Hello! My name is Sophia Riccardi and I’m a junior social work major. I am currently doing my internship in Portland, OR with the nonprofit, Because People Matter (BPM).
For those unfamiliar with their work, BPM focuses on mobilization, relief and transformation for populations in the margins. They demonstrate an incredible level of generosity serving all people, ensuring that they are known and loved. Under normal conditions, BPM runs a relief program for the houseless community called Night Strike (every Thursday under the Burnside Bridge) and a summer kids program called BTown Kids.
Because of the health crisis BPM has had to find creative ways to continue to serve these communities. This has included serving 1500 sack lunches per week to three houseless camps that the city of Portland set up in response to COVID. BPM also set up a “modified” Btown Kids by passing out 500 to-go lunches and craft kits a week. In addition, they’re working with Portland Parks and Recreation to build a positive presence in the parks and connecting with the community by handing out resources.
Since the minute I started at BPM I’ve been welcomed, challenged, and have grown in my own goals. One goal I have is to break out of my comfort zone and gain confidence in my ability both professionally and personally. There hasn’t been a day yet at BPM where I haven’t been pushed, either by staff or interactions with the community, to work on this goal.
My first week I was challenged entering into a community park where I was forced to face my own white privilege, and analyze my own internal racial biases and stereotypes. It was a powerful experience to return to the park each week and continue to connect with community members and break down those biases I had.
My second week I started to gain more confidence in how to serve the houseless camps with dignity by connecting with the residents in conversation, learning names and ensuring they had a choice in their meals. The ultimate goal is to build relationships and show people that we see them no matter where they are in life.
It’s strange figuring out how to safely serve in the middle of a pandemic but I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with the BPM staff and other interns. I’m excited to grow and continue to build relationships with the community.
I’ll challenge you by asking, what does it mean to show up for others? How can we continue to serve our communities now and beyond? Push yourself to break out of your shell, and have those really important conversations with yourself and others about racial injustices and other social justice topics. We are all human beings who deserve to be known, valued and loved!