May Grace Now Lead Them Home

Disappointment at a past we can never erase; anger towards a young man on a murderous mission; amazed hope for the human condition thanks to families who forgave: the horrific Charleston shooting that took place on June 17, 2015 cost nine individuals their lives and prompted worldwide reflections on justness, as people like me pored over the news and experienced the full gamut of emotions.


It seemed that communities were coming together over this horrendous hate crime, showing their support to the congregation of Mother Emanuel AME Church through vigils, marches, and prayer meetings. One of our three away weekends immediately followed the shooting, and my family had made plans to visit Charleston together for Father’s Day Weekend, as I had never been before. Despite the tragedy that occurred, we decided to continue with our plans to spend time in Charleston, and on Saturday June 20 we visited Mother Emanuel AME Church. Pastors were leading prayers throughout the day, as locals and tourists alike joined together to pay their respects to the deceased congregation members by laying flowers at the memorial. News crews were buzzing around, interviewing people between prayers; the first anchorwoman I noticed was with an Atlanta news station, but I realized just how globally impactful the shooting was when I heard a woman express that she was with an Italian news channel stationed in Rome. In the face of a terrible event, people of every race and every age across the world seemed to be uniting.

Part of the memorial for the victims of the shooting located directly outside of the church

Part of the memorial for the victims of the shooting located directly outside of the church

However, conflict still erupted in regards to the shooting, as debate began regarding whether or not to allow the Confederate flag in the South Carolina Statehouse. Being in South Carolina made the argument seem even more pertinent to me than if it was merely something separate that I was watching on the news. Sitting in a Georgetown County Council meeting on Tuesday June 23, I was remarkably pleased that the council unanimously voted in support of the South Carolina resolution to remove the flag from the Statehouse. Having heard divided views around town, I was overjoyed by the unanimity, viewing it as giving the county’s support added strength, more powerfully diminishing the prominence of the Battle Flag of the Confederate States.

The ten BNs living together discussed the topics regarding the shooting at length, contemplating the hate crime. Naturally, we wanted to pay our respects for those whose lives were taken, so when we heard that Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s funeral would be open to the public on Friday June 26, a day in which none of us had work, we resolved to visit Charleston and wait in line for the memorial service. We were unsure of how likely it was that we would get in TD Arena at the College of Charleston, especially with President Obama coming to deliver the eulogy, but we decided to at least try.

A message prominently displayed in Downtown Charleston

A message prominently displayed in Downtown Charleston

We arrived early in the morning to queue, and during our first four hours of waiting, I found myself speaking with locals about one of my favorite topics: literature. A kind woman, who began looking out for me as the BNs struggled to stay together with people pushing into line, sneaking their way ahead of us, saw Liz’s copy of Beloved in her hands, and commented to me about the novel. From there we discussed various Toni Morrison works before delving into our favorite poems by Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou. Then, as she was a Charleston native, I asked her how she felt the city handled the inhumane crime that brought us together for a funeral that morning. She confirmed my assumptions, expressing that unity was being reached, though due to a truly malignant act.

Waiting in line for Pinckney's funeral as the sun rises overhead

Waiting in line for Pinckney’s funeral as the sun rises overhead

During our last hour of waiting, people around us were becoming antsy, and swarms began pushing through to get in front in line. With probably a bit less than one-hundred people in front of us, the gates to the arena closed, and we were unable to see the funeral. However, I think we all were incredibly grateful to stand in that line and see the love people were there to express. We heard songs and chants giving glory to God, songs reminding us that we all should be seen as equal. We saw smiles despite the heat, and we saw masses gathering to honor a man many never met but respected nonetheless.

As Americans in today’s fast-paced society, it is all too easy to quickly jump from one thing to the next, but I hope that the reflections gained from this heinous crime are not quickly forgotten. I hope that people in the area, and people around the world, continue to ruminate on the importance of equality, of safety, of love. As Obama expressed in his beautifully delivered eulogy, “Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it [grace] on to us. May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure. May grace now lead them home.”

– Catherine

Mother Emanuel AME Church...

Mother Emanuel AME Church… “May grace now lead them home”

We must never forget to love, and to do so deeply, with our whole hearts

We must never forget to love, and to do so deeply, with our whole hearts


Thoughts on a Wednesday

Last Wednesday I didn’t have to go to work. I got to fall asleep in the car as Ali and Annie drove my sleeping, snoring self to Charleston. Just over an hour from Georgetown, this was my first trip to Charleston since moving to the area and I was excited. I was excited to see the Battery, walk down King Street, and eat good food. Actually, I was giddy. As we crossed the bridge into Charleston I literally stuck my face out of the window in puppy-like fashion as we joked about being “small town girls headed to the big city.”

