By Anisa Knox
In late August, I arrived at the Free Church of St. John of Kensington eager to begin my year of service and intentional community living. I honestly did not know know what to expect. My doubts about my placement soon dissipated as I was warmly welcomed by a team of individuals who were active community members. The vicar of Free Church, Padre Jose taught me step-by-step about the various community services Free Church provides, including the Food Pantry and the After-school program. Not only do I work directly with the community but also with local officials to obtain funding and help address some of the needs of the community.
Several communities in Northern Philadelphia, especially Kensington suffer from high crime rates, poverty, and hunger. My social responsibility is to partner with local organizations and churches to provide quality services in the areas of education, nutrition and sports that will motivate children, youth, adults and seniors. My overall purpose of working with other community stakeholders is to improve the overall well-being of my neighbors by providing resources and tools for our neighbors to improve their mental, social and physical attributes. As a privileged college graduate, I realized that I can not solve the problems the people in this neighborhood face everyday: homelessness, joblessness, hunger but I can contribute as an ally of this community in assisting the people. I carefully have to remind myself, my service is not about me but about the people. I provide the resources that allow them to empower themselves.
After personally speaking with community members about their vision of more accessible services and better outreach programs for the community, I have contacted three other churches and local organization for possible outreach initiatives. Some of my work included meeting with the Office of Councilman Maria Quinones to see how City Hall can provide grants for the after-school program, the food pantry and other service projects for this year. I was amazed to experience firsthand how the community can assess their own problems and seek government representatives to fortify the community. I envision my partnership with residents, the Councilman, and church advocates as a braid, constantly weaving different resources together to make the community stronger.
Last week, Padre Jose and I attended an Open House (Conocenos) at Taller Puertorriqueno, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping students deepen their understanding of Puerto Rican and Afro-Latino culture through art and educational experiences. I absolutely fell in love with this organization! The Open House included a bomba and plena dance class, students illustrations, photographs, artwork and performance. I gained inspiration from attending the various activities and am currently brainstorming different activities for students at the Free Church of St. John program. I have high prospects for this year and can’t wait to update you all with my progress!
Anisa serves at the Free Church of St. John.