Wednesday, 17 June 2015

My American Adventure: Doing some good in the hood

I woke at 5.30 this morning and by 7am, I had cooked chicken for lunch, prepared myself for work and was ready to leave the apartment.
I caught the 7.20 train to Manhattan. I chose to leave early because the place I was scheduled to work in Brooklyn was new to me and I wanted to make sure that I had enough time to get there before 9.45 and have extra time in case I got lost.

I'm so glad I did because I was given the wrong details and ended up in a completely different area to where I was meant to be working.

When I first arrived in Canarsie, an area in Brooklyn, I sensed that I had entered the hood. As I walked to Avenue D, where I was told I would be working, I couldn't see any of my colleagues. I thought it was strange that no one had arrived yet. When I asked someone for help, they informed me that I had been directed to the wrong place. I should have been in Flatbush, which was 2 miles from where I was.

I couldn't believe it, especially because I had spent half an hour the night before checking my route on line. I even double checked my route with one of the workers at the subway station this morning before I made my way to Brooklyn.

Anyway, once a kind gentleman gave me the right directions, I made my journey to Flatbush. It was a 20-30 minute walk. He told me to be careful because the area I was in was dangerous.

When I got to East Flatbush, my colleagues had already started assisting clients who had booked an appointment with us in advance. As soon as I got myself sorted, I went into one of the interview rooms to help a colleague who was dealing with a driving offence case.

It was a busy day with a mix of people. I assisted 4 clients today, although it seemed like more. This was because each case was quite complex with a range of issues and one client alone needed assistance with 5 different legal issues.

All the people were polite and pleasure to meet and again my knowledge on aspects of the law increased.

I mostly worked with an attorney called Matt who is originally from Montana. I got on well with him and we had interesting conversations. Something I noticed about myself which might sound strange to others is that I tend to forget that I am black. I never use my race as a reason for not doing something or going anywhere. I've always had a mixture of friends from different cultures and race was never a problem or something that came up between us. I don't see myself as a colour.

However, every time I am sat with a black client, especially in areas which are deprived or low income neighbourhoods I feel for them much more, especially the older generation because of what they've gone through with slavery and seeing them still in a type of slavery - mental slavery or a slave to addiction or money. This saddens me because though they have come out of the physical slavery, they are still a slave to something else. I think that's why I work to encourage them more and try and help them out as best as I can.

One of the highlights of the day was sharing my faith and personal experiences with 3 of my colleagues while we ate  lunch. We are all Christians  and it was just awesome being able to speak about what Christ had done in us and the lessons we are currently learning in our walk with Him.It was a special moment.

 The conversation started when I saw one of my colleagues reading his Bible while waiting for clients. I found it beautiful that in the moment of quietness during the day, he took out his Bible to seek direction from God and meditate on His word.

After we had finished seeing all the clients (we only conduct client intakes until 3pm),  I walked a few blocks to the nearest Universal Church which was on Utica Avenue to attend the 4pm service. I left revived.

The area reminds me a lot of Hyson Green because of the layout of the shops, fruit and vegetables markets and the busyness of the streets. The area is predominantly black and it was so noisy with music playing and sirens.

I had to catch a bus to the nearest subway station. It was my first time riding a bus on New York and I didn't really like it. The buses are too small. It reminded of those combi buses in African were everyone is squashed inside, almost standing on each other lol.

I prefer the buses in England, especially in Nottingham.

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