Project Rousseau-Houston Community Engagement and Service

A Peacemaking Project by Adinawa A.

What is the injustice we are solving?

Our project will be tackling childhood hunger in hurricane-devastated Houston.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of of child hunger following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.
we will address a lack of resources and volunteers.
by working together with our students to make lunch packs, collaborating with Kids’ Meals to deliver them to children in communities hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Our Project Plan:

Goals

  • Our overarching goal in this project is to improve nutrition among local kids facing hunger, which in the Houston area has been exacerbated by the effects of Hurricane Harvey, resulting in unreliable access to sufficient quantities of nutritious food.
  • We previously made 250 lunch packs filled with nutritious foods to be delivered to students at a local preschools. We aim to provide the same amount each month in the coming semester.
  • We will work with 30 students and 10 mentors for 4 hour shifts once per month, delivering a total of 160 community service hours.
  • We aim to educate our students on this issue and at the end of the semester encourage them to suggest other ways they can contribute their free time to solve this devastating problem (e.g. donating to food banks, or reducing food waste).

We will increase my / our compassion by...

We will increase our compassion by promoting conversations before and during our preparation of the lunch packs on the ways in which situations such as this arise; we will discuss the institutionalized and social issues which lead to exacerbated conditions such as childhood hunger after natural disaster. In Houston, 1 in 4 preschool children does not know where their next meal will come from. We will make sure our students and mentors understand how the issue arises, who it affects and what they can do to be part of the solution going forward. Since some of our own students are familiar with or have dealt with extreme hunger themselves, they will be able to be compassionate in addressing this issue. Additionally, we will further show our compassion by including fun games and puzzles in the lunch packs because we know that the children will appreciate having something fun to do; this will make them feel special as the packs will be about more than just feeding them, showing them how much we care and want them to have fun, despite the terrible situation they are facing. Our mentor, Sarah, shares the impact of previous community service projects: “I love working with our mentees to address a community need together. It's important for our mentees to see themselves as actors for good change who have the potential to help others and improve lives. We work so hard to give our mentees the resources and support they need to pursue higher education and reach their full potential. Many of us easily see the potential in our mentees, but they don't always see it in themselves because of their tough situations and the way society treats them. But if they feel empowered to improve their own lives and their communities, they are more motivated to work towards those long-term goals.”

How will you show courage?

We will show courage by devoting our time to this problem, which many people do not realize is such a widespread issue in their very own community and therefore do not take actions towards resolving. We will be bringing attention to something that, contrary to belief, is not only a foreign issue, but one that affects children in our very own neighborhoods. Harris County has the 2nd highest rate of child food insecurity in the country, and some of our own students have experienced extreme hunger themselves. This is therefore a difficult issue for them to address, but by giving back to those who are now in a situation in which they themselves may have been before, they will be showing courage and contributing to ending a devastating issue.

How will you collaborate with others?

This project is such an engaging one because it requires us to act together in order to achieve the most positive outcome. We will work closely with Kids' Meals to ensure we are providing exactly what they are looking for. In order to make as many lunch packs as possible, we must work together and constantly communicate with one another. We will create an assembly line where each station is responsible for different tasks in the process. Some students will be in charge of sandwich making, some will assemble other snacks into the bag, while others will package everything together. This will prompt us to be good communicators and to work as a team while at the same time having a fun time completing an important task. In the words of one of our mentors, Sarah: “Volunteer events such as our trial lunch-packing activity we had last semester are one of Project Rousseau's best features. They allow mentors and mentees to work together and bond while giving back to their shared community. Our event was especially meaningful because after Hurricane Harvey, many in the Houston community were in need of help. We packed lunches that were later delivered to young students around the city who wouldn't otherwise have food available to them on a non-school day."

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

We will know we are moving in the right direction by keeping track of the number of lunch packs we make. We will assess how many students and mentors engage with the project and how they engage; we will assess the conversations we have and the thoughtfulness of our plans moving forward, as well as students' own ideas for community service projects in the future.

Key Steps

  • Gather shopping list and purchase ingredients needed for lunch packs
  • Communicate goals and assign tasks to students and mentors
  • Organize ingredients and volunteers at location a begin assembling lunch packs
  • Prepare lunch packs
  • Deliver lunch packs to Kids’ Meals for delivery to preschools

Reflection:

How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

Hunger and lack of social cohesion in socio-economically deprived communities formed the backdrop of our project. By confronting the problem directly through this project, we were able to see how important it is that young children are provided with healthy meals, as the quality of their nutrition impacts all other aspects of their lives. We realized that it was particularly important for us to work to serve the youngest in our society, one which has been impacted significantly by Hurricane Harvey, because they have no voice or platform in society to express their hunger and need.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

As students, we grew closer by volunteering together during the semester to prepare meals for others. We were able to discuss the issue of childhood hunger as a group, and use this as a springboard to reflect on our own lives, both their struggles and joy alike. We were also able to shape the conversation in our own communities, spreading the message of our work to our families, friends and fellow students.

