As a parent, I truly appreciate how many people and organizations are giving away backpacks and school supplies this year in Louisville. As a fellow parent, I believe that other parents appreciate this as well. I’d like to think that the children themselves are glad to start the school year with new supplies and backpacks – I always was in my day. But what makes me the happiest in all of this? Seeing genuine smiles of happiness on the faces of children as they party while getting school supplies with people from their neighborhoods and communities.
Oftentimes, it is fairly easy to find well-meaning people helping those in other communities. I applaud these acts. However, it usually (but not always) instills or reinforces unspoken social stereotypes and hierarchies between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. Growing up as a “have-not”, I can look back and see the social hierarchy that shaped itself when well meaning people came to our neighborhoods to help. Yes, the help helped and was appreciated; but the implication was clear: the people helping were on another level than us, and there were “rules” on how to interact and proceed.
Now that we have some context, I want to tell you about a magnificent group of people that are helping their community in a major way: Hope by Hope (Helping Our People Eat by Having Opportunities & Providing Empowerment). Lee’Vaughn, Aubrey, Ashley, James, Meshon, Jamie, and Ashley have set out to make a difference in Louisville by creating this organization using their time, talent, and treasures. Everyday people stepping up to the call, building community and changing lives. People that are easily recognized in our community as being from our community.
On Sunday, children and parents alike felt comfortable knowing who was behind the 2nd Annual Backpack Giveaway in Shelby Park – they knew it was people they knew, even if a few layers away. I showed up about an hour early to help out with setting up. A tremendous amount of volunteers arrived before me, freeing my time up to take photographs. I tried to capture images of the lines for cotton candy and icies, which seemed to be where the most action was at, second to the three bouncy houses. When I left, before the backpacks were given away, there was well over 200 children there – happy, smiling, with a shared sense of community and safety. We were all in our community, each playing a role from that famous quote, “it takes a village to raise a child”.
You see, Sunday was much more than a backpack giveaway in a Park. Sunday was a day of community, a day where children were free to smile, a day where parents didn’t have wonders about “ulterior motives”, a day where children saw the same people they see in their neighborhoods giving back. And that is what Hope by Hope is: people giving back to our community.
I want to say Thank You to the people of Hope by Hope for creating change in our community, from the backpack giveaways, to the neighborhood cleanups, to the positive actives for neighborhood children. I invite you to join me in saying Thank You, volunteer with Hope by Hope, and to learn more about what they are doing in our community. I will update this as soon as their website is live. For now, you can follow them on Facebook.
Bonifacio Aleman, BSSW