It Has to Be Us | Seeing myself in the kids that we serve

Tarah Bourke - Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Growing up in the inner city of the Washington DC area, I’ve always known what it was to feel hunger. This is the thing that propelled me to serve in a community that was much like my own, in a positive way. Upon my arrival in Muskegon, I was introduced to a non-profit organization, Community Encompass. The opportunity arose for me to become a summer employee as an AmeriCorps Vista Summer Associate. My responsibilities were to keep count of how many kids were coming daily to eat a sack lunch and also to order the sack lunches. I was responsible for ensuring that each and every kid that came to the Summer Lunch Program, walked away with a balanced meal in their stomachs. I took great pride in that, because in every child’s face I saw the faces of my friends and myself after we’d been fed through our neighborhood food program.

In serving these kids every day, I began to develop relationships with them and some of their parents, which really stirred up my passion for working with youth. I recall a time when I was at a neighborhood gas station and saw one of the kids with his family. He was so excited to see me. He shared with his Granny that we have lunch together every day, and his granny ended up paying for my gas. It was quite a humbling experience. As the summer started to come to an end, I began to search out ways in which I would still be able to be in service to the community, especially with its youth. My team leader with AmeriCorps suggested that I apply for a position with Kids’ Food Basket through the Vista program, and I will admit that at this time I knew very little about what Kids’ Food Basket was about. 

I decided to apply after going online and reading about Kids’ Food Basket and the mission. I had to be a part of what was happening there. There are two things that stick out in my memory - The Girl in the Yellow Dress, a Kids’ Food Basket book, and the documentary entitled, “A Place at the Table.” They both influenced me to decide to apply for the position because I could relate to the characters in them both.

 As I stated in the beginning, I know what it feels like to go to bed hungry, and to feel like you can’t say anything. You feel afraid to ask your parents because maybe they’ve done all that they know to do, and you don’t want to make them feel bad. Or maybe the fear is due to something much darker, like your parents are addicted to some form of drug, and you fear that. For me, those days are gone, but the fear is still relevant. I am fearful that if I don’t care about these kids, who will? I feel that my own history and these kids’ current reality are richly intertwined, and that is why I feel that it had to be me. It has to be us; it must be Kids’ Food Basket.

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