StoryCorps at the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless (Bob Thayer/The Providence Journal)
“A story is sometimes most powerful when it isn’t interpreted as a place for us to project our opinions, but rather as an invitation to listen.”
Stanley Stewart ’16 worked for the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless this past summer as an Impact Providence intern (now called iProv). This semester he has served as an Access Scholar with the College Advising Corps, working on individual and group SAT preparation, essay writing, and financial aid programming with Providence high school students.
It usually involves a stranger on a sidewalk or at a bus station. Though perhaps it might look like handing out a hot plate of food for a few hours during the holidays. No matter the scenario, most of us have particular ways we learn about and interact with homelessness. In most of instances, there are two things that remain consistent: there is a level of distance we keep (be that physical and/or more abstractly) and the encounters are brief. We hurriedly whisper “sorry, I don’t have any change” or serve with a silent smile, but we never linger for too long. We definitely don’t ask questions.
Sara Winnick ’15 is an Impact Providence intern working this summer for the BRYTE summer camp.
To BRYTE kids, everything is theirs.
“Kunama is my language,” they say. “Ethiopia, my country.”
“This from my culture.”
“She my sister.”
“He my brother.”
To BRYTE kids, nothing is theirs.
“For you,” says Natalina, removing a tiny rainbow heart bracelet from her wrist and sliding it on mine.
“For you,” says Dahaba, opening her Tupperwared Eritrean salad and spooning wet arugula into the palm of my hand.
“For you,” says Kalpana, offering her bag of Extra Extra Extra Flaming Hot Cheetos.
My language, my culture, my country. For you, for you, for you.
Josette Souza ’14 is a Impact Providence intern at Amos House.
When I decided to apply for the Impact Providence program, I wasn’t actually quite sure if I was ready. It’s not that I worried about whether or not I could do the job well; I knew I could. What I was worried about was whether or not I was ready to enter into a community that closely resembled the one I grew up in—one that had allowed me to see the kinds of devastation that can happen when high unemployment rates, low quality education, and limited access to social services intersect. Growing up amidst poverty, substance abuse, and homeless is one thing. Being able to successfully work within a community struggling with these problems in such a way that the community actually benefits is another. I was not only afraid that I would freeze up because of something my aunt calls “survivor’s guilt”, but that I’d end up working for a non-profit that contributes as much to the problem as it attempts to solve.
Bryan Payton ’15 is an Impact Providence intern working in the Office of Mayor Angel Taveras.
What is enticing about municipal government is not only the lessons learned from a rich history of politics at City Hall, but also how localized the impact that can be made. All too often I see powerful, albeit small, moments of difference.
Throughout my summer, I have participated in a range of activities that create tangible differences in the lives of Providence residents. Ranging from improving financial stability for low-income residents, promoting inclusive access for minority and women businesses, and updating city ordinances to embrace gender identity in its clauses, all of these projects demonstrated to me the role city government has in shaping opportunity for all citizens, even if a municipality does not have the same level of resources or power as a federal or state authority.
Sophie McKibben ’15 is an Impact Providence intern this summer working for Dorcas International Institute RI as the co-director of the Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring and Enrichment (BRYTE) Summer Camp. A story on BRYTE Camp was recently featured in Brown News.
Running BRYTE Summer Camp, a six-week program in South Providence for 55 newly arrived refugee youth between the ages of 7 and 14, has been a whirlwind of new experiences for me. Though I chose Brown because it was the only school where I wouldn’t have a maths requirement, I have some how become fundraiser, budget manager and accountant. I’m camp Nurse, drive daily (I got my license in May), dance willingly and in front of many people during morning meeting, give time-outs, and clean endless spills of milk or juice or raisins. Each day is an exercise in flexibility—and a “fake it until you make it” type of outlook.
Anthony Jang ’15 is an Impact Providence intern working for The Mental Health Association of Rhode Island.
As a child, I grew up with the privilege of having a loving family. Thus I was allowed to be ignorant to the traumatic and detrimental impact domestic violence could have on a family. Never having seen my parents argue or fight against each other, I staunchly believed that people who abuse their partners only existed on television or in the most extreme dysfunctional families.
As I matured, I gradually realized that domestic violence was a more widespread, common social problem than I had thought. In fact, over 20% of women and around 7% of men in the US reported having been physically abused by their partner during their lifetime in a 2000 report.
Stanley Stewart ’16 is an Impact Providence intern working for Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless.
I take a deep breath.
“Calm down Stanley, you can do this. This isn’t that big of a deal. They’re just people.”
Unsure of what to say and hesitant to pick up the phone, I attempted to calm the beating in my chest and anxiety racing through my veins.
Was I qualified to be doing this? What if they had questions? Could I answer them?
As a part of my latest project at the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, I was anxiously putting off phone calls to the various Chiefs of the RI State & Municipal Police Departments.