You’re thinking what everyone is thinking right now: this isn’t what you expected your summer to be. The world has been flipped upside down by COVID-19, and social distancing has become the new norm. While it’s easy to feel out of touch with your friends and your peers, you are so much more adjusted to the world of Zoom calls and online Netflix parties now than you were back in March. You were so happy and relieved that you could still participate as a fellow in DCERP this year. Yes, you won’t be living in downtown Detroit with your cohort and visiting your partner org, HOPE Village Revitalization, every day as intended. Yet you can still make a difference in the community you’ve grown up 45 minutes away from most of your life.
Community is more than Google’s definition of “a group of people living in the same place or sharing a characteristic in common”. Community is made of connections, and developing our connections is how we strengthen our community, whether it be in-person or virtually. You were first attracted to community work freshman year when you joined GlobeMed, a student non-profit org on campus focusing on alleviating health inequities in Detroit and Cambodia through non-profit partnerships. You’ve learned that change is best made from the bottom-up in grassroots, community settings. Now going into your senior year as president of GlobeMed and as a DCERP fellow, you have the opportunity to dig in and create true partnerships in community work: ensuring that both the serving and the served are heard and involved in decision processes. You want to make sure that HOPE Village residents have their needs met and ensure that HOPE Village Revitalization can effectively meet those needs. To this community, you want to contribute your experiences from working with nonprofits in GlobeMed– especially your experience with setting up Farmers’ Markets. This will be challenging to do remotely, but you envision this as developing safety protocols, making food assistance accessible, spreading the news on social media, and sitting in many, many Zoom calls. From the program, you want to gain a better understanding of non-profits and the work they do to alleviate food insecurity in their communities. You want to understand how to successfully implement partnership in your connections with HOPE Village. In the future, you hope to put your DCERP experiences into practice as a physician.
The most important thing I want you to take away from your DCERP experience is a better knowledge of Detroit. You want to understand Detroit’s neighborhoods, their issues, and their successes as much as possible. Ever since you’ve moved to the US from the Philippines, you’ve remained in that comfy Ann Arbor bubble. Detroit is still big and unknown, and it may be challenging to change this perception from a virtual setting. Nevertheless I hope you can get out of your comfort zone and truly learn from the experiences of the HOPE Village community and your cohort. While you have learned a lot about the gentrification and history of Detroit in lectures, you will have a much more powerful learning experience working directly with a non-profit that alleviates these issues for their community. Especially right now, working with non-profits can be difficult and filled with ups and downs. Take it one step at a time, be kind with yourself and your org, and reflect on your next steps. You’re going to have such an amazing and transformative summer, soak it all in!