Mariah Fore, J-Term on the Hill

Seeing pictures of my friends studying abroad in London, in the Caribbean, and in many other places globally creates a feeling of wanting to travel. I have always wanted to travel but, I decided to ease myself into the process by taking a study away course call, J-Term on the Hill. We are traveling to Tacoma to volunteer our time to the Hilltop community. In the first week of class we have done so much in terms of learning about the difference between fixing, learning and serving people as well as seeing and learning about the Hilltop community. On Wednesday, January 6, we took a backstage tour of Tacoma. We went to several sites including what use to be Homeless Corner and Zina’s Playground. Homeless corner was a site where the homeless would stay and/or hang out while the area of a public library and a homeless shelter. Because the City of Tacoma received complaints about the homeless loitering around the area, boulders were set in the grass where the homeless could not stay on that corner. I can see why the City of Tacoma would put boulders on the corner since it was very close to a public library where children like to go, however, with this action, the City of Tacoma took away a place where the homeless could wait for the homeless shelter and limited access to warmth and water. Another site we went to during the tour was Zina’s Playground. For those who do not know about Zena’s Playground, it’s a park in memory of Zina Linnik who was kidnapped and murdered at the age of 12 in July 2007. The park is part of McCarver Elementary School, and is only open to the public when school is not is session. In memory of Zina, a stone bookcase was placed to remember Zina’s love for reading and beautiful stone eggs. This site really hit me because it shows how negative events that happen throughout the Hilltop, but the community is taking the power of the negative situation and turning it into a positive and learning situation. This park shows that there is growth in the Hilltop community and people are wanting change. 
 Thursday, January 7, we went to visit the sites where we will be volunteering. I will be volunteering at St. Leo’s with Food Connection- the food bank. The food bank serves 300 families throughout the Hilltop, and have never run out of food for the community. They are in the process of moving to a bigger spot to be able to serve more people. What I really liked is the idea they had of providing samples to the people in lines to give them ideas on how the food can be prepared in different ways. The last activity we participated in for the week was a scavenger hunt through two neighborhood in the Tacoma area, the Hilltop and Proctor. Proctor is on the same street, MLK, but was changed to K Street, the only separation is Division Street. Proctor is better off and to see the difference a street over was impacting. The Hilltop neighborhood was stretched out, not many things to do and many buildings and homes were closed, but the people were very nice. They asked what we were up to and was generally interested. Proctor was very close together, had many things to do, but we had trouble finding homes in the area, also no one asked us about what we were doing. In reflection, someone mentioned that a reason why no one asked us what we were doing was due to our look, we could have looked like we came from the Proctor neighborhood which made me realized that the snap judgement or the single sided story is a huge part of human nature. 
 This week was eye-opening to see people without the privilege I have. The homeless have more challenges that I thought. To be able to go to a shelter, you have to fit a certain criteria, and have to be homeless at all times to be able to go to a shelter. If someone gets contacted for a place in a shelter, and you are couch surfing or sleeping at your brothers house, you will be taken off the list because you technically not homeless. I can understand why this rule is in place to move people on the waiting list in, but for people who are couch surfing, they can only couch surf for so long before they are back out on the streets. Tacoma is 20 year behind Olympia and Seattle when it comes to the homeless. There are not enough places for every homeless person in Tacoma which is really sad in a city that is older than Seattle. When I was listening to the story about Zina’s Playground, my heart just fell to pieces. A girl who was just 12 was kidnapped and murdered, I wanted to cry. I made that snap judgement about the neighborhood, it’s dangerous, but I had to step back and remind myself that this was very unfortunate, but it could happen anywhere. What I enjoyed that most about that back was the backstory and the positive that came out of it. The stone eggs and the stone library is celebrating life and enjoyment. Walking through Food Connection, I really was excited and could understand the hardships. In the past, my family used the resources that the food bank provided, because at times, money was just not there, but with the food from the food bank, my family never went without food. I have volunteered at the food bank before, but we were always stocking and in the back helping behind the senses so when the coordinator for Food Connection told us that we would be working with the clients, I was very eager to learn about other people’s stories. As I walked through the two neighborhoods, I looked at the massive different between the two communities, and it really hit me on how the priorities of the community really effect who is living there and how each person influences the community. I would like to live in the Proctor neighborhood, but in my living situation now, I would not be able to afford the better off neighborhood.
 Connecting my experience with class, looking in this situation in the Hilltop, I want to fix and help that neighborhood and there is nothing wrong with that, however, in fixing or helping a situation, it shows a power dynamic that the lower status notice, but the higher status don’t. With serving, you work with the people of the community to make it better. I want to work with the Hilltop community to make it better and my first step is starting with the food bank. I am ready to serve the people of the Hilltop and create a better community.

Zina’s Playground: To know more go to

Here is my Social Justice Article:

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