Thanks Alfred!


Today I had the pleasure to meet a couple dozen guests from Lingnan University in Hong Kong.  My appreciation goes out to Jeff Bouman, from the Calvin College Service Learning Center, who made this introduction.

The meeting was the result of Jeff's invitation for me to present about Healthy Homes' longstanding partnership with Calvin College.  As can be expected, I talked about the many ways in which we have worked with Calvin students, and the many ways they have contributed to our mission.  Calvin students have helped with data entry, cleaning and repairing houses, canvassing neighborhoods, assessing homes for hazards, educating the community, evaluating paint retailers' knowledge of lead-safe work practices, written newsletter articles, and much, much more.

What I didn't expect was the probing question that was asked me by Alfred, the Director of Service Learning at Lingnan and a sociologist.  Alfred asked something along the lines of, "How do you engage and involve students with advocacy for justice and policy change?"

Fair question.  VERY fair question.  But it left me speechless.

While students have helped us in many ways, and they have learned many skills while volunteering or interning at Healthy Homes, Alfred's question has me asking why we don't do a better job of helping these same students recognize that the promotion of healthy housing is about more than charity.  It is about social change.  It is about the right to healthy housing as a social movement.

How can we expect long lasting change if we don't hold out the expectation that the next generation of leaders will be involved in more than charity?  How can we expect an end to substandard housing for children if we don't take the next step and teach the next generation social transformation and advocacy for just policy?

Thanks for asking the question, Alfred.  Your card will sit on my desk, along with the pictures of my children, Buddy the Belkanp Bedbug, my can of pens, and other dreck as a constant reminder that Healthy Homes, like all non-profits, needs to do more than teach and expect charity.  We need to renew our efforts to teach and expect social movement and positive change from our young people.

You in Hong Kong and me here in Grand Rapids, let's both keep working for a better future for all people.