For seven weeks from July 5 – August 18, 2017, we were paid by New York City Department of Youth and Community Service and assigned to work with social service of Christ Disciples International Ministries, Inc. (CDIM). We offered services to the Bronx Community in general, particularly, the northeast Bronx serving the needy. We were a total of 60 young people recruited by five organizations, namely; The Children Aid Society - 19, South Bronx Overall Development Corporation (SOBRO) – 16, Simpson Street Development Association (SISDA) – 15; Inwood Corporation – 5, Mosholu Montefiore Community Center (MMCC) - 5.
The Mission of Christ Disciples International Ministries, Inc, which we worked to fulfill in our little way is: to adopt a holistic approach and end hunger and its related illness in the Bronx, through short and long-term helpful activities that foster a strong community in which empowered families reside having overcome obstacles to independent living.
All the activities of Christ Disciples’ social programs are wrapped around their vibrant food program. During the six weeks' duration of our employment with CDIM, we were assigned to work in the following groups: Public Health, Food Services, Seniors’ Project, Good News Children Project, and Administration. We worked under the supervision of the following people: Emaeyak Ekanem, Executive Director, Dr. Godwin G. Umoh, Director, Mr. Atanda Owolabi, Director, Christian Udotai, Director, Iniobong Ekanem, Director, Norma Torres, supervisor, and Claudia Garcia, supervisor.
Public Health Group
Our major Goal in the public health group was to create awareness of the risk factors for food-related diseases and teach risks’ reduction. To meet this goal, we researched and obtained information on diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure including other community health problems, such as asthma. Sadly, we could only share information on high blood pressure and obesity because we had a limited time to prepare for each event. Regardless, the two events that we arranged were well attended and successful.
We conducted the two events alongside Wednesday’s food distributions, and promptly completed each presentation within 45 minutes so the people could receive food within the scheduled distribution time of between 10: 30 am and 1:00 pm. During the first event, four members of our group made a PowerPoint presentation in English and Spanish using the slides we had designed. In this event, we gave information on high blood pressure and served more than 1500 household members.
The second event on obesity was handled a bit differently. During the first event, we had announced our intention to begin a Walk Club as part of our action plans to stand up against obesity and high blood pressure. Therefore, many people had signed up for the club. So before we began the obesity event, we led 70 people on a 20 minutes’ walk around a few blocks of Webster and Decatur Avenues including East Mosholu Parkway North. During the walk, people to be served food that day were given numbers. These numbers were given to the Walk Club members first so they could go into the CDIM's air-conditioned hall to cool off prior to the start of the events. Other clients were, subsequently, given the food service numbers, (without which clients cannot receive foods). These assigned numbers are the tools utilized for orderly distribution and registration of clients who participate in the program.
After the walk, we began the presentation and served more than 2000 household members. We also designed and produced multi-colored bilingual (English/Spanish) brochures and flyers as publicity materials. Greater than 80% of the publicity materials were distributed to the community.
Participants were asked pre-presentation and post-presentation questions to gauge their knowledge of obesity and high blood pressure. Based on the questions, and answers we received, we discovered that there were either no in-depth or uncaring knowledge of the two issues. We believe that we were successful in our efforts because, after the events, all the participants we interviewed showed greater concern about the prevalence of the problems of obesity and high blood pressure, and resolved to adopt healthy living habits such as controlling their meals’ portions and exercising regularly to reduce the risks. For example, many of them signed up for and participated in the inaugural Walk Club.
Food Service Group: We worked very hard and learned a lot in this group. In our initial activities, we arranged the food items in groups as follows: 1. Bread or alternates; 2. Meat or alternates; 3. Fruits; 4. Vegetables; 5. Dairies; 6. Others. It was fun because we were guided to identify the food items in these food groups from the “Nutritional Facts” label. Whenever we were unsure of how to identify the food group within which to place the item, the rule of the thumb was to see “the first ingredient in the “Nutritional Facts” label. We arranged the food in First-In-First-Out (FIFO) order and looked for: “SELL BY” “USED BY” “BEST BY” dates. It was interesting to learn these features in food labeling and the nutritional contents of the foods as labeled.
Next, we took inventories of all the foods in each group and assigned codes to be entered into the computer spreadsheet. We swept the storage space daily and ensured that foods removed from the inventory for distribution were noted on the inventory sheets.
We performed other jobs including offloading food items from the never-ending arrival of food trucks. We had deliveries from Food Bank For the City of New York, City Harvest, Driscoll Foods and in-house food pickups. We restocked the foods, broke and tied the empty food boxes and prepared them for recycling. On Wednesdays and Saturdays all the groups, except Good News Children Project, suspended all the groups' activities and joined the Food Group to give out foods to the community. We arranged tables and displayed food items – a minimum of four food items per food group – on each table. The clients had a choice of which foods to pick from the tables as we guided them to make their choices based on the sizes of their families. Christ Disciples Food Service is Clients' Choice. Clients choose what food they take. We gave out tons of fresh, fruits and vegetables on each Saturdays, particularly. We have never seen so many free foods given out to people. Also, we were unaware of such prevalence of hunger in New York City.
Seniors’ Project Group In the seniors’ project, we recruited seniors in the food program who are 60 years and older with MEDICAID and or MEDICARE to join our seniors’ activities. These activities include free computer classes, free recreational trips, massage sessions, board games, dancing lessons and assortments of other life-enhancing activities which provide the seniors the avenue through which they are able to socialize with each other in our spacious site, and cope with loneliness, typically - a major problem with seniors.
