By Noa Polish and Yasiel Ewing, Mitzvah Corps PNW Participants
Wednesday was the day we discovered how luxurious dorms could be. The floors of our rooms were spotless, the sheets were crisp, and the minimalist furniture was just waiting to be used. Wednesday was also the day we discovered campus dining for the first time. Initially, we were enthralled by the dining hall’s myriad food options and state-of-the-art dish clearing conveyor belt. Clutching our “Totally Taos” bowls tightly, we prepared to be amazed. But as we had our first bites, reality set in. The bowls were decent, sure—but not Taos worthy!
As we adjusted to our new homes, we jumped headfirst into all that Seattle has to offer. A trip to Pioneer Square brought free 7/11 slurpees on 7/11, Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, and lots of tiny shops to explore. On Thursday, we went to the Duwamish Longhouse, where we learned about the indigenous peoples who have lived in the land between the Cascade and Olympic mountains for hundreds of years. The longhouse reminded us that no one is illegal on stolen land.
This message was reiterated when we attended the Lights for Liberty vigil on Friday night. It was difficult hearing community leaders speak about the detention camps but so important for us to hear. Highlights of the evening were the interfaith speakers, the candle lighting, and the Raging Grannies (if you know, you know). We left feeling empowered and excited to inspire change in our communities.
Our first Shabbat experience connected beautifully to the work we have been doing with the International Rescue Committee. Needless to say, we are SO excited to meet our campers on Monday!
The first day was nerve-wracking as everyone slowly trickled in, but the more people that arrived, the more energy everyone had as we met each other and unpacked. Our rooms were all ready for us with our names on the doors and beds freshly made. We were provided with our food cards and that night, we got our first taste of the dining hall across the street.
Thursday and Friday in the mornings we prepared to run our camp for many of the local refugee kids, learning about our groups, activities, trauma informed practice, and more. In the afternoons we ventured around Seattle, learning about its history as a growing city in the Seattle Underground Tour and our time at Pioneer Square and the history of the people who lived here before it became Seattle at the Duwamish Longhouse. At night, we got to enjoy free time around the campus, down University Avenue, or right in our dorms and lounge areas.
Our work wasn’t done yet, however. We also had in-depth discussions about ourselves and our lives as well as refugee rights and the current state of our country’s treatment of immigrants and refugees as preparation for our work at the camp. After our full day, we held Siyum, or our way of ‘closing’ the day, and started Shabbat on Friday night, together as a community with our new dorm-mates and friends.