There’s no place like home

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By Alex Harring, Editor

Throughout the school year and summer, my timeline displays colorful photos of students volunteering in front of grandiose backdrops, flying thousands of miles to give back to the world. I commend those students. Being a citizen of the world allows you to gain new perspectives and formulate new opinions on world issues while helping the underprivileged.

But just as I see my peers doing amazing things overseas, I can also see a metropolitan city in need from the corner of my street. Detroit is a mere 10 minutes away, but the socioeconomic divide between Grosse Pointe and Detroit is nationally recognized.

We remain farsighted when it comes to Detroit, taking our time and resources to the ends of the Earth. And when I say we, I include myself.

Our view of Detroit, crafted by upbeat slogans and news pieces, is skewed. It may seem like the “comeback city” is actually making a comeback, but trust me when I say that it’s just a facade.

My work with Summer in the City, a volunteer organization for youth with the goal of restoring Metro Detroit, exposed me to problems that I never even knew existed.

I know I’ve never lived in Detroit, so I can’t provide you with first-person anecdotes, but here’s what I do know: some kids at the camps Summer in the City sponsored couldn’t read English well enough to answer questionnaires about their experiencesand they’re going into middle school.  Many participants didn’t have adequate transportation to get to the site, so they were either late or absent, and not by their own doing. And for a few campers, the complimentary lunch was the only full meal they’d eat.

This isn’t our fault, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to stop it. We don’t need to take long plane rides to off-road villages or travel to another continent to help people (although if you can, you should). Remember that we can do the same amount of good overseas as we can do while staying on Mack Avenue.

By no means am I diminishing the work of our peers who do chose to aid in foreign countries, because the work they’re doing is fantastic. But I also see a community that is right in front of us that we aren’t helping, and I wonder why we don’t.

I look at the pictures of students traveling around the world, and I think about organizations like Forgotten Harvest and Detroit 2020 that give students our age an opportunity to help restore the city that was once a booming industrial town.

The youth in Grosse Pointe have a clear advantage when it comes to helping Detroit: we know there are problems, and have the resources to help solve them. So there’s no excuse for not volunteering. If you can’t afford to go to another continent, as most can’t, there are enough opportunities in Detroit to suffice. You just have to be willing to look for them.

Be the change you want to see in the world, but realize that sometimes that change is needed closer to home than you may think.