A Day of Service with Homes Not Borders: Building Homes, Building Community

MLK Day of Service Reflection - Jack Rader

A MLK Day of Service Reflection form TMA AmeriCorps VISTA Member - Jack Rader

I am currently serving as a Transform Mid-Atlantic AmeriCorps VISTA for Homes Not Borders, a refugee resettlement non-profit that works to ease the transition for recently arrived refugees. Homes Not Borders provides refugees with home furnishings and general assistance. 

Participating in a home set-up is a simple and direct service. But a home set-up is more than just a practical exercise – it is a community affair, bringing volunteers, friends, and family together for the purpose of completing a task that will help others begin a new life. 

On this most recent MLK National Day of Service, I came together with fellow volunteers who set up an apartment for a family of seven from Afghanistan. As the snow drifted down at Homes Not Borders’ warehouse in Maryland, our small-but-dedicated group of volunteers packed up couches, tables, beds, kitchen supplies, and hundreds of other essential items for a family moving into an empty apartment for the first time. Of course, the physical demand of hauling heavy furniture, loading the moving truck, then unpacking it all and setting everything up at the apartment is certainly taxing (not to mention a fantastic workout with the correct mindset!). But our shared exhaustion was surpassed by a collective desire to serve our Afghan neighbors, and we gradually assembled a comfortable and pleasant home, bonding with each other every step of the way. At last, after several hours of hanging paintings, making beds, and arranging the living room we reached the point of completion. The result was a small but pragmatic home, ready to welcome a family for the first time. 

The central mission of AmeriCorps is to alleviate poverty. Dr. King strove for justice, equity, righteousness, and peace, and AmeriCorps VISTA’s and all who participated in the MLK National Day of Service strive to uphold these values. Welcoming and assisting refugees is one of the most impactful ways of addressing poverty, as the poverty rate among refugees and immigrants sits at 14.6 percent. Homes Not Borders aims to dismantle this disparity through acts of service. As an AmeriCorps VISTA at Transform Mid-Atlantic, I am proud to be contributing to Homes Not Borders’ mission, not just on a National Day of Service, but every day.