Closing Reflections: Haverford House 2019-2020
Despite unexpected shifts this spring, the five fellows closed out a fruitful year of building community, supporting social justice movements, and making meaningful contributions to their host organizations in Philadelphia.
As the 18th year of the Haverford House post-bac fellowship undergoes its transition from 2019 to 2020, we at the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship thank and celebrate Feven Gezahegn ’19, Hanae Togami ’19, Gabe Halperin-Goldstein ’19, Lili Domenick ’19, and Amanda Grolig ’19 for their dedication and contributions to the program.
The fellows’ year spent working with Philadelphia non-profit organizations did not end the way anyone envisioned twelve months ago as they moved into the Cedar Park house. But despite - or perhaps because of - all of the challenges the pandemic brought with it, each of them stepped up to support their organizations’ clients and communities at a time when that support was needed more than ever.
“Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, AFAHO's office closed and many of its programs were disrupted,” says Oni Richards-Waritay, Executive Director of African Family Health Organization. “Feven was able to adapt to these uncertain circumstances very gracefully and became an essential link to the elderly members of the community, connecting them to AFAHO's food distribution program. This is a role other members of the team would not have been able to fill due to our limited capacity and huge workloads at the time.”
COVID also altered the fellows’ home life. They functioned as more of a family than ever before, spending a record number of hours together in their shared home after it became a home-office for five. They persevered through lapses in power, air conditioning and internet interruptions as well as anxiety and separation from their actual family members. They figured out creative ways to participate in Black Lives Matter and migrant rights protests without violating the community agreements they committed to for the wellbeing of all household members, and the loved ones they would return home to in July.
Before the pandemic, each of the fellows organized programs that connected campus, community, and civic action. Hanae held “comment parties” in the CPGC Cafe advocating for refugee rights, while Lili worked with Professor Ana Lopez-Sanchez to develop a community-engaged course centered on the expeirences of Spanish-speaking migrant communities in Philadelphia. Lunch and Learn events focused on home ownership and gentrification with Amanda and Philadelphia Legal Assistance, and food security with Gabe and Center for Hunger Free Communities. In early December, the fellows hosted a record number of guests for a storytelling event led by Adam DePaul of The Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania.
It was a very active year, for which we are all grateful as we move forward into a very different future for Haverford House 2020. One thing that will remain constant is the dedication to advancing peace, social justice and global citizenship through local partnerships.