Lathram Berry | Mary House

My name is Lathram Berry and I am a freshman studying in SIS. The class I am connecting CSLP to is my college writing seminar: Decoding Social Justice. We break down and discuss different social justice issues occurring domestically right now. I was originally drawn to social justice issues that I do not know much about but feel that it is important to educate myself on. Some of these issues include homelessness among the youth community and immigration. I decided to focus on refugees and immigrants for the CSLP credit because it was something I was completely new to.

I found an organization called The Mary House based in Brookland. It is a very cool organization that works to provide housing, basic needs and child care to about one hundred different families. Most of the families supported by Mary House would be homeless without their help, so it is almost tackling two social justice issues in one organization (homelessness and immigration problems.) It is also important to note that most of these families are undocumented so they have aspects of the organization that work with getting them documents as well.

As for me, I work in the aftercare program of the organization. Most of the children in this free program offered by The Mary House attend a school up the street but there are a couple that live in the housing that come from different schools to attend the aftercare. The daily routine differs little and while to a volunteer or outsider that might seem boring, it offers the children a sense of stability and comfort that they might not have in their own homes or other parts of the day. Usually we walk to the school to pick the children up and walk back down to the residential home that serves as the offices of Mary House and the aftercare center all in one. It is fun picking the children up from school because everyone knows what the Mary House is and instead of the children of the school greeting the individual staff members they shout, “Hello to Mary House!” We then proceed to have snack and reading time. In reading time I usually end up with two little girls in my lap and a pile of books about Mickey Mouse and monsters. Then they have free time which they are allowed to play with any activities or games. Most of the families are primarily Spanish-speaking so a key educational point of the aftercare is to speak English only with the children to increase their language skills. While the program is very relaxed and adaptable to the children there it also serves as an educational program to the children as they learn new language and developmental skills.

I tried not to have any expectations going into the situation. I was instead just looking to learn about the struggles that immigrants and refugees encounter as they enter America and assist them in whichever way I was needed. I also wanted to learn more about how grassroots projects run and how they are funded. So far, I have been pleased with my experience with the Mary House and the work that the organization carries out. I look forward to continuing my experience and learning more about all aspects of the organization and more about immigration in general.

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