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The coffee or brunch is on us!  This winter, we began a series of Neighborhood Gatherings that brought 20-60 people together for coffee and bagels in six neighborhoods across the city to talk about how folks can get involved, meet their neighbors, and think long-term about what our communities need. Now we’re trying to expand with a series of smaller events to engage people who would like to help us organize their neighborhoods or other groups they work with.

Why?  We’ve gone almost as far as we can go recruiting volunteers at farmers markets and other outdoor spaces and events — but there are still tens of thousands of kids who need extra support.
If only 1 out of 10 DC residents helped even 1-2 hours a week, all of these kids would have at least one extra caring adult.  It doesn’t feel like too big an ask for people in good health and with a decent job. But it seems to take more than a flyer to convince them.  What will it take to get more people involved? We believe it takes a more in-depth and patient conversation where we can build a number of bridges:
  1. They need to trust us.
  2. They need to imagine themselves as tutors or mentors if they’ve never done anything like this before.
  3. They need to understand how we have a downward spiral of kids in the early grades struggling to read, teachers too overwhelmed to help them catch up, older kids feeling “dumb” and hating school, avoiding school work or starting down the path of chronic absenteeism or truancy, falling even further behind, and eventually dropping out or getting into greater trouble.
  4. Potential volunteers need to understand that even an hour a week from an extra caring adult can make all the difference  in the lives of kids when they are young or even when they are older and still struggling with their identity, their peer groups, and their role models.
  5. And potential volunteers need to see how they can make it work in their busy schedules, how we can help them find an opportunity that works for their schedules and location preferences.
  6. And, finally, they need to understand that life really can feel better, more meaningful, more rewarding, when we feel connected to one another, when we proactively work to be of service to others.
These are the conversations we are trying to have with folks, especially those who are accustomed to sitting on the sidelines, who may find it easier to complain, or who are “just living my best life” with a good job and network of friends.
There are a couple more reasons, too, that may not appeal to everybody and that are more of a stretch for some. That said, I think are vitally important:
First, there are periods when taking care of yourself works, but there are also times when Americans have stepped up to work together, most often in times of war such as World War II, times of crisis (9/11), or times of disaster such as when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.  We can’t afford to wait until the next major disaster or we may lose our democracy altogether.  We need to be wiser now since the cost of inaction and inertia is too high.
Second, if projects like this can’t show success, I believe our country will continue its own downward spiral of disillusion, cynicism, inertia, passivity. As we’ve seen already, this creates major challenges for sustaining a healthy democracy.  But if we can proactively mobilize as ordinary people with a shared vision of working together to make a better world, this will give people a sense of hope again, much like our parents or grandparents experienced after World War II.

How Can You Help?

We can support you by covering the cost of organizing or hosting an event and have a member of our team present to talk about DCTMI and our goals.   We’d also be happy to help you find someone else in your neighborhood to work with to share the burden. 

Here are some ways that you can help us in your neighborhood:

  1. Host a coffee in your home for friends and neighbors.
  2. Recruit folks to join an event that DCTMI or you host at a local coffee shop, restaurant, library, or other community space.
  3. Connect us to your community associations or aging-in-place “village” initiative.
  4. Write about your experience tutoring or mentoring or working with DCTMI for your local email lists.
  5. Make a “selfie” video about your experiences tutoring or mentoring and share it locally. 

Does this sound like something you would be interested in or have a similar skill for?  We’d be delighted to set up a meeting (virtual or in-person) to talk more about what this could look like for you, or join us at one of our neighborhood events to learn more.



DC Tutoring and mentoring initiative (DCTMI) logo