By Hana Ashchi
This past Thursday students from different clubs took part in the first of many service projects for Human Trafficking, which is part of the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. Students from Better Together, Jewish Student Union and Baptist Collegiate Ministries commuted to a local downtown warehouse, Rethreaded, where women who come out of the sex trade train, work and create clothing and other pieces of art through recycled materials. Each one of these women come into Rethreaded to “sew a new story,” creating a new life for themselves separate from the sex trade.
Walking into the warehouse, all I could see were beautiful pieces of clothing, handbags, bracelets and bins full of donated t-shirts from the community. Before we were assigned our duties, we all sat down and had a discussion with each other to talk about our purpose for being here today and where we came from. Rachael, UNF event coordinator, facilitated this discussion, allowing us to better know with whom we were working.
I was partnered to work with Tarah, Director of Interfaith Center, and Ben, President of the Jewish Student Union. Our task was to take two metal filing cabinets and prepare them for spray painting. Although it sounded like an easy task, it sure wasn’t. We had to scrape off the old stickers that appeared to be cemented onto the cabinets and unscrew all of the handles on the drawers. Meanwhile, during all the labor work, there was this bond growing amongst all of us. We worked together as a team and built a form of trust when it came to making decisions. It wasn’t just us who formed a new bond; the other students were engaged in very deep and interesting dialogues that allowed them to open up on a whole new level.
After sweeping, dusting, mopping, and painting as much as we could in the time allotted, all of us got together and cleaned up to prepare for a reflection. Our reflection focused on what we learned about the other students and what we took away from this experience. I learned that the people I worked with were just as charismatic and energetic as I was. I felt a sense of happiness even if I was just cleaning up and painting a filing cabinet. It is what you take away from the experience that makes doing service just so wonderful.
Now you may be wondering; what is the purpose of cleaning a large warehouse? How does this help with the President’s Challenge?
Well, this warehouse is designed for women, who come out of the sex trade, to work here and make something new out of their lives. They are at a sensitive point in their lives and all they have left connected to the sex trade is their memories and stories. Cleaning the warehouse allows these women to work in a clean, safe environment in order to recover and feel protected when they come into work. Cleaning a warehouse does just as much as any other act of service.
Being a part of Better Together has opened up my eyes and my mind to all that is happening in my own community and I could not have asked for a better place to commit my time for service.