Written by Uniquewa Rogers, AmeriCorps Member serving at Father Keith B. Kenny K-8
I remember when I was around seven years old, waking up with the worst stomach pain. It was the pain someone gets after being punched in the stomach with an iron fist. Except, the iron fist was my mother struggling to put food on the table or in our mouths for that matter. The pain I was enduring was hunger, inequality, living in poverty, and social injustice. I had always dreamt of being able to get up and grab a snack from the fridge or go to bed with a full stomach from eating so much chicken, pasta or vegetables. Except it was just a dream, not my reality. My tiny body was under weight, my skin was pale and dry, and my clothes were hand-me-downs. Justice was not on our side. I watched as my mother struggled every day trying to find a way to feed her five children. Living in a homeless shelter at the time, I was unaware of the reasons as to why we were there. Being with my siblings was my safe haven, and I was lucky I had them. According to Care.Org, more than 300 million children are chronically hungry, and more than 90 percent of these children suffer from long-term malnourishment and nutrient deficiency. We have to do better!
We did not go to school for a year, and yet, because of this shelter and my mother’s perseverance, my brother and I remained on track with school. However, I never quite understood why we looked different than our classmates. I remember receiving bags of clothes from my elementary school and being so happy to try everything on. I didn’t care where it came from. As long as my brothers and sisters were warm I was happy. The clothes on our backs meant that someone heard our cries, they listened to my mother’s prayers, and they felt my shivers during the cold nights sleeping on a church bench. I was lucky enough to have gone to school that year. It is with these experiences that I am able to fully serve my students. There were those in my life who fought for my well-being. I, alongside my fellow AmeriCorps Members, will keep working to ensure a better life for our students.
I serve because I am a daughter, sister, friend and voice to every single child who is fighting to defy the odds and push through every situation. Social Justice does not happen overnight, but feeding a hungry student or clothing a cold child can lead to a smile that will one night make everything seem worth fighting for.
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