-Ron Lapitan, Community Outreach Coordinator
So much seems to happen these days, that there doesn’t seem time to write it all down.
My workday started this afternoon in Culmore, a neighborhood which is a diverse culmination of immigrant communities, in the second floor of a church where a free clinic sets up on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The director gave my intern and I a tour, then we consulted about how their clinic and Center for Health and Human Rights can serve the community together.
Right after, we drove to the home of a high school student in Herndon, Aravindan. He heard about our Health as Right School Program from a teacher, researched it on the Internet, and then called me to see how he could get involved. So today we showed up at his door, like Hagrid inviting Harry Potter to join a world of people with powers like him to change the world.
“If you could change something about your community that would affect public health, what would you change?” I asked as we sat in his living room.
“I notice there are a lot of students at South Lakes High School who can’t afford medical supplies, like epipens. I’d like to help make them more affordable,” said Aravindan. “I’m president of the biology club, and we have been trying to get involved in something that would make an impact on the community. I think this program would help us.”
“I’m glad you’re a part of our team,” I said with a smile, then gave him one of our bracelets. And so the 8 clubs we have started so far became 9.
My intern and I went straight from Aravindan’s door to our car and drove for an hour to a Baptist church in Maryland, for an evening panel discussion about how to prepare the community’s youth for interactions with the police. It was a black church, and every parent there talked about the typical conversation they had with their children about what to do when you get pulled over. “Put your registration in the ceiling mirror, so you are reaching up not down. Turn down the music. Keep answers succinct and respectful. ‘Yes sir, no sir.” Everywhere you go, people have been hurt in some way for lack of human rights, I thought to myself.
A minister had us stand and link hands for a closing benediction for a just world. Then my intern and I weaved through the socializing crowd to shake as many hands as possible.
“Just give our church a call, and we’ll schedule a time to talk about how to serve the youth,” said the bishop generously.
“We are part of the school board too. We can get you to speak in front of the board, as well as connect you to students,” added Brother Kenar, another church member. And so the Health as Right Program has leads into the Maryland schools.
“We’ll be back,” I said with a smile as we shook their hands and parted.
My intern and I drove home in silence. Not the awkward kind, but the satisfied kind, when you feel like you’ve accomplished something, and silence is how you appreciate it. The windows of the buildings passing by glowed in the night.
“Get some sleep,” I said with a smile as I dropped him home at 11:00pm. We will wake up early tomorrow morning for an all day conference for organizations serving refugees that our Center helped organize. There is so much to do; I thought driving home by myself on the empty night road. All the new connections to follow up with, and conversations to schedule. But I am happy life can be this way. I want to be a part of this world.
“Far and away the best prize life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”
(Image: leaving the panel discussion about youth and law enforcement)