Archive for July, 2016

Reflections on Ramp It Up 2016

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

by Wendy Low, Yachad Program Associate & Ramp It Up Counselor

“….I always thought that if you get your own house, you could automatically access all parts of it, no questions asked. To see Mr. Fludd incapable of doing this deeply saddened me, but also gave me a new perspective on how hard it can be to live with disabilities.” – Brandon, Week 2 Ramper

Every summer, Yachad offers a summer program for teens to gain community service hours called Ramp It Up! Many teens take part in the program to fulfill their graduation requirements of completing community service. As a teen, I was also required to complete community service hours to graduate, which I completed at a local food bank. While I enjoyed sorting cans, I never interacted with clients, nor did I learn about the food bank, the issues of poverty and hunger, or acquire any skills. All of the things that my community service hours lacked, Yachad’s Ramp It Up provides; it combines meaningful service, significant interaction with the clients, and relevant education.

This year, we worked at the home of Donny and Stephany Fludd in Clinton, Maryland. Three years ago, Mr. Fludd suffered a traumatic spinal injury. The accident left him dependent on the use of an electric wheelchair. His house is a split-level and Mr. Fludd lives in the lower level of the house, the only place where he has access to the outside. The teens built a new front porch and removed the front steps into the main level of the house to give Mr. Fludd the necessary turning radius for his wheel chair to maneuver. Yachad contractors installed a chair lift where the front steps used to be to bring Mr. Fludd up to the new porch so Mr. Fludd has full access to the entire house. Meeting Mr. Fludd helped everyone understand the impact of the work and feel connected to it. We all found a lot of commonalities with Mr. Fludd and had fun joking with him during breaks.

Earlier this year, Mitch Liebeskind, Yachad’s Program Director, wrote about the immediate impact of Yachad’s work. He writes that as a Yachad volunteer, “You are the direct agent of change and you did not have to wait a single second to see how the space was transformed.” This also rings true for Ramp It Up! In two short weeks, Mr. Fludd went from having no access to the main level of his house, to being able to join his family fully. In a world where change seems impossible, after a day of work with Yachad, we see the power that we have to create a better world.

Additionally, participants take charge of the project. When the teens were tired, there were times when I would try to assist on a project. I would barely have my hand in the dirt, before a teen that had been resting for a moment would jump up, grab the tools from me, and enthusiastically keep working. It was rewarding to see the teens understand that the project was theirs to complete.

The educational components were an important part of the program. On the second day, we participated in an activity that sensitizes participants to privileges that we have. One student said, “I thought I was just here to build a ramp, I didn’t realize I was also here to learn.” He went on to explain how the activity had opened his eyes to the many privileges that he was afforded and made him more grateful.

Another great moment occurred during the lunchtime discussion on gentrification. When our guest speaker talked about the Shaw neighborhood as a case study, Mr. Fludd chimed in to share his experience going to high school in Shaw and how different the neighborhood is today.

I feel fortunate to have gotten the chance to take part in Ramp It Up! this year and I am glad such meaningful opportunities exist for teens to get involved in their own communities.


Thursday, July 21st, 2016

by Ellis

I spent two weeks helping renovate Mr. Fludd’s house to the point where he could, for the first time ever, consistently use the main part of his house. The experience was really incredible because, to me, the work feels so much more worthwhile when I can see the face of the person I’m helping and see the progression of our work. Seeing the transformation of the house has been one of the most rewarding parts of the process. I was able to see what challenges he would face entering his house and why those challenges meant he had only entered the second floor one time.

The physical change that I witnessed over two weeks is also representative of the new bonds that Mr. Fludd and his family can share, as well as a sense of hope that, in some sense, has been injected into their lives. We often saw Mr. Fludd watching our progress, especially as we neared the end of the project, and it was inspiring to see him, not only because it meant that he really cared, but also because we got to see why we were doing the work. To be able to recall what the house had looked like merely two weeks before gave me a lot of pride in the work that all of us put in.

I learned many new skills and came out with a much better idea of what it meant to be on a worksite which made it a great growing experience for myself in a much more immediate way. It’s difficult to measure the impact a people have on each other’s lives, and I feel as though even in this case where we can measure the changes we made, impact is incalculable. And that doesn’t only apply to our influence on Mr. Fludd and his family for, quite possibly, the rest of his life. Mr. Fludd also impacted every person who was on the site over those two weeks, as working with people that need help helps visualize issues and makes their afflictions more obviously problematic. I took a lot away from helping Mr. Fludd shift toward a different lifestyle and am grateful for the experience.

Wisdom from 2016 Ramp It Up Week 1

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

by Natalie, Week 1 Ramper

Ramp camp was a great experience for me, where I really learned a lot. I learned a lot about construction and demolition, but also about disabilities and money. While there were many challenges that I went through during the process, overall it was fun to learn. For example, before we were able to start building the lift we had to demolish the concrete stairs that were in place. This process took us most of the time that we spent working. This was a very hard and stressful task. We were struggling to break the stairs and had to go through many different machines and techniques until we found the best one. Many of the tools that we used for the demolition were very big and dangerous. I was encouraged to try each machine no matter how scared I was. At the end of the day I felt very accomplished and proud that I pushed myself to do things that were not within my comfort zone.

After the week of camp I felt very good about myself and what I had done for the past week.  Before the week of camp I thought I would just be building a lift and doing the construction work. After the week I came out knowing so much more about poverty and the way other people live, and it made me realize that I should think about other people and not take what I have for granted. Every day we had different activities during our break from working. These activities were very educational and I felt that we learned a lot from each one of them. One of the activities that I got the most out of was one where we were asked questions and if they were true we would take a step forward, and then we would play the role of a different person. When I played myself I ended up on the other side of the field but when I was out in the shoes of someone else I didn’t go very far. This showed me how privileged I was compared to other people and opened my eyes to other parts of the world and other people who are less fortunate.

This was only one of the many activities that we had that I gained a lot from. This experience and the things that I learned about was something that I had not been exposed to before and it opened by eyes to the way other people are living. The man that we were building the ramp for came out of his house a few times a day to check on us and it made me feel so good to see him smiling and showing his appreciation for what we were doing for him. This camp gave me chances to experience things that I hadn’t before and taught me so much and I am so glad that I was able to have this experience.