Spaces, safety, and love are recurrent themes in our readings for #uwm812 (Shaughnessy, Pritchard, Delpit, Paris & Alim). Discussed mainly within the context of classrooms pedagogies we learn that we as educators must make sure students feel safe in our classrooms. Eric Pritchard, for example, in his book Fashioning Lives: Black Queers and the Politics of Literacy highlights his personal experience regarding how he felt displaced in school, and turned to other spaces, like the local library, to engage with restorative literacy practices for reading and learning. Drawing from bell hooks’ work, Pritchard talks about the importance of “love ethics” in which love is the center piece of anything and everything in our daily lives. As much as it is crucial to create safe spaces in the classrooms, we also should contribute to create similar spaces outside the four walls of classroom—ideally in the community we live in. United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County is a non-profit that seem to be doing exactly this. They promote equity and inclusion as a part of their commitment to improve everyday lives of local communities through health, education financial stabilities. They also sponsor various community-focused programs. By participating effectively and actively through these programs, United Way makes difference in individual lives.
United Way shares success stories of their endeavors on their website. One such stories highlighted in their official website caught my attention as I was browsing it. United Way funded the Match Me Program at Ozaukee where Nathaniel, a 9-years old fatherless child met Dwight, a volunteer at United Way. Dwight helped him with his homework and also taught him how to drive a car. He also helped him with job application process and practice interviews for possible positions. Dwight’s dedication to volunteering has inspired Nathaniel as he is grown up now. This individual example of mentorship connects with some threads of “indigenous relational pedagogy” that Paris and Alim’s Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies underlines. Amanda Holmes in the book, for example highlights the significance and value the Elders carry in indigenous cultures. She remembers Rosalie Little Thunder, an Elder who deeply influenced her (Amanda) by her (Rosalie’s) lifestyle. Amanda was highly appreciative of Rosalie, “…her “practices” and manner, the protocols, values, and disciplines she spoke about—and was so keen to document, and that she lived.” Dwight was definitely a “role model” for Nathaniel, in his own words, his “superhero”. While defining Elders, Holmes does mention that they (the Elders) also “… act as role models, often assuming leadership positions in their communities.” (page#). Seen through the lens of indigenous relational pedagogies Homles underlines Dwight had tremendous influence on Nathaniel, acted as a “role-model” and helped him grow as a person—thus with Nathaniel’s “sustenance”.
Through a range of other programs they organize/fund and stories that United Way highlights in their website, I came to learn that they do provide a space for people in the community and thus build a united community where people feel safe and flourish according to their potentials. They also have plenty of volunteering opportunities. Under their “Seasons of Caring” program, United Way always recruits individuals who wants to touch lives and make a difference by engaging actively with the local communities. Learning about community-engaged activities United Way does makes me hopeful about future—creating safe spaces, spreading love
among people both inside and outside classrooms, we might one day see the change we desire—a better life-experience for people in the community—one that is built upon collective and communal efforts!