GW students and professors will bring their classroom to Miriam’s Kitchen next Tuesday morning. With the help of two graduate English professors and GW volunteers, members of a new seminar named Miriam’s Dialogue will embark on a tour of international literature at the local soup kitchen.
“As the title suggests it is to be an exchange of ideas and opinions, a forum in which real conversation can happen,” said graduate student and professor Amy Nelson, who helped organize the new program and helps teach along with professor Amy Weinstein, also a graduate student.
Starting next Tuesday, the program will meet once a week. Should the program achieve success, Weinstein and Nelson said they hope the program can meet more than once a week.
With Nelson and Weinstein teaching the course, GW students help facilitate discussion, at Miriam’s Kitchen, a local soup kitchen.
Inspired by a similar seminar at the University of Notre Dame, which brings classic literature to the homeless, GW’s pilot program is the brainchild of Tzedek Hillel fellows Marina Ioffe and Wendy Rubin. The students organized the project last fall and began the first class Tuesday.
“It is the top of the heap as far as community service projects go,” said Karen Krantweiss, director of Student Activities for GW Hillel. “This seminar preserves the dignity of the person, so that they really feel they have value.”
Weinstein said teaching the homeless is an important endeavor. “Feeding souls is just about as important as feeding bodies,” Weinstein said. “Learning gives people power and self-esteem.”
Excited to begin the upcoming class, Ioffe and Rubin encountered some obstacles along the way, including funding troubles that have left the class with few resources. The students do not have enough copies of Daniel Halpern’s The Art of Story for Tuesday’s class.
“We have had trouble getting donated books from companies,” Ioffe said. “Ideally, we would like every student in the class to have a copy.”
The students said they also had trouble finding enough volunteers to help.
Regardless of the shortage of books and volunteers, the first class will begin its trial run with the hope of achieving continued success.
“Sometimes reading and writing can help people process their environment and articulate their hopes and dreams,” Weinstein said. “It’s a large goal, but together through learning, we can do anything.”