Thank You, Pat!
From the Direct Service program to Infusion and Dismantling Racism, I was given an opportunity to engage with my community in a new, and insightful, manner.
It is almost impossible for me to state the importance of the Infusion program. Working with the next generation of social justice leaders in my community really showed me how important it is to be engaged with the youths within my area. Infusion was great because I was able to learn from the young leaders in the program as much as they were able to learn from me. We all brought a unique perspective of social inequalities, and being exposed to such varied views helped each of us build empathy on this sensitive topic.
My two primary takeaways from my time with CVEM were that we need to actively strive for equity within our community and the difference between toxic charity and beneficial charity. My family and I do not consider ourselves religious, and at no point did that negatively affect my time with the CVEM programs. Martha, and all of the CVEM leaders and volunteers, created an atmosphere where our differences are acknowledged and respected. That gave me the equity I needed to be successful while I was volunteering with the program. I never felt alienated or ostracized because of my different spiritual beliefs. This concept of equity is embodied in programs like TAP, which my eldest daughter got to be a part of, and it shows that with a little effort we can appreciate all of the differences that exist within our ethnicity, cultures, and religions in a respectful way.
Working with the Direct Service volunteers was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It was also incredibly rewarding. As a military member, I allowed myself to become isolated from the Columbus population by limiting myself to the Army community. The Direct Service program was a great way to reintegrate myself into the local population and build a sense of camaraderie with my neighbors. It was an emotional struggle listening to and talking with members of my community who were victim to a system that can exploit the most vulnerable members of our society at times. It was incredible to have a chance to give my neighbors some sense of financial literacy or resources within Columbus that they could utilize to help themselves. I developed a sense of pride when my neighbors were able improve their own situation after being given just a few local resources to utilize. In tackling important social justice issues, I learned a lot by sitting in on the Racial Reconciliation meetings. Combating social injustice is complex work, and breaking that cycle of socialization requires a level of commitment to social equity that can be found in abundance at CVEM.