Thurman Brisben Center Volunteer
November 5, 2015
Dr. Leslie Martin
For my community service activity, I volunteered at the Thurman Brisben Center to play with homeless kids for two hours while their parents did chores (I volunteered there twice actually). I chose to volunteer there because I was a summer camp counselor for five years, so I absolutely love kids, and I thought babysitting at Thurman Brisben would be similar to summer camp counseling. Fortunately, I was correct. I loved it! The kids ranged from ages 2 to 10, and there were only about seven or eight of them, but they were awesome! I loved them, and they loved me. They loved me for my size mainly. I could chase them around, push them in their little cars, and give them piggy back rides, so that’s the real reason they liked me. When it got dark, we went inside to color, and one of the kids colored a picture for me to keep. Their appreciation of me was very touching, which was the definitely the best part.
As much as I loved the kids there, I could tell that the adults were not too fond of seeing college students, so it is very interesting to me to consider how power comes into play. As soon as we walked into the building, the man in charge of Thurman Brisben announced that “UMW students were there to help.” Obviously the kids were excited for us to be there, but I was definitely sensing some cynical vibes from the adults. Hearing “UMW students” I could tell kind of set them off. I felt like they were thinking “I hope those privileged rich kids feel great about themselves (with a facetious tone of course).
Another thing that struck me when I was there was that the older brother of one the kids that I was babysitting had an iPhone and was wearing a pair of Jordan’s and a pair of Beats headphones, which are probably the most expensive headphones available. I realize that I sound negatively judgmental when I say this, but how can homeless parents afford to buy their kid Beats headphones? It certainly did not bother me, but it did strike me. It also made me wonder: what effect will I have on these kids by helping them? Will my willingness to help them allow them to see the good in people, thus empower them to also want to do good? Or will they become cynical of “rich and privileged” college students and use the little money that they do have on Beats headphones instead of housing? Again I hope I don’t sound judgmental, but I am curious of the effects that humanitarian efforts have when it comes to power. Do humanitarian efforts lead to empowerment or parasitism? I personally believe that humanitarian efforts and community involvement do in fact lead to empowerment more so than parasitism. If everyone helped each other out, then there would be many more positive outcomes than negative.
2 thoughts on “Alex Smith. Thurman Brisben Center Volunteer. Research Project #2 Replacement. Section 2”
When listening to your presentation in class about this topic I felt some of the same concerns. I too am sometimes skeptical of how much humanitarian efforts truly help others or fulfill the task they set out to complete. On one hand, I think it is a part of out ‘power’ as community members to give back and help the community however we see fit. On the other hand, I wonder how these community members are using their ‘power’ to help themselves. I feel as if we will never know how much of an impact we are truly making, but I personally think it’s better to help than to sit back and wait for someone else to do it for us.
I’m so glad you had a wonderful experience helping these children! No matter how small of a difference (or how uncomfortable it felt being a college student in this location), it’s a difference none-the-less.
Over thanksgiving break I actually had a conversation with my friends about your presentation. I know I unfairly judge people at times and probably would’ve noticed the same type of expensive items you did. We talked about what Reed said and parents trying to give their kids these items to feel more comfortable/normal/privileged. Making a decision between making rent and giving those types of luxuries and feelings to your kids seems like an extremely painful decision, but I think overall you addressed it very well.