The below reflection is from Charlotte Collins, a rising senior in the Bonner Program who is doing her Shepherd Internship with The Ark of Episcopal Community Services of Maryland.
Written By: Charlotte Collins
It has been said that with the Great Recession in 2007, a “new poor” emerged in American society. Citizens who were once comfortable members of America’s middle class found themselves unemployed, homeless, or impoverished. These “new poor” further challenged the misconception that poverty means that you have made poor choices or that you lack morals and values or that you live a careless lifestyle. My idea of this stereotypical poor had already been shattered prior to this summer through my poverty coursework and my experience with the Bonner Leaders program at W&L. However, my placement at The Ark this summer through the Shepherd Alliance Internship program has challenged this misconception even further.
The Ark is the only state-accredited preschool for homeless children in Baltimore City that helps children receive the individual care and attention needed to be developmentally healthy physically, emotionally, and cognitively. During my past three weeks at The Ark, I have observed preschool-aged children experiencing poverty of economics, housing, education, family, and overall support. I saw children who are poor not from a lack of effort but from circumstances beyond their control. This is extremely concerning given that what happens in early childhood can matter for a lifetime.
Homelessness is a form of poverty that each child at The Ark shares and homelessness presents multiple threats to their emotional, mental, and physical development. The children are given over an hour and thirty minutes to nap each day. Upon asking The Ark’s director why such a large amount of time was allocated to sleep rather than, suppose, to provide interactive activities for the children to work on their social skills, I was told simply – the children need sleep. The director went on to explain that many of these children live in overnight homeless shelters where communal sleep is provided. With multiple other families in the same room, the lack of privacy can often make it hard for others in the room to sleep. Because sleep directly impacts mental and physical development, The Ark provides children sleep that they may be deprived of due to circumstances outside of their control. Instances at The Ark such as these constantly deepen and expand my commitment to service.