Monday, I had a productive outreach visit at Hilliard Horizon Elementary School with our volunteers Megan and Missy. We partnered with SON Ministries summer camp free lunch program for this visit. The kids for this visit were the MOST energetic and engaged kids I have ever worked with on an outreach visit! They were ALL over the activities and games that we brought, asking tons of questions, helping us by teaching the other kids the activities, and generally, enjoying themselves while learning! I really liked meeting the staff and volunteers from SON Ministries, and I was especially impressed with the number of activities and games they had for the kids. The program description as a summer camp is very accurate because it was not just a free lunch program for the kids. The day we visited the program, they also had tons of other games and playground equipment for the kids to play freely on, a presentation by a group of nursing students from Columbus State Community College, and more activities during eating. I think that having all these activities for the kids, especially during the summer when school is out, encourages them to want to play, learn more, and be more engaged during the summer. This excitement and engagement transfers to the school year, as well. I think this is why the kids during our visit were so engaged: SON Ministries has been doing a fantastic job fostering the growth of the kids!
On Tuesday, I spent the morning contacting principals at schools we would like to target to expand our outreach program. I used the list of percentages of students that received free and reduced lunches that I compiled from Ohio Department of Education data to prioritize schools to target. I prioritized our schools and created the final list based on how near the schools are to our clinic and how much need there is at the school, based on the percentage of students that qualify for free and reduced lunches. I spent the afternoon finding the contact information for the principals of each school and sent emails to almost all of the principals with schools near our clinic.
I went to the clinic later on Tuesday afternoon where Mrs. Zuber and I visited a focus group meeting organized by the Bhutanese Nepali Community of Columbus, a community organization of local Bhutanese Nepali community members, including a large number of recent immigrants. The purpose of our visit was to learn more about the Bhutanese community and to meet with leaders from the community organization. The Columbus Police Department was also invited to the focus group to discuss race relations and concerns about safety and security raised by Bhutanese Nepali community members. I learned of the extensive outreach and community engagement initiatives by the Columbus Police Department, as well!
I found a good and very recent article by The Columbus Dispatch about the Bhutanese Nepali community in Columbus, which includes a brief history of Bhutan and Bhutan’s relationship with Britain and India since the 1850’s and an overview of the conflict and ethnic cleansing of all Nepali’s in Bhutan. This ethnic cleansing began in the 1990’s, which forced thousands out of Bhutan as refugees to different countries, including the US. The Dispatch article also describes the experience of new immigrants into context in Columbus and central Ohio. I also found a ThisWeek News article summarizing the Associations mission and efforts. At the beginning of the meeting, I was heartbroken to hear the struggles the Bhutanese Nepali community members faced day to day explained by the focus group members, but I was very optimistic about the determination of the Association leadership and community members in the focus group.
I had a productive check-in meeting with Laura in the afternoon and determined some deadlines to get some of my other projects this summer off the ground now that I’ve gotten a handle on my outreach responsibilities. Then, that evening, I went to the Clippers game with the other Columbus Foundation Fellows! It was a blast!
I had my most productive day yet on Wednesday! I started with a Fellows Learning session in the morning, where we met leaders in the central Ohio non-profit sector from BESA, Westerville Symphony, Forge Columbus, and a local charter school system. After our Learning Session, a few of the other Fellows and I grabbed lunch and hung out at North Market! When I got to the clinic, I worked on researching other successful dental clinics with unique operating and funding models. I then worked on gathering examples of clinic brochures from other organizations to base a rough draft of a brochure for the KidSMILES outreach program. These two projects took up several hours on Wednesday afternoon, but they were well worth the time spent!
On Thursday, I went to an outreach visit at another WARM summer lunch program in Westerville. Our outreach visit site was located at Huber Village Park, which is the park that my family and I would go to very frequently when my family lived in Westerville. Unfortunately, it was raining a LOT when we started our visit, which meant only the ten kids attended the free lunch that day go their lunch. The other thirty kids who normally come to the lunch program did not receive their lunches. Every one of the kids that came to the lunch program came to talk to Megan and I and to try all of our games at some point of our visit. Most of the kids came up individually to our table. We answered a lot of questions they had that came up during our oral health truth and false quiz game. What surprised me the most was how open the kids were about their experiences; almost all of them mentioned that their families could not afford them to take them to the dentist. While that broke my heart, I was so happy to talk to them about our clinic and give them goodie bags with our clinic information in it. Megan and I made sure that each kid knew to show the bags to their parents, so hopefully they would be able to get care from KidSMILES. On the way back, I even stopped my house that I lived in until sixth grade since it was five minutes away from our outreach site!
On Friday, I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning, but went straight to lunch with our executive director and our two new AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers at KidSMILES. The VISTA Fellows, Eric and Tionne, will be doing a one year stay at KidSMILES where they will work full-time to help build capacity and sustainable growth at the clinic. The three of us went to meet our other volunteers at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Hilliard for an outreach visit with SON Ministries Summer Lunch Club. Just like our visit on Monday, the kids at SON were so energetic and ready to learn! After lunch, the kids had time for free play in the church gym and outside on the playground, and almost all of the kids came by our table at some point. We had a lot of volunteers for this visit, so everything went very smoothly! It was the best visit this summer yet! Every week is getting better and better!