Michigan Urban Farming Initiative

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After getting about two hours of sleep we were all up bright and early to go and volunteer for the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative. When we showed up to the first sight we were told this was where the LAS cohort from last year volunteered and that we would be heading somewhere else to volunteer this time. So we headed deeper into the heart of Detroit and when we got to the place where we were going to be volunteering it was a sight I was not use to seeing. Some houses were being torn apart, some looked like they were lit on fire, and others looked like no one had lived their for awhile. The house that we were going to work on though was under construction and being ripped down to its original structure.

Tyson, the guy that was the head of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, handed out jobs to my cohort. Some were told to pick up trash around the block, some were told to help inside the house, some were told to haul trash bags full of plaster to the side to the streets for mass pick up day on Tuesday, and others were told to burn the pieces of wood that were in the trash bags. I was one of the people who were given the job of cleaning up inside the house. When we got into the house we were told to put on white cloth suits, breathing masks, and eye protection so that we wouldn’t get hurt or breathe any dust particles. We were then told to go upstairs and pick up and separate the plaster, insulation, and wood pieces. The plaster and insulation were to be put in garbage bags and the wood pieces were to be put in plastic containers. After we got done with upstairs we hauled the materials downstairs and into the street were the other LAS students were putting the bags on the side of the streets and the wood in the fire. When we got outside though a police officer had shown up and asked were the supervisor was. Tyson came out and talked to the officer and after a couple of fire trucks and hazardous waste trucks later the whole situation was cleared and we got back to work. Tyson then told us we had to separate the garbage bags that were on the side of the streets into bigger sections and smaller piles. By the time we got done separating the bags it was time for a quick picture and then time to hit the road back to Mt. Pleasant.

This experience taught me a lot about who I am and how other people might have a harder time then me in life. I realized that people in Detroit jump to conclusions before they actually know what is going on because so much hatred and crime has happened that not very often a glimpse of light shows through the cracks in the sidewalks. I also learned that when leading a group there is plenty of factors that can contribute to a good or bad experience and in an instant things can go from good to bad and bad to good. Something that I am going to definitely take away from this service trip is that you can change a lot in only a few hours. You can clean a yard with mounds of trash and a house full of plaster and pieces of wood to a clean yard and house in a matter of hours. Just imagine what a group of people can do to a block in a week. Changing communities by helping them clean up will always be a inspiration to me.

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