Our trip to Charleston, however, was not solely for pleasure. In the morning we met with the Low Country Food Bank, a Feeding America organization serving the entire coast of South Carolina, and in the afternoon we met with One80 Place, a homeless shelter housing upwards of 170 clients. Our goal was to connect with organizations that were playing a part in our internships. For Ali, this meant discussing refrigeration and fresh produce with the Low Country Food Bank. For me, this meant discussing partner food pantries with the Low Country folks and the 40-person veteran housing unit with the One80 Place crew. For Annie, this meant seeing the work of SC Works and the unemployment office in action. We were all excited.

For Ali, Annie, and me, that day ended up being more than work, more than pleasure. It was inspiration. It was a chance to see successful non-profits in action, doing meaningful work in a sustainable, creative way. At both sites we were given extensive tours, taught about the operations, leadership, funding, and logistics of each system, and greeted with mutual interest and respect. I personally was amazed by the hope displayed by the One80 Place outreach coordinator and the organization and range of services at the Low Country Food Bank.

Living in the real world and having a somewhat real job has been slightly disconcerting at times. Different than the comfort of our Duke classrooms where we are taught that all we need to do is work hard and care A LOT and we can make positive change, here in Georgetown we are constantly faced with how difficult the world can be. Some days I leave work frustrated. Frustrated at the poverty that ravages our new community. Frustrated at the restaurants and shops on Front Street compared to crumbling homes found in the shade of the paper mill. Frustrated even by non-profits themselves, all competing for the limited resources afforded to them instead of aiding one another. Frustrated that no matter what I do, there will still be injustice and neglect and inefficiency. However, the Low Country Food Bank and One80 Place eased that frustration, that hopelessness, even if only for a day. To see these groups in action was not only a comfort, but a challenge. It is the work of those who care and who are able to stand up and speak up. To not be frustrated by hopelessness and bullied into quitting, but to remain stubborn in the face of failure and fear. On that Wednesday, I found that solace. The drive to keep going. The drive and the promise that doing good WAS good. That giving up in the face of despair is never the answer.

Resting in the shade at One80 Place, an incredible homeless shelter in Charleston, SC

Resting in the shade at One80 Place, an incredible homeless shelter in Charleston, SC

That afternoon, we returned home to Georgetown. That night, 9 people were shot and killed in the very place where that day I had found so much light. The world is not perfect, not even close. But that does not mean we should quit. In fact, we must be encouraged. When people do wrong, like ravaging a house of worship and a group of welcoming, innocent souls in a true act of terror…this is when we must not give up. This is when frustration at wrong doing and pain and suffering cannot turn into despair, but must turn into action.

Powerful words in the streets of Charleston, SC

Powerful words ring out in the streets of Charleston

When we returned to Charleston to (attempt) to attend Reverend Pinckney’s funeral, banners hung from almost every building we passed. These banners offered quotes, encouragements, and messages to Emanuel AME, the people of Charleston, and the entire country, with a common theme: love. One of my favorite banners read: “No matter how dark the nights, the day is sure to come.” The day is sure to come.


We Will Survive

Sometimes, you need to hear about success from someone who not only has it, but has become renowned for his or her triumphs. Such an individual serves as living proof that a proper combination of hard work and perseverance can reap favorable results, serving as a source of inspiration for those who wonder whether or not their efforts will truly pay off in the end. Last week, singer Gloria Gaynor, who won a Grammy Award for her disco single “I Will Survive” in 1978, visited Plantersville Summer Academy to share the secrets to success with the students: hard work and education. I, along with several other members of the BN Duke Class of 2018, visited Plantersville to hear her speak.

Gloria Gaynor with the Plantersville Summer Academy students (and Gabi!)

Gloria Gaynor with the Plantersville Summer Academy students (and Gabi!)

Before singing her lionized song “I Will Survive”, Gaynor, dubbed the ‘Disco Queen’, shared her own humble background with the students of Plantersville Summer Academy. She stressed to them that her family had very little money while she was growing up, but they had a great deal of love for one another, emphasizing that money should never be viewed as the most important thing. Furthermore, she emphasized that the success she found in her singing career stemmed from never giving up and always putting forth her best efforts in all that she did, encouraging the children to work hard and follow their passions in order to accomplish their goals.


Gloria Gaynor at Plantersville Summer Academy

Most importantly, Ms. Gaynor, who recently received her college diploma, stressed to the impressionable minds sitting before her that education is key to all that one seeks to accomplish in this world. Expressing that scholarships and financial aid are available so that anyone can pursue an undergraduate education, Ms. Gaynor planted a seed in the minds of the elementary and middle school students in her midst, causing them to begin thinking about the reality of higher education at an early age. In doing so, she reminded them of the importance of their current status as young scholars, encouraging them to work hard as they learn to read, write, and apply mathematical concepts, so that down the road they can achieve whatever lofty goals they set before themselves in the future.