How many people were impacted by your project?

75

Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

15 Project Rousseau high schoolers worked alongside 10 mentors from Rice University to prepare meals to distribute to approximately 50 students.

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

Although we did not have direct contact with the children receiving the food we had prepared, we listened carefully to requests from Kids Meals about the desired items in children’s lunch boxes, including items to entertain them.

What did your team learn?

We learned that through simple thought and care, and the personal touch, we could have a profound effect on children’s lives, showing them that we care deeply about the issues they are facing in the their lives.

What challenges did your team overcome?

Transport around Houston to meet to construct the lunch packets was a challenge, and meant that we were not able to repeat our endeavors as often as we would have liked. However, we realized that, whilst it can be easy simply to give up when scheduling conflicts and transport difficulties occur, it is always more rewarding to persevere through whatever challenges we face.

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

We worked closely with our school and college administrators to find venues for our project. We also worked with Project Rousseau staff in New York to build our partnership with Kids Meals and to secure funding for the project.

What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?

Approach your project with an open mind, and try to make extensive use of the resources Peace First is offering you!

Comments:

Dalton B.
6 June 2018 10:10

Hi Project Rousseau!

Congratulations on finishing your peacemaking project! I’m on the Peace First team and wanted to say thank you for your amazing work and for taking time to share about your work.

Below you will find some feedback based on your Reflection, which we hope will help you to celebrate your incredible accomplishment and reflect on how to grow and develop your project in the future:

I love your inclusion of fun activities/games for the young people receiving your care packages! I also love your partnership work - your collaboration with existing organizations is really powerful and clearly proved to be effective.

I'm also really interested in hearing more about this packaging experience with your volunteers. It sounds like a lot of good dialogue happened and I'm curious how you can take advantage of that and incorporate it, more officially, into your work. Maybe you combine this process with some workshop or presentation? I think it's worth exploring!

Finally, I think as you move this work forward, the more you can directly engage and collaborate with the young people receiving your packages, the better this will be. I think you'll learn more and just get that much more of an understanding on the injustice your facing with their perspective involved.

We hope you will stay in touch and keep us up to date as you continue your work to create change!

-Dalton  

Kelsey T.
22 March 2018 15:12

Hi Adinawa! Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below.

Strengths:
This is a well thought out and fabulous project! I'm so impressed by how you have considered the three C's of courage, compassion, and collaboration in this project plan. I really like the emphasis on learning why there is childhood hunger in Houston as part of the process so that you are both addressing the current need and exploring and spreading awareness about the root causes and how to make longer term change.
Your project is especially compassionate -- I love that you are including people who have personal experiences of hunger in the solution, and that you are including "fun" elements to the packs -- recognizing that not all needs are physical. I also appreciate the emphasis on helping the mentees recognize their own potential and the positive impact they are making, as well as helping the hungry. Finally, it sounds like you have a good plan in place to keep track of your progress.

Things to Consider:
I'd encourage you and the students to think about what you learn through the process about childhood hunger. What policies could the local government put in place to address the root causes? Are there ways you can advocate for change to the root causes the allow hunger to persist?

Congratulations and best of luck with your project!  

Kelsey T.
13 February 2018 14:08

Hi Adinawa! What a fantastic project!

I'm a member of the Peace First team and wanted to provide you with some feedback on your compassionate insight. Your insight is very strong: you've done a wonderful job of articulating the injustice-- I think your specificity here will help you to be successful as you carry out the project. There is clear logic between the root cause you've identified and the solution you've come up with. I think your insight will guide your project well as is, however, as part of your learning as a team, I'd encourage you to continue to explore some of the other root causes that may be harder to address in the short term. Your description of how ongoing conditions of poverty have been exacerbated by hurricane Harvey is very insightful -- I'd encourage you to also dig into the root causes for that ongoing poverty. Why does poverty exist in Houston, who is helping to perpetuate it (either directly or through inaction), and how could they be involved in a longer term solution? Although you've already done an incredible job researching the injustice, by continuing to reflect on what you learn through your project and collaborations, you may find that you are able to deepen your longer term impact.

Great job, also, coming up with a concrete plan to act on this insight -- I'm impressed by the specificity again, and love that you're including educating students on the issue as part of the goals of the project -- that will definitely contribute to longer term impact! Excited to see where the project goes!  

Fish S.
10 January 2018 12:13

Hi Adinawa -- really excited to see that you've posted this project! Tell us more! What injustice are you interested in addressing -- and how can we help you?