The following piece was written by students in this year's "The Journalist's Lens" JTerm class and is reprinted with permission from the JTerm Times.
Community builds connection
By Emma Bittenbender '20 and Anjali Bose '20
One of the pillars of Episcopal Academy is community service. This is shown and put into action through the J-Term Building Understanding: Food and Community. Throughout the course of this J-Term, students learned "how food and security, and hunger affects the Philadelphia community and communities around us," says senior Lily Shaner. She then goes on to say that "throughout the past 2 weeks we've been doing community service at multiples places and have been trying to help the community around us."
This J-Term has gotten involved in an abundance of local and regional community service opportunities. As mentioned, they spent two days at Feast of Justice, an organization dedicated to feeding those in poverty, working with the food pantry. "We helped other people receive food using their food stamps," says Maddie Loughead, a sophomore at Episcopal. They also visited with Project Home, which describes itself as a non-profit organization empowering individuals to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness through affordable housing, employment, healthcare, and education. At Project Home they talked to different people who worked there, some of whom had been in the services and homeless. The group was also involved in MANNA, whose motto is Delivering Nourishment and Improving Health, as their main focus revolves around providing nourishment to those suffering from and battling life threatening illnesses. "At MANNA we made casseroles and prepared meals, because they freeze their meals and then distribute them to people." explained Shaner.
The group went to Broad Street Ministry, where they served homeless people food, restaurant style. They also worked with Philabundance, the largest hunger relief organization in the region, where they helped package canned goods on a conveyor belt and helped to organize everything so it could be shipped out to the people in need. A smaller group within the J-Term went to Share, a "nonprofit organization serving a large network of community organizations engaging in food distribution, education, and advocacy," according to their mission statement on their homepage. "There they filled envelopes with paperwork for people that needed to sign up for the Share food program," explained Loughead.
Both the girls said their favorite experience was working with the Broad Street Ministry. "We got to talk to the homeless people and really experience it with them. We felt like waitresses! It was really hectic but fun to meet the people and realize how similar we were to them," the girls said. On top of this work with these different nonprofit organizations and community service programs, the students will also partake in a final project. "There's an upcoming art gallery and we have a part in it," they explained. The theme of the gallery is "Utopia." Each small group was assigned to a different place their J-Term went to. "We will make a small pamphlet about that place and what we did there," Shaner said. "There's also an interview where we're interviewing each other and talk about our experiences in J-Term." The video will be played during the art gallery.
This J-Term has not only helped open students' eyes to the poverty and problems around them, but it has also led to building many new connections for the Academy. This J-Term was the first Episcopal Academy group to work with Feasts of Justice first hand, explained Loughead. "We started a relationship with them, so now the community service board and EA as a whole has a direct link to them," continued Shaner.
The J-Term changed students' perspectives on the homeless. As explained by Loughead, students at EA oftentimes feel that they aren't able to fully empathize with the homeless due to their drastic differences in circumstances. After the J-Term, the students began to realize they "can relate to them because in many ways they are very similar to us," Loughead stated.
Make sure to check out the art gallery for an upcoming exhibit which involves the students and their experiences throughout the Building Understanding J-Term.