Planes and Monster Trucks and Guns! Oh My!


This past weekend has been pretty eventful. Thanks to Mr. Funnye, we started our Friday with plane rides. Walking into the airport, it was hard for us to contain our excitement to see Georgetown from above. But, once we were told that we would be 20150612_201722able to fly the planes as well, we couldn’t wipe the excitement from our faces. Each BN walked out of the plane with an inextinguishable smile painted on. One BN was so excited that she even wanted to purchase a personal plane.jack brad

Some may find flying a plane enough for a day but not us. After a quick group gym run, we got ready for the Monster Jam (more commonly referred to as just Jam). Jam was far better than we could have ever expected. We all knew that watching large trucks jump over other cars for hours would have been invigorating. However, we did not expect voices to have been lost from excitement or fence climbing to have occurred. Jam gave us more than I could have hoped for–it gave us a greater appreciation for big trucks.

Monster truck

To recover from the sight of the Scooby Doo truck and the BN Jam attire (particularly Jack’s hippie look), we spent most of Saturday at the beach. But don’t worry, our weekend was not over yet. On Sunday morning, we were allowed to attend Shiloh church, a small, family style church. While it was similar to Bethel church in having a tight community, Shiloh church demonstrated how different services in Georgetown could be conducted. From having a band of solely children to having a choir of three, the church definitely operated in a different fashion from Bethel and churches that we were used to. We truly adored the atmosphere of the tightly-knit Shiloh church and are thankful that they invited us.

shiloh church

As our final adventure for the weekend, a few of us went to a gun range to take our first shots. Barak, the only one of us who has actually shot a gun before, took initiative and courageously led us through the afternoon. After looking at the intimidating rifle and hearing the shots ring through the wall, a few of us were definitely nervous. Nevertheless, these nerves quickly dissipated and left behind a desire to shoot until we had to purchase more ammo. Some of us went trigger-happy; others actually took their time to hit the target. Either way, I think everyone had a great time shooting!

Georgetown From 1500 Feet Above

About two weeks ago, I woke up to an email from one of our community partners, Ray Funnye, detailing an opportunity for the group to do some “aerial reconnaissance” of the Georgetown area. Without knowing exactly what type of aircraft we would be on, where we would be flying out of, or what exactly “aerial reconnaissance” even meant, the group jumped on the possibility and aptly named it the “plane adventure.”


Looking down on the Waccamaw River

So June 12th finally rolled around, and we woke up begrudgingly early to head to the Georgetown County Airport to find out what exactly we were getting ourselves into. We walked into the airport to find three very, very, VERY small airplanes waiting for us on the tarmac, along with three pilots who fly these awesome planes as a (pretty sweet) hobby. Dan Drost, one of the pilots, took us out to the tarmac to show off his 1952 Chipmunk, a plane built in England that flew in the RAF for 44 years. Now, that Chipmunk resides in Georgetown, South Carolina, and I got to fly it.


Our personal planes for the day!

As I saw Barak and Mr. Drost landing on the runway, I waited anxiously to get into the tiny plane and see Georgetown from above. I hurried over to the Chipmunk and climbed into the cockpit, I even got to wear a pretty sweet headset that was straight out of Top Gun. Now, I’ve been on large, commercial jets before, but there is absolutely nothing like the feeling of taking off in one of these small planes. I pride myself in saying that I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie, and this plane ride definitely delivered.


Khalid and his sweet Top Gun headset

Once we were in the air, Mr. Drost took me all along the coast of Georgetown and up into Pawley’s Island. I saw Sandy’s Island, DeBordieu, the Waccamaw River, and the vast Atlantic Ocean from 1500 feet above. Something about being so far removed from the ground, from the place where everything that matters to you resides, makes you feel so small, so insignificant. Being 1500 feet above Georgetown gave me the same eerie, magnificent feeling that I had that night, when I stood by the dark, swirling ocean and looked up at the dim stars as I talked to Jack about life and our time in Georgetown so far. So small. So insignificant. Yet so humbled.


Georgetown from above

Although we may be small in the grand scheme of this great big world, I find peace in the fact that I am making an impact through my work in my hometown, at Duke, and here in Georgetown. I find peace in the fact that my internship at Plantersville Summer Academy has the potential to impact so many children’s lives, not to mention my own. I find peace in the fact that I have already had so many opportunities to feel so small and so insignificant and so humbled in my short life. And I find peace in the fact that I know I can continue to make small impacts wherever I go, as long as I choose to do so.

Much to my protest, the plane ride had to come to an end, but not before Mr. Drost did a fancy maneuver that RAF bomber pilots used to do, in which the plane was literally perpendicular to the ground. Safe to say I got my adrenaline rush for the day.

Stay tuned, folks. A new goal has been added to my “To Do Before Graduation” list: Get my pilot’s license.


