One of the best things we can teach young people is the need to love their neighbor. And no doubt, the students at our C.A.S.E. after school program at Dupont Hadley Middle School will tell you that making that phrase a reality takes some planning and skill.
Over time, our C.A.S.E. staff has cultivated a value of service in the students through the variety of character lessons taught throughout the year, and they have been eager to participate in a service project that would make a way for them to serve in their community.
So we decided to help them make it happen. After some brainstorming of different kinds of projects they could, the students took the opportunity to organize and implement a food drive.
Then it was a matter of deciding who the students would give the food to once collected. Our organization is in contact with a social worker who had been working for World Relief. World Relief Nashville was one of the main refugee resettlement agencies. Sadly, their Nashville branch recently closed their offices due to recent legislation that reduces the number of refugees allowed to enter the US. She knew of a handful of families that were in great need because of the loss of the program. Together with the students, we decided they would be great recipients for the food after the drive.
After our CASE facilitators helped teach the students what gives a person the label of a refugee, and taught cultural lessons that helped students understand the the plight of refugees in our country and in Nashville, the students were compelled to reach out and assist a these families.
Facilitator Bri Botzum reflected on the experience, “It was exciting to see the students fall in love with the project and each contribute in their own way. There were so many different tasks to do to put on this drive; it was neat to see each of the students using their strengths to help bless these families.”
Over two weeks time, C.A.S.E. students raised awareness in their schools for the plight of refugees, they decorated and placed baskets in their school lobbies where students could bring non-perishable food to help refugees in need. In the end, they gathered and organized 5 large baskets and personally delivered them to the families.
The families who received the gift were from Congo, Syria and Burma. The family from the Congo had 9 children living in a an apartment, and all of them fled their homeland because of the threat of war and violence against their families. We received a text from the social worker after the delivery, “Thanks for organizing/giving food. The families are happy, they feel loved and so thankful to you and all the middle school students. They told me that they ate the food after you dropped it off. They like it very much.”
While we know this is only a small need being met for a community of refugees in a lot of need, it was the little bit these students could do, and we are glad for it. Opportunities like this plant seeds in young people and empower them to know that they have the ability to serve those in need. It also lets refugees, who already feel isolated,know that they are loved and recognized by some young people who are eager to do good.
The C.A.S.E. program at Dupont Hadley Middle Prep is a program of the Nashville After Zone Alliance. The Nashville After Zone Alliance is a network of coordinated after school programming for Metro’s middle-school students. NAZA is a partnership among the Nashville Public Library, MNPS, and other existing youth-serving groups. It is modeled on successful efforts in other cities and is organized around geographically-defined zones.