We started off our day with speaking to Mike Hodge, the founder of Nashville Organized for Action & Hope (aka. NOAH). NOAH strives for ethical equality by engaging each member in the community in the political and economic decisions affecting their lives. Mike’s aim is to build a powerful citywide social justice organization that focuses on addressing the core problems in the community, which are directly voiced by the members. NOAH continues to fight against the criminal injustice in the communities in Nashville and help the communities that are currently being affected by gentrification.
On Thursday we also had the opportunity to tour and learn about the Oasis Center in Nashville. The Oasis Center is a special place where youth grow, thrive, and create positive change. We first talked with volunteers in the Street Outreach program of Oasis who work with youth between the ages of 18-24 dealing with homelessness. Oasis acts as an emergency day shelter where these youth can come shower, pick up supplies, and engage in group therapy and activities.
Another program of Oasis is their two-week program in which youth can come and receive both individual and family counseling when dealing with troublesome issues. Oasis even provides youth with space to continue their school assignments while participating in the two-week program. Oasis is very strongly therapy influenced and has many offices and new techniques to improve the lives of the youth at Oasis by allowing these youth to be heard.
Oasis does a fantastic job at fostering independence in the lives of the youth. Their higher education programs tell youth from a very early age that they have the power and ability to create and choose their future. Independence is also fostered through their art studio and bike shop. Our group was inspired after meeting a 10-year-old boy named Isaiah. Through the bike shop program at Oasis, youth are put into a 6 week training workshop that teaches them how to build a bike, how every part in the bike works, and then finally the rules and safety of riding bikes. After the 6 weeks are done, the youth go one a big bike ride and get to take the bikes home. When we asked Isaiah if he had any advice, he responded by telling us that you always need to check the inside of the bike. We were surprised that bikes even had an inside! His advice was also evident truth of our time at Oasis; you must check the inside. In all of us it is what is in the inside that counts.
Overall this trip meant something different to each one of us, but the main thing we learned was how we could each define relational, sustainable, dignity giving justice and service. For me (Abby), I defined it as listening to the stories, sharing life’s burdens in community, and healing with love together. We encourage you all to define justice for yourself and how you see putting your faith into action to create a just world.