Future Pilot


It’s The Little Things

Our stay in Georgetown has been a whirlwind of adjusting to new jobs, going on crazy adventures, and meeting loads of new people.  As much as it has been defined by the above activities, just as important are the things we do in between.

  1. YMCA:   By far our biggest past time is going to the local Coastal Carolina YMCA.  In fact, we go so much that if there is a day in which only a portion of our group goes, it is noticed by the receptionists, personal trainers, and other YMCA frequent flyers.  All of our group is on a mission to get fit this summer and so far we are on a great track.  We are not only running and lifting but trying new classes offered (like cycling or “House Party”) and one of our group is even using this summer to learn to swim.
    From left: Liz, Gabi, Catherine

    From left: Liz, Gabi, Catherine

    Annie and Taylor

    Annie and Taylor

    Shubham and Barak (the lovers)

    Shubham and Barak (the lovers)

    Khalid and Shubham

    Khalid and Shubham

    Khalid and Ali (we saw a mirror and had to take a selfie)

    Khalid and Ali (we saw a mirror and had to take a selfie)

  2. BEACH:   Seeing as Georgetown is only a hop and a skip away from Pawley’s Island, every free moment not working out is often spent at the beach, swimming, relaxing, reading, and most importantly, eating.  Georgetown county is absolutely gorgeous, and its beaches are no different.


3.    BIKE GANGS:  Although we don’t bike quite as much as intended at the beginning, it is still a favorite past time as well as way of getting around.




– Ali

The Cookout Conundrum

The idea of ten rising college sophomores in one home baffles many of the individuals I have met in Georgetown, prompting numerous questions. Some concerned mother figures have asked me, “Can you keep it clean? Do you all cook in there at once? Who does the dishes?”, while others have questioned, “Do you think you’ll all hate each other by the end of this?” One day, after explaining that our group consists of ten students serving in various internships, all of whom live in the Habitat for Humanity Volunteer House, a community member questioned, “You mean like The Real World?” Due to my limited pop culture knowledge, I admittedly needed to do a quick Google search to learn this question referenced an MTV series in which seven or eight young adults live together, making this question my favorite response to our living situation… Though I think based on our television preferences this past week, we would all much prefer to be on a Food Network television program than MTV.

Having ten students in one house certainly sounds crazy, but our living situation is pretty great, and for me it immediately felt like a home away from home. Our neighborhood is close to the waterfront, many of our work locations, grocery stores, a gym, and more, making it an incredibly convenient spot to live for ten weeks. I know that I am incredibly fortunate to be here this summer, and I definitely wanted the chance to learn from our neighbors about Georgetown, as I suspected that many have lived in the area for a long time. Moreover, as a class, we knew that we wanted to be truly engaged with the community (and as additional inspiration, we really have been watching a great deal of competitive grilling shows on the Food Network), so we decided to reach out to our neighbors and have a cookout on Saturday night.

Shubham and Khalid with the flyer for the cookout

Shubham and Khalid with the flyer for the cookout

After Shubham designed a flyer and Khalid printed copies, Shubham and I went around knocking on doors and inviting our neighbors, explaining that we would be in the Habitat House for ten weeks and wanted to get to know the neighborhood. When Saturday rolled around, after jotting down a grocery list and purchasing burgers, potato chips, baked beans, and sweet tea, we all joined together to prepare food and set up a table and chairs outside. However, as we issued an open invitation without definitely knowing if any of our guests would attend, we all were concerned that we would not have any guests. Throughout the afternoon we joked about how much extra food would be left over, wondering if we were throwing a “Neighborhood Cookout” for no one but us.

Luckily, as Barak manned the grill and we all chatted outside, listening to music, some of our neighbors began wandering to our house! Piling food on paper plates, our neighbors sat with us, chatting about their time in Georgetown. Two of the men who joined us told us that they attend Bethel AME Church, and they remembered us from when we visited the church last Sunday. They gave us advice about the neighborhood, Georgetown in general, and, much more broadly, about life. One gentleman, Lester, told us that we would all be successful if we expressed out loud that which we want to do, reminding us to never keep our ambitions to ourselves. He reminded us to have self-confidence, encouraging us to follow our passions, stressing the importance of our never desisting from our personal goals.

Enjoying food and fellowship

Talking with some of our neighbors

Some of our guests

Some of our guests








When the mosquitoes began being a little too friendly for everyone’s liking, skittering from person to person, we said good-bye to our neighbors and began cleaning up the tables and chairs. As we said our good-byes, our neighbors kindly told us to let them know if we need any help while in town; considering that we have only been in Georgetown for two weeks, I think it’s pretty fantastic that we already have so many friendly connections outside of our internships. I’m so glad that we, as a class, had the chance to enjoy some good food and even better fellowship.

– Catherine