Hope Lloyd is a rising senior at Birmingham-Southern College (BSC). She was selected to participate in BSC’s Hess Fellows Program – a program that pairs students with nonprofit organizations dedicated to advocacy. Hope was an adviser at Anytown Alabama 2013 and is serving at the YWCA this summer.
I was really excited to begin my summer as the YWCA’s Hess Fellow by participating in Anytown. I grew up attending and staffing summer camps in Alabama, so they hold a special place in my heart. It was an intriguing opportunity to be able to participate in a program that combines a summer camp experience with social justice work.
I must say that my favorite aspect of Anytown was the change that could be perceived in the delegates, simply because of their interactions with one another. Anytown provides new platforms and terminology to delegates as they are building new relationships with the diverse group they are attending camp with.
There was one delegate I was particularly fond of who started out the week sitting at the back of every workshop. He seemed to have things to say, but when the microphone was passed to him, he would always pass it on. It was obvious that he did not think it would be “cool” to participate. As the week continued, this delegate became extremely close with his diverse group of cabin mates. The more open they became with one another, the more they all began to open up and participate in the workshops. One night towards the end of the week, this delegate stood up and shared his personal story with the group. I will never forget the support I saw poured out for him that night. His friends hugged him and cried with him. It was a beautiful thing to witness.
These relationships, I believe, are what will make all the difference as delegates return to their communities. For every social justice situation the delegates encounter back in “the real world,” they will think of all of the “Anybuddies” they met at Anytown. Their friends, with whom they have shared, laughed and cried, will be there to fight for them (and with them!) as they face social justice issues in their daily lives.
The delegates can also use the awareness and language they have gleaned from Anytown to shape relationships that they build outside of Anytown. During our Reentry workshop, we encouraged the delegates to think about how to integrate what they have learned into the relationships they have waiting for them back at home. To me, Anytown is an experience that will resonate with the delegates as they continue and create relationships throughout the rest of their lives.