August 2011 Letter


Download this update Letter! Update 9-5-2011

September 6, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Time is such a confusing concept. How can days fly by, weeks seem to drag on, and months be over before you know it? When I run through Camden, I’m surrounded by so many things I’ve gotten used to as normal. Deplorable abandoned houses, needles, dime bags, signs of poverty all over. I forget how interesting and active of a place Camden is, and how others are interested in what happens here. The past several months got away from me, in terms of writing updates. I made a big deal out of updating once a month then I fell off again. Well I am happy to say that the blog I started awhile back is now updated again, and will be often. I created several pages I think will be interesting—I’ll post weekly reflections/ poems, daily fun facts about Camden, its history, etc, as well as DSW updates. And pictures! It’ll be good times, check it out. The link is: https://camdenchronicles.wordpress.com/.

Many things have happened since the last letter in April so I’ll try to sum it up the best I can. Summer time in Camden was pretty nice, overall a lot cooler than Williamsburg and a pretty fun time of the year. Instead of being cooped up like winter time, in the evenings everyone is outside in the streets enjoying talking to neighbors. But come August it was time for our service year to end, and so although I have stayed on in Camden many friends have left. Firstly my housemate Tom moved back to Minnesota to find cool medical research jobs. And the Jesuit Volunteers ended their time as well; Lauren to med school at Wisconsin, Steph to home near Chicago to find cool community organizing jobs, Aly to home on Long Island, and Katie to home to take classes at Manhattan College. It was a very fun year together and although the new Jesuits have moved in and their nice and all, its just not the same. I miss you Tom and JVS! In addition to me staying, my housemate Tim is here, a Jesuit from last year Conor just moved in, and Rachel from across the street moved in to be on staff here at DSW also. We have a staff of three now, here at DSW world headquarters.

Along with the volunteer ending, I finished working at Hopeworks. I will miss it more than I thought I would, not getting to see the kids every day. I say kids but really they are young adults (17-23 year olds), and many have one or more kids of their own. Hopeworks recently had a movie night in the park around the corner, Northgate, and it had such a good turnout! The videos shown were summer projects the high school kids at HW had been working on. The park was full of kids and it was great seeing it used for fun and safe activities instead of the usual.

Some HW kids and staff had another pretty cool experience—they went to NYC and rang the closing bell at NASDAQ on August 29th!! It was the close to Symantec Week, an event sponsored by Symantec for Hopeworks every year. And this year they rang the closing bell, their pictures were up on the big screen in Times Square! The NASDAQ building has a big curved screen on the corner. You can see the pictures on Hopeworks’ facebook page. One of the guys in the program that went was DJ, he’s probably the most solid youth I’ve seen at HW the whole year I was there. Even though his past was rough, he has his head on straight now and is determined to make it.

So your probably wondering, what am I doing this next volunteer year? Well–  I am still living at the same house and now am doing various DSW administrative tasks (budgeting, etc) while also doing a variety of in the community activities. One is teaching a civic engagement after school class to Holy Name 8th graders, which is a pretty neat model. The idea is to find an issue (in our case, find a specific problem with Northgate park, which is right beside the school, same park the movie night was in) and take the kids through to organizing process. They’ll take field trips to meet people, identify stakeholders in the community, and take action on their topic and hopefully see real change. Another project will be creating an interest group around the abandoned housing issue in our neighborhood. Abandoned houses create all sorts of problems- crime, drug dealing and using, rodents, decreases surrounding home values, etc. And the third main activity is being involved with a group that aims to keep Northgate Park safe and clean. It’s one of the many parks that the city gives minimal attention to, in terms of upkeep, surveillance, maintenance, etc. so I’ll keep you posted on all those things!

Keep me updated on your life as well! I hope to hear from you,

Mike

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