Methma is a Volunteer Representative for Swearer Tutoring and Enrichment in Math and Sciences (STEMS). As a VR, Methma helps plan weekly meetings for the tutors, which are intended to provide Brown tutors with tools to work more effectively, through tutoring skills, knowledge of current education policy, discussions on the role of a tutor in a classroom, or information about the Providence Public School system. She is currently tutoring in a physics class.
A Week to Listen
Ari is currently thinking about how to effectively work in and relate to communities that are not his own. He is a Community Fellow for Winter Break Projects and plans to double concentrate in History and Portuguese & Brazilian Studies.
We woke up on the floor of a church basement to the strumming of a ukulele. After some coaxing, we crawled out of our sleeping bags and pulled on all the sweaters we could find. In the kitchen we clutched mugs of hot tea and coffee before heading out into the frosty streets of Providence.
Last year I came back to school a week before second semester started to participate in the Winter Break Projects (WBP). During the week, about thirty Brown students divided up into five focus groups that explored public health, refugee resettlement, environmental justice, homelessness, and education in Providence. For five days we criss-crossed the city, meeting with local activists, community organizers, and government officials. At night we cooked, ate, played, and slept in a church on Weybosset Street.
I was in the Refugee Resettlement focus group. On the day that the WBP coordinator woke us up with some ukulele chords, we were planning to learn about the challenges that refugees face when seeking employment in Providence.
Our first destination was a café on Broad Street, where we met with the owner of a granola bar company that hires refugees and helps them acclimate to the American job market. In the afternoon, we toured a small factory on the outskirts of town that also serves as an entry point into the job market for many recently-arrived refugees. Though many people who arrive as refugees were professionals in their home countries, language barriers and unfamiliar workplace environments pose serious obstacles to employment once they reach the United States.
In the evening we gathered again in the church to share a home-cooked meal. Over dinner I got to talk to students in other groups about how the issues they were examining intersected with the experiences of refugees in Providence. These conversations were the bread and butter of my WBP experience, helping me see the connections between various issues and communities.
On the last day of the program, my group met with Omar Bah, the founder of the Refugee Dream Center, a nonprofit that aims to assist refugees after their six months of State Department support ends. Mr. Bah arrived in the US several years ago as a refugee from The Gambia, where he had been tortured for his political journalism. After going through the process of resettlement, he decided to address the shortcomings of the US refugee resettlement policy by starting his own organization. Talking with Mr. Bah helped us see that the people best suited to address a problem are often those who have lived through it.
WBP brought up a lot of questions for us, such as: How do communities identify and address different issues? How does a place or group of people even become defined as a community? How should we as college students interact with Providence, which for most of us is a temporary home? What does it mean to do community work?
These are questions that merit a lifetime of inquiry. Though they may not have clear cut answers, these are vital for anyone seeking to do community work, however they define it. Participating in WBP helped me learn how to approach these questions. When working in a community, especially one that is not your own, the first thing you must do is listen. After listening, you can ask how you can help.
June 20, 2016
June 13, 2016"I think about opening my mouth to call out goodbye, or to salute her in a traditional sign language farewell. Instead, I stand silently and smile."
Sally Hosokawa is a Community Fellow for Writers’ Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that facilitates creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities. She studies literary translation in the Comparative Literature Department.
May 14, 2016“Club teachers understand us,” she says. “Even though they’re older, they’re not that much older, and so they’re like us and we can identify with them and talk to them about our problems.”
Addy is a volunteer with the Brown Elementary Afterschool Mentoring Program (BEAM), a Swearer Center community partnership that facilitates after-school programing activities and mentorship between Brown volunteers and students at William D’Abate Elementary School in the Olneyville neighborhood.
February 22, 2016
Pia is a junior double-concentrating in Education Studies and Comparative Literature. This is her third year with Writers' Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that offers creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities, and her first year as a Swearer Center Community Fellow.
February 19, 2016I was intrigued by the program, but very intimidated by some of the topics. I’ve never been in the position to talk about gender or sexuality or rape culture.
Tiara came into Brown dead set on studying Neuroscience. After a summer or working with the local Planned Parenthood branch and taking health based classes she realized public health was her real calling. She has been volunteering for the SHAPE (Sexual Health Advocacy through Peer Education) program since sophomore year.
February 16, 2016