s needs and interests. It has been serving about 125 at-risk youth ages 5-21, and 500 children per year with one or more of their after school, athletic, and summer programs for the past 22 years. The families and teachers can see the difference in the kids as one teacher commented, “during the thirteen years I was at Shaed School I recommended that, and encouraged all of my parents to send their children to the various programs at Beacon House. In fact, I was so happy with the programs that not only did I recommend Beacon House to them, but I actively involved myself in helping the children attend. The Beacon House programs are excellent. They have had a very positive effect upon my students and their academic progress.”
We got to go see 2 universities that were well known especially in Washington, D.C. One was Gallaudet University for ASL majors for people who cannot hear, the other was Howard University. I absolutely loved Gallaudet University because it was so silent and beautiful to see people speaking by using their hands. I was literally watching another language being used but I couldn’t stare because then they would think I was ez-dropping in on their conversation. It was nice also because they couldn’t be on their phones while in a conversation to obviously understand what the other was saying. The one major take away I got from Howard University was how every student we talked too walking on campus, had what they call the “Howard Introduction.” This was where they said their name, major and minors, and asked if we had any questions. This made us feel so welcomed and inspired to want to go to this University.
The most interesting thing I learned while in the area was how people who can’t hear have a higher risk of getting HIV/AIDS after going to the same site the Alternative Winter Break of Deaf Culture went on. They actually have a 4 times the amount of risk of getting it than hearing due to education and their backgrounds. It is said that people who cannot hear have the education of a 4th grader which is really sad since it is not their fault. I believe schools need to make it a requirement like your basic classes-science, math, and english-to take an ASL class to be able to understand and talk to others. Our education system should definitely be improved in that essence.
Overall I learned a lot about the deaf culture that is so prevalent in Washington, D.C, and the at-risk youth. I realized also how blessed I am to be able to hear, to be able to shower in my own “building” as we had to go to the YMCA everyday to shower, to sleep on a mattress, and have those basic necessities. Having a loving family who cares about my future and my now to push me and help me get there.