I was a Participant

Excerpted from an article in "Acting in Faith." Read Madeline's full story.

When I was 14, my mother took me to a weekend-long Quaker work camp in West Philadelphia, one of the last before the program was closed in 2005. I painted a hallway blue, prepared simple meals, and slept in a sleeping bag. By Sunday afternoon, I knew that I had been transformed.

Yes, being exposed to the struggles of poverty and becoming acutely aware of my own privilege was eye-opening. But what broke open my heart was sitting in a circle after dinner, listening to a local African-American man tell about his daily struggles with racism, and how its structural violence has shaped the course of his life and his ability to love others.

[The work camp] model of work, contemplation, and deep listening to local community members can be truly revolutionary. It is the basis for the work AFSC does today.

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