It is hard to put into words exactly how my experience in Detroit impacted me. I took so much away from being immersed in the culture of the city. Just talking with the people there and listening to the stories and memories they had to share was something I will never forget. It changed my outlook on both positive and negative situations, and I will certainly take that with me moving forward in my life. The experience taught me a lot about the history of the city and the current situations and hardships it faced, but it also taught me a lot about the human spirit.
After we were settled in the first day, we began our service work. We worked with the NGO Focus: Hope and got to tour their facilities and learn about all of their programs and ways they help the residents living in100 blocks. It was so great to see how one organization had changed the lives of so many people. The grassroots organization was making real change with hard work and determination and many people seemed to be very thankful to be helped by Focus: Hope workers. The first project we did with Focus Hope was painting boards to be used to board up houses in the Keep it 100 project coming up in the next week. This didn’t really seem like it would make that much of a real difference, but little things like that go a long way. Throughout the streets of Detroit, we noticed the revamping of many buildings and the use of colorful paint to turn the neighborhoods from looking dilapidated and run down to vibrant and alive. We also helped plant two gardens in some empty lots. It was hard work, but definitely worth it.
The little things mattered a lot to the people of Detroit, and not only in terms of decorating. We visited a housing unit for people who had recently been homeless or met other qualifications to live there. Our tour guide showed us around the unit and talked to us about her experience there and how important it was to her to just be able to hold a key. She described also how the mailroom was one of her favorites because it meant that she finally had an address and a place where people could send her messages and other important information. We then played bingo with some of the residents and at first were a little shy to approach them, but then we sat down and started talking with them and learned about their past and how they are moving forward.
One of my favorite parts of the course was getting to spend some time in the Children’s Center at Focus Hope. It really made me optimistic for the future and made all the work we were doing easy and well worth it. Overall, the attitude and spirit of the people of Detroit was overwhelmingly encouraging and inspiring. They did not give up on their city and were working hard to get it back on its feet. They would tell us that what they wanted us to take from our visit most was their optimism for the future and relentless hope and faith in their city. And that was clear around every aspect of the trip. The city of Detroit has not given up even in the toughest of times, and I have taken that message with me and developed a greater sense of appreciation and hope from those people.