Journalism grad school consists of students covering of hodgepodge of stories every week. Some days I’m rushing up to the Hill to cover the latest committee meeting I was assigned to. Other days, I’m writing based on a press release or report released by a think tank. And then there are the days that I remember why I’m here–the days that touch my heart.
Last week I went to Anacostia to talk to Hannah Hawkins, founder and director of Children of Mine. Ms. Hawkins started the youth center in the early ’80s to give kids in Ward 8 somewhere to go after school. Four afternoons a week, Hawkins cooks a hot meal for up to 80 children, ages 4-18. She also has a few volunteers on hand to make sure the children get there homework done, have access to tutoring if needed, and are exposed to other learning opportunities through small groups like the garden club.
What Hawkins does it hard. She received no government funding, little in the way of donations (especially in this economy) and the number of kids she serves has doubled in the past few years. She isn’t deterred by difficulty. Instead, Hawkins said she gets out everyday and “lobbies” with her mouth, trying to get donations and help.
Why does she do this? Because it matters. People matter. Children matter. She makes a difference in those kids’ lives every day by offering love, nutrition, structure and stability. Many of her children have grown up to go to colleges across the country including American, Georgetown and Harvard.
Child poverty is a real issue in D.C. More than 30 percent of kids in the District live in poverty. That’s eight percentage points higher than the national average. Even more disturbing is the wide disparity between races. While about 6-7 percent of white children are impoverished, 43 percent of black children are. Yes, 43 percent.
This story touched me in many ways. That’s probably why I wrote an article about it. Everyday on television, the web and in the newspaper, we are confronted with images and words describing poverty, suffering and disparity. Often, it can seem overwhelming and I feel a little defeated before my feet touch the ground in the morning.
Not Ms. Hawkins though. Thirty years ago she saw disparity, hunger and suffering and she took charge and has been making a difference ever since.
“Never look down on a man unless you’re bending down to pick him up,” she said. Wise words to live by.
People are why journalism is important.