In last week’s blog I decided to commit to doing something new each week that would either be outside the norm for me, uniquely GW or typically DC. This week began with the perfect opportunity to extend this to include doing something that would not only enhance my experiences here, but also help someone else in need. This was to be my first MLK day and whilst some may have seen it as a good opportunity for long weekend travels, I decided that the only appropriate way to observe the event and honor the significance of the day would be to complete service, as is called on by the day itself. And so alongside over 500 GW volunteers, I reported for service at 10am on Monday morning with a group of the other exchange students, eager to help and participate.
Quickly decked out in our new t-shirts provided to us for the day, we entered the ballroom to hear speeches from some incredibly inspiring, insightful and interesting individuals. Not only did they explain to us the importance of MLK day (which we of course knew, but it was really wonderful to hear it from their points of view as African American women who told us of the changes they had witnessed), but they evidently rose the level of excitement in the room as it dawned on everyone the importance of the work that would be completed throughout the day.
After hearing from the speakers and reciting the pledge of enthusiasm (which I desperately want to get a copy of – it was fantastic!), we had some lunch and then the large group of hundreds of volunteers split into smaller projects, each to complete a task for a different organization. The first organization that we were assigned to assist was Project Linus who serve children in need by providing them with warm blankets. The blankets, which are no-sew blankets and therefore are simple for everyone to make, are distributed to children in hospitals, shelters, social service agencies or anywhere else that children are in need. The idea is to provide them with warmth but also with a big hug and some security in knowing that someone is thinking about them. Learning about this organization was truly touching and is something that I would love to see implemented at home in Australia in some sense as I think that, although simple, their work is, evidently, incredibly meaningful and required. Furthermore, I think that the simplicity of the actual task allows for everyone and anyone to get involved which makes it an amazing project for people to get involved in.
Mia and I made a cute bright pink and yellow blanket that we hope will provide a little girl with the warmth, comfort and support she needs. So, to the recipient of the blanket we made, there is a hug from Sydney and a hug from London hidden within that blanket just for you!
After completing our blanket to be sent out with Project Linus, we moved next doorto make cards for hospitalized kids. We wanted to make stacks of cards and so we exerted every creative ounce of our beings in order to make the most colourful, imaginative and fun cards to brighten up the days of the children receiving the cards. There were lots of kangaroos and koalas drawn, games created and sketches of Big Ben included (you could definitely spot the international table!). We used all the stickers and coloured markers we could get our hands on and together created quite a collection of cards to be distributed throughout DC hospitals.
Reading the instructions before beginning the activity, it was interesting to note the organization’s preference that we not use the term ‘Get well soon’ or make any mention of them being sick or feeling unwell. Rather our cards were filled with encouraging messages like ‘you are awesome’ and ‘you shine like the sun.’ Whilst we think that this was obviously to take into consideration the emotions of those patients who unfortunately aren’t in a position to ‘get well soon,’ I really like the fact that asking us to include these phrases reminded us to think of them as children first and patients second. We weren’t meant to make these cards for the sick and injured, we were meant to make them for the fun loving children that would be the real recipients.
Deciding to join the movement to serve this MLK day was easily one of the highlights of my time at GW so far. Knowing that a few hours of our time would help brighten up some kids’ days was an amazing feeling and I am so grateful to GW for presenting this opportunity to get involved! To anyone coming in the Spring semester on exchange here in the future, email as soon as you get here to ensure that you get a place and make sure not to miss out on MLK day – it is well worth your time!
So that was this week’s new experience – and its only Monday!
Until next time…