This is a story of two brand new non-profits teaming up and launching their first fundraisers in order to provide some of DC’s youngest learners with inclusive sensory play while they shelter in the pandemic.
You’ve already met Bianca (on the right and below) and her organization, MarliBox, from my last post. She began the org’s first fundraiser last November, reaching out to friends and family and asking them to sponsor a box for each Pre-K child at Early Childhood Academy, a charter school serving Southeast DC. Her initial goal was to provide a box for each student enrolled in both Pre-K 3 and Pre-K 4. She had so many donors that she was close to providing for the kindergarteners too! So she partnered with another new org… and this brings us to the next part of the story.
Meet Jon’ll (below), co-founder and director of Moms Who Lead With Love, an org she co-founded after the murder of George Floyd. When she heard him call out to his mother in those final moments she knew it was time for all mothers to answer his call and, along with Mari Lourdes, she began the organization. The mission is to provide resources in the form of programs. tools and other means to help moms and caregivers become anti-racist advocates within their local schools and at home. I’m grateful that both these wonderful leaders entered my life through MWLWL, Bianca is also a founding board member. My friend Nina invited me to join the Facebook group last summer and I have been an active member ever since, initially serving on the program committee. I was honored to be invited to join the board last month.
Partnering with MarliBox for MWLWL’s first fundraiser made sense. And together we did it: 150 boxes sponsored and purchased! After that, Bianca and her cousin Dana worked hard to assemble them and Early Childhood Academy arranged a day for families to come pick up the boxes. That morning, Bianca’s family and neighborhood friends joined her and her board members to load up the U-Haul for delivery. The community feel was deep… A special thanks to Lacey Ann Photos for taking our group photo in the U-Haul so that I could get in a picture too 😊. As we rolled up and saw the school’s marquee with the message, “Bringing Play back to PK & K! Pick up your child’s MarliBox!”, it all became real.
Students have been learning virtually at home because of the pandemic, if you have a child this age you know how hard it has been and the problems of online learning are only compounded by access. Having a play set designed for independent exploration at this age is such a gift! In addition, the pick up was an opportunity for families to reconnect with teachers and each other. Preschool and kindergarten students are the most vulnerable because school provides the critical foundation all students need in social emotional learning, counting and pre-reading skills. As we watched children nervously approach their teachers, some bringing gifts, the scene felt bittersweet: the hesitation signaled the time lost while the smiles upon recognition and hugs they received provided hope. Being together felt important and urgent. Unseasonably warm weather and sunshine kept families on the playground, bringing the previously barren school grounds to life again.
Some students were also picking up soil and seeds for a planting project. Teachers we spoke with affirmed the need for hands-on learning and motor processing at this age, they were excited about the boxes and book. Being part of pick up gave us the opportunity to talk with these educators about the challenges their kids face and how MWLWL can make a better impact. We learned so much from the connections we made at ECA, this is only the beginning.
On a personal note, I loved seeing both Bianca and Jon’ll shine in their role as community leaders. Both were born for this. Their unique start up stories help me believe that our greatest challenges as invidivuals can push us towards our purpose.
I’ve been listening to Gabby Rivera’s podcast called “Joy Revolution” and it has me thinking about joy as an act of resistance. Community work is rooted in joy and having the opportunity to document was an act of joy. The love that went into the making of this event by every volunteer, every teacher, every leader, every donor – it manifests and is felt. One fundraiser won’t smooth over systemic racism or solve all the problems of the world but it connects us in common cause and fills us with the energy we need to move forward. Joy amplifies, it’s tinder for belief. You can see it in eyes and beneath masks, it simply can’ be taken away.
Speaking of joy, what’s MarliBox without Marli? The back of her shirt says, “Chief Play Officer” and she takes the job seriously.
Be sure to visit MarliBox and donate so that the org can continue connecting and providing. To find out more about Early Childhood Academy PCS and the difference they are making, visit the link to their website here. Would you like join our conversations at Moms Who Lead with Love on raising justice oriented kids while bringing greater equity to your local school? Join our group on Facebook to access our programming and share information related to advocacy in education. You can check us out on the MWLWL website too… I hope to see you there!