This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Hillyer Memorial Christian Church partnered with 3 other DOC churches for a youth justice lock-in. This year’s theme was “Kickstart Justice.” Catherine Campbell, Associate Minister at Hillyer, said, “We took a look at what it was like to be a social entrepreneur- to take your passions, your gifts, your calling and turn it into a non-profit.” YMCo got to talk with two Hillyer youth, siblings Ben and Marie Rashleigh, about how this lock-in gave them the opportunity to bring YMCo’s theme, “Broken Boundaries” back to their home context.
They told us their day started with an activity in which they were given a job title, such as financial manager or marketing consultant, a social justice issue, and instructions on how to create a non-profit to address the given issue. Ben’s topic was immigration, and Marie’s was animal rights. Afterwards, the youth heard from two local social entrepreneurs about how they started their organizations. One of these women was Hollie Woodruff, a contract fundraiser for A Place at the Table and the Wesley Shelter. Ben described A Place at the Table as a “pay-as-you-can open table” restaurant. The other was Katie Murray, city farmer for Camden Street Learning Garden via the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, which Marie described as “a neighborhood garden in a low-income neighborhood.”
The next morning the youth went to one of three service sites: “One group painted art for A Place at the Table’s pop-up cafe fundraisers, another served breakfast at Oak City Outreach Center, and the third explored and developed pieces for social media fundraising for A Place at the Table.” This group created a video to raise awareness of the work A Place at the Table does in the community. Check it out here! Catherine also said, “Each group explored the narrative of their service site– why it developed, who it serves, and how they as volunteers help fulfill its mission.”
Ben and Marie both came to AYM this summer and learned about our theme, “Broken Boundaries,” so we asked them how the lock-in helped them break down boundaries in their home context. Marie said she broke down boundaries with the other youth groups. She said, “There was this girl. Her name was Sarah. I didn’t really want to talk to [her]. I had my own clique at my own church, and then we had to sleep in the same room, and I think we went to the same [service site]. By the end I had her phone number, we’re super close, we see each other at camp all the time, and she’s one of my good friends now.”
Ben said AYM and the lock-in helped him break down the boundaries of stigma surrounding the homeless. He said, “Going to that food shelter, just like at AYM, we got to help the homeless and it really helped open up my eyes…When I first went to AYM and we gave out popsicles, I was a little bit scared because everybody says, ‘The homeless are scary, they can hurt you, stay away from them.’ It’s just such a negative connotation with them, but if you really open up your eyes and look, they’re just people the same as you and me.” He also said he learned that “some people just [volunteer] to make themselves feel better, but when you’re doing it for the other people, it’s a whole different sense.”
Marie said she learned “not to judge a person on how they look or sound,” and that one of her gifts is working with kids. She said she was inspired by her experiences at AYM and the lock-in to put those gifts to work helping children, and has been doing so by volunteering with the nursery at Hillyer.
Ben closed out the interview by saying, “I think people should do something like this at least once in their lifetime. Go out and spend a week devoting yourself, not just to God, but to others, so you can see what it’s really like in someone else’s shoes.”
We are so excited to learn about how these youth at Hillyer Memorial DOC are continuing their life of service in Raleigh through this social justice lock in!
Want to know how to do something similar in your context? We’ve created a list of questions to get you started. Check it out here!
Already doing something like this to break boundaries in your community? Let YMCo know at [email protected]!