On July 15, we concluded our final week of Summer Camp at Hands On Nashville, and we have to say, it’s been an educational summer!
After a week of focusing our attention on the environment, and a week exploring health and wellness issues, we engaged young people in a third week of service-learning activities exploring issues of hunger and homelessness.
The goal of the week was to inspire campers to make a positive change by becoming more attuned to how hunger and homelessness affects those in our community. Much of our week was spent at Nashville organizations that focus on affecting these issue areas.
Given the hardships hunger and homelessness present to our fellow community members, this final session brought challenging moments. As campers confronted stereotypes and participated in service projects, we shared positive moments of camaraderie and understanding.
Here’s a look at few of the week’s highlights:
Park Center Visit
On day one, our friends at Park Center set the stage for campers by showing us first hand accounts of how being without shelter affects Nashvillians. Park Center’s mission is to empower people who have mental illness and substance use disorders to live and work in their communities through a variety of services. We’re grateful for their staff taking the time to help campers increase their understanding.
BELL Garden Project
During the week, campers dug around in the Bellevue Edible Learning Lab! BELL Garden is solely volunteer run and provides a local food pantry with its only source of fresh produce. Local gardens such as these help to provide fresh and healthy food in areas where fresh, nutritious foods are hard to access. Thanks BELL Garden!
More than a Paper
Campers also made a visit to speak with the staff and vendors at The Contributor. Thanks to The Contributor, a.k.a. the “street paper,” many people experiencing homelessness and many who are formerly homeless earn a steady source of income. For many formerly homeless vendors, income earned selling newspapers empowered them to achieve housing. Pretty great, right? And, not only does The Contributor newspaper help individuals earn a living, it also helps connect those individuals to their community. One piece of advice we got from The Contributor was to not just give money for the paper, but to take it and read it. Taking the paper not only gives vendors a sense of pride from fulfilling the transaction, you help the paper boosts their sales!
Second Harvest Green Bean Sorting
Green beans anyone? At Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, campers helped sort through huge boxes of green beans by discarding any that were not edible. Second Harvest is one of the largest food bank operations in the area and provides food to fight hunger across Middle Tennessee.
Open Table Immersive Experience
Arguably the most poignant moments of the week came during an immersive experience downtown led by Open Table Nashville . With their team, campers were able to speak with people experiencing homelessness and listen to their stories first hand. This experience was powerful for the group as it showed us that everyone has a story and it usually isn’t what we expect. Campers learned how some individuals became homeless and why they have not been able to get out of homelessness.
Open Table works closely with the homeless as their advocate, as their friend, and as their resource. One way we can all help, Open Table staff communicated, is to understand that everyone has a story and everyone deserves food in their belly and a place to call home.
Old School Farm Garden Project
Campers had a blast harvesting carrots with Old School Farm, an organization that provides fresh food to the community, while also employing and training individuals with intellectual disabilities. During our visit, Old School Farm leaders explained how disabilities, be they medical, intellectual or physical, can be barriers to employment work. Their efforts seek to provide those employment opportunities, as well as to fight hunger.
Room in the Inn Tour & Service Activity
On the last day of camp, the group toured Room in the Inn, whose mission is to provide programs that emphasize human development and recovery through education, self-help and work, centered in community and long term support for those who call the streets of Nashville home. Here, campers helped the organization prepare for an annual festival for Room in the Inn visitors designed to make them feel connected, welcome and stress-free.
Thank you to each of the organizations who supported this year’s summer camp. You all enriched these service-learning experiences and we thank you all for the work you do every day in our community!
And to the campers: our hope is that Summer Camp has had as great of an impact on you, as you made on our community. Thanks for a great summer.
Ready to volunteer? Sign up at HON.org.