Good News Children Project Group:
Very few of us worked to supervise children in this group. We offered them a blend of literacy and recreational activities to enhance their academic performance and keep them out of trouble in a safe, supportive, and non-threatening environment. The activities we offered them included exploratory Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) while their parents are at work. We provided them with a variety of engagement and exploratory science activities so they can develop life skills, resiliency, self-esteem, and improve their physical, social and cognitive growth and development. Very few of us were given the opportunity to work in this group.
Administration Group: We were supervised to track and monitor workers’ attendance through attendance sheets that were provided to us. We ensured that each worker signed in and out each day including lunch hours and prepared the attendance sheets for the directors’ signature. There was a master enrollment sheet which was the tool designed by the director to monitor the workers’ attendance. Each group’s activity was different but we acquired a lot of work ethics and skills. Following are the unedited comments of a few of us about our experiences:
- Petricia Price While working here at the food pantry I've made a few impacts such as making sure what needed to be done was done and working hard. Working hard at this food pantry was something much needed because we had to carry boxes, (etc) and all those things weren't easy. I feel like I'm one of those workers who put in the most work than others and that's an impact on the job. Since me and a few others were working on this job it's been organized and kept clean. Changes been made since July, 5th 2017, my first day of work. An impact this job made on me is giving me more responsibility, learning to be more responsible and also leadership and dedication. It gave me a great experience with customers and working with other people overall. It gave me the knowledge and what I need to do and what not to do on a job. I also know what I need to work on. I work hard but sometimes don't listen to dress code, basic structure.
- Annmarie Brazoban
The way this job impacted me was to see on how many people come for food because they need. It also makes me feel glad and like a big person because it feels nice to help people who need it. In the future maybe if I’m in need of something these people I helped might help me but it was good experience to work at Christ Disciples International Ministries because as we were doing outside things it was still inside the house of God and that's what God wants he wants all human beings to do the right
- Toriel Thompson
Working at Christ Disciples impact me by teaching that every food doesn't have to be expired and gave me a good feeling in giving to people in need.
- Stephanie Hernandez
This job impacted me in a big way because I got to experience something different. I got to see things that will help me in the future. I thought me how to keep track of my things.
- Imani Cenac
While working at Christ Disciples this summer. I experienced a few things that I will never forget. As my first job, I learned how important it is to communicate with your supervisor in the right way. I did enjoy providing food to people in need. Just knowing that you’re positively impacting someone’s life is a great feeling.
- Destiny Cerrato
The way I helped people during my time in summer youth I fed the people food every Wednesday and Saturday and made sure they need enough.People are in need and being here helped me help them and I’m grateful for it.
- Amanda Matos
When i first stepped foot in this church i had the attitude of any typical teenage girl, impatient, angry, lazy, emotional, careless, and ignorant. At first, the director would constantly call my name for every little thing. I would get so mad; I would talk back to him. I would think of come back in my head for the next time he tried to tell me something, i would present him with the facts. However after 2 months of discipline and structure, i matured. I realized that Im in an actual job I can’t do whatever i want or there will be many consequences. Like others who decided not to follow the rules, I would’ve gotten fired. As much as I hate being told what to do, I humbled myself and now I have a more positive view on working.
- Jhalin Burnes
Seeing the smile on people’s face when I helped them made me realize I was making a difference in their lives.
- Anderson Vargas
This summer I helped people during this program by handing out food to them on Wednesdays. The experiences that I had during this program have helped me develop and gain work experience that I didn't have and I am thankful for that. I don't know if I’ve impacted the lives of anyone but I am just happy I was able to help and be allowed to work in this church. Thank you all for everything and take care of all those who come through.
- Marisol Torres
Helping people makes me feel like a good person making a change in someone’s life.
- Karima Kone
I started working at Christ Disciples International Ministries on the 5th of July. At first I was surprise that it was a church but soon i understood that the pantry could take place inside the church because it was big. I was suppose to work upstairs on the group that provide information about health issues to the society but I changed group because it was boring to stay upstairs. I went down and I learned to organize things downstairs, I learned how to clean and the hardest thing was take heavy stuff and take them down and upstairs. During that time I was trying to not to be late and get fired and learned how to treat people right and I also had fun with people I meet. I gain the skill at creativity, punctuality, and understanding.
- Khandice Powell
Working with Christ Disciples International Ministries I have gained a lot of knowledge and skills from the guidance of my supervisors. This summer I did public speaking in the health group, I gave food to those in need, and interacted with a lot of new people. I was even molded by Pastor Ekanem to be kind of like an unsung.
- “We handed out food such as vegetables, pasta, beef stew, potatoes, tomatoes, and etc. Also clean up the church”
"Working for Christ Disciples was a lot of hard work. We researched information on the risk factors for high blood pressure learned that high blood pressure is affecting our society and as concerned people of the community, we wanted to spread the awareness of high blood pressure in order to do that we created a PowerPoint. After that, we knew that a lot of our society involves very diverse cultures. So we made Spanish version of it so everyone can be able to receive the information to be aware” -Public Health Group
- “Our time within it has been a difference than what we are used to. We worked downstairs, and we usually organized the food, and cleaned the fridge, and we bagged and distributed food to the people. We worked very hard for several hours throughout this program. But bringing the food and organizing it had brought those who worked downstairs together and we depended on each other to help get several things done. We worked hard and our boss is a strict leader but in the end severing the people and our boss, becoming more understanding, had made our journey through this program was worth the hard work.”