Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Scales of Justice

We started our day bright and early at the Knoxville Family Justice Center, a comprehensive support center that serves victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. We began with an eye-opening activity in which we took on the role of eight victims and had to navigate through the decisions and life events they encountered. The activity helped us understand the lack of choices that victims have due to factors such as family, finances, culture, access, and love.

Next, we spoke with several leaders within the Family Justice Center about the power and control dynamic in relationships afflicted by domestic violence. Before physical and sexual violence usually take place, perpetrators utilize isolation, children, male privilege, victim-blaming, economic abuse, coercion and threats, intimidation, and emotional abuse to take power away from victims and control them. We also discussed the resources offered to victims, the prevention programs in place to educate potential perpetrators, the legal difficulties of implementing these programs in schools, and the demographics and trends of the clients they serve.

After a hearty lunch in the vans, we traveled to the Knoxville Museum of Art, where we saw many interesting exhibits including interactive digital art pieces, lifelike sculptures, and a variety of colorful paintings. After the museum, we visited the Old City Java coffee shop, where we channeled our inner hipster vibes as we drank lattes by graffiti art.

Upon returning to the church, we enjoyed a peaceful dinner of chocolate chip pancakes and scrambled eggs without the fear of being attacked by the bat that entered the church a few days ago. We were able to capture the bat and release it into the wild yesterday. Sometimes, you just have to let yourself be helped by others in order to be set free, just like the bat.

Ashley and Margo

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Love in the Air at the Love Kitchen

Today we visited the Love Kitchen of Knoxville! This soup kitchen was founded by two sisters (Helen and Ellen) that used to work in an emergency room nearby. They would notice that while waiting to be seen by doctors or nurses, patients frequently would go without food because they didn't have the means to afford it. They resolved to create an environment in which anyone could walk through the doors and be fed a hot meal, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. And so, the admirable cause of the Love Kitchen was born.
Today, some of us cleaned out the can room, organizing and categorizing the thousands of cans at the kitchen. We made the food in the kitchen (creating a total of 1100 meals!!!), with a menu of mac and cheese, beef stew, bread, and other yummy things. We washed dishes, separated good and bad produce for the grocery pickup that takes place at the kitchen, cut cakes, sorted and folded clothes for the clothing drive, and helped with general organization of the administrative department. It was a fulfilling experience and our results and impact were certainly palpable. However, one of the employees at the Love Kitchen made various remarks that introduced significant discomfort to us as a group. Although we were all clearly impacted by his language, we made sure that it did not affect our productivity and continued to do the best work we could. The Love Kitchen depends heavily on volunteers, which is a noble thing, so we were more than happy to fulfill our important commitment despite the negativity. We are very proud of ourselves for this and will carry this spirit onward with us as we continue this week.
 Making food!
 It was hard to avoid getting splashed while we were rinsing the dishes!
Our group with the President and Assistant Director of the Love Kitchen, Patrick.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

First Day of Service!

Today was the first day of service for our group! We went to the YWCA Phyllis Wheatley Center in Knoxville. The primary program the center operates is an intervention program called Game Changers, where they educate middle school boys on relationship violence. This program is unique to East Knoxville. The center also provides victim advocacy, facilitates training for trauma victims, and conducts danger assessments for domestic violence survivors. Five days a week, they provide after school programs for nearby schools, allowing students to continue their education in a more dynamic and creative way.

Our specific job today was to clean and organize most areas of the center. This included the kitchen, gym, art room, library, meeting spaces, fitness, and the community garden outside. The center director, Ms. Mack, was extremely accommodating and a few of our group members played knock out with her daughter in the gym. After our hard work today, we drove to a local park and were able to enjoy some of the nice Tennessee sunshine.

Adrianna helped make these beautiful curtains for the center's counselors office!

 We were able to enjoy lunch outside in the community garden!

Lisa, Margo, Jessica, and Ramya worked hard weeding in the garden.

Charlie (aka Chaz) using his height to his advantage during knock out. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Only Ten-I-See

 Although we may have had a struggle to wake up in the morning, we loaded the vans and headed off to the wonderful of Knoxville. Our first destination was through the University of Tennessee's Student Conduct, where we heard from Natasha, Shah and Amanda, and Fletcher and Sarah. During our time with them, we discussed the legal and academic repercussions of relationship violence. Southern hospitality was visible at the office when we were greeted to UT themed water bottles and t-shirts.

In the spirit of the first day of spring, we visited a local Rita's Italian Ice to capitalize on their free treats. This Rita's was located in a charming shopping area in downtown Knoxville. With our downtime, we explored the town. After our short exploration of the city, we returned to UT and heard from their Police Department. Officer Sennstrom provided a wonderful insight into how they react to relationship violence. Shortly thereafter, Officer Lindsey provided the women of our group an interactive self-defense class.

After a long day of discussion, we stretched our feet touring UT's campus thanks to Liz's high school friend, Kaelyn. We appreciated seeing the beautiful campus; the library, the student union, and the gym. We returned to the church hungry, and fatigued to a wonderful dinner of spaghetti, meatballs, and caesar salad. To wrap up our day, we wrote this blog entry while listening to the musical stylings of High School Musical and The Cheetah Girls soundtracks.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Smokey Mountains

We woke up today, half comfortable in our makeshift beds, half with broken backs (from sleeping on the floor) and eager to start off the new day! After eating breakfast (we love bananas) and packing lunches, we headed out to the Smokey Mountains. The drive was very scenic as we passed by wildlife and the beautiful snowy mountaintops. Once we stepped out of the car, we regretted not wearing enough layers, but with Liz's fast pace walking, we were able to warm up quickly. After 2.5 miles, we reached our destination! Beautiful waterfalls! After the long hike, our sandwiches tasted like 5 star meals and we were happy. After taking multiple pictures, we were ready to head back and pass out in the car. Once we returned to the church, Amanda and Adriana cooked us a delicious meal of Teriyaki chicken with rice and vegetables. Now we'll end the night with some popcorn, chicken nachos and a movie about relationship violence. We're excited to take on the first day of service tomorrow and visit the University of Tennessee!

- Jessica and Lisa

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Road Trip!

We started out our week with an exciting eight hour road trip from College Park to Knoxville, TN! Although many of us slept the whole time, we were very thankful for our drivers: Liz, Charlie, Yosef and Kalani. We stopped for lunch at a McDonalds in the middle of Virginia and were greeted by a very hospitable staff. After finishing lunch, we got back on the road and arrived at the First United Methodist Church of Maryville, where we will be staying for the next week. The church is so nice and so big, we're calling it a megachurch. Once we settled in, some of us went grocery shopping. We got very strange looks in the store when we were arguing over which brand of mac and cheese to get. It was a very heated discussion. Thankfully, we comprised and went back to the megachurch to make dinner. We had a mock Chipotle night and everyone was very content. After dinner we participated in our first reflection, in which we came up with a list of community rules to be carried out for the rest of our time together. Then we had a discussion about what it looks like to be an active citizen using the active citizen continuum. It was a great way to start the week and to start bonding with each other! We are looking forward to the exciting activities that Liz and Yosef have planned for us!

Yours truly,

Amanda and Liz