Friday, March 23, 2012

Martha's Table

Wajahat Kiani '14

To further our understanding of how different organizations are tackling the issue of homelessness, we headed over to Martha’s Table on 14th street NorthWest.  With the image of shelters run by Anna Federner-esque figure etched in my mind, I was clearly in for a surprise. The place appeared extremely professional; the front office could have been easily been mistaken for a well-kept front desk at any reasonable corporation. We were given a quick orientation by the extremely energetic profession, Nadia. According to her, Martha’s table provided educational programs to approximately 250 children, meals to homeless people through both their support and referral program and their city-wide distribution centers and registered organizations. Nadia’s voice struggled to contain the passion she felt towards her work.  Her enthusiasm for her work reinforced the significance of the work that we would do that day.
She laid out instructions for our task, which was to sort peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.  She insisted that we do not include any sandwich that we would be hesitate to eat ourselves. To me, the standard that Martha’s Table set for the food illustrates their ideology. Martha’s kitchen aims to ‘dignify’ the homeless by accepting them as fellow human instead of forcing them to eat food of questionable quality because of their plight. This shift in attitude from donating to the less privileged to helping a fellow human is indispensable if we are to seek a solution to the problem.  To provide the homeless the motivation to change their condition, a dialectic process of self-realization has to occur and the first step involves gaining self-confidence through the acceptance by others of your humanity – the ‘me’ has to become an equal member of the society to discipline the ‘I’ into changing its condition.
            In fact, the ‘me’, in the homeless situation, that society so easily ignores can be constructed in a number of purely probabilistic circumstances. And, many of them involve innocent children who are clearly not responsible for the situation they are in. Martha’s Kitchen provides these children with the necessary skills set to get out of the vicious circle that they have been pre-disposed to – education. By providing them with a carefully crafted educational program, Martha’s Table targets the feedback loop in the circle of homelessness. The education program inculcates a desire in them to not only change their condition but also to devote their human capital to helping the society in the most efficient manner. With the critical thinking skills, they own a framework to understand and resolve the issues that they face. I was, therefore, particularly impressed by the initiative that Marth’s Table has taken. 

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