Veronica Ferris, Youth Leadership Grant Recipient

Veronica Ferris, 2009-2010 Essay Contest Participant and 2010-2011 Matching Grant Recipient

Update: September 2016

Veronica is currently in Namibia with the Peace Corps volunteering at a solar nonprofit called Elephant Energy, which provides small-scale solar lamps and cell phone chargers to Namibians living without electricity.

“Hands On”, Youth Dinners With the Shelter Residents

Veronica Ferris projectVeronica Ferris is a junior at Washington International School (WIS), which she has attended since Pre-Kindergarten. At school, she participates in sports, music, and drama activities. She is involved in a number of school clubs including Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity, among others. She volunteers at Iona Senior Services, and is a very active member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. She is in their Youth Group, teaches Sunday School, and is a member of the Evangelism Ministry. In 2008, she took part in her church’s mission trip to Zambia to help at an orphanage. In addition, she annually takes part in the DC Homeless Walkathon in support of her church’s homeless shelter.

Project Summary

Picture2I have begun to meet the social need of dignity and respect. The homeless men in my church’s homeless shelter have become accustomed to eating amongst themselves and on disposable plates etc., but my project aims to treat them with dignity and respect by serving them a home-cooked (church-cooked, rather) meal on elegant plates, etc. and enjoying the meal with them. Also many of these men have gone hungry all day (our shelter does not provide breakfast) so I also meet the social need of hunger. Continuing with the project will keep fulfilling these social needs, and if possible making the dinners more frequent. Also the educational aspect needs a bit more work. I intend on having the youth write paragraphs explaining their experiences during the dinners, and also strongly encouraging the youth as well as other members of the church to further their education about the homeless and how to help meet their needs and eliminate homelessness.

How did you raise your money?
I simply made an announcement on Mother’s Day at the beginning of the church service. Within a week I had raised well over $1,000.

What have you learned about social need and compassion through this experience?
I have learned that social needs are not always a result of bad behavior. Sometimes the direst social needs are because of disasters, accidents, or mistakes. Dining with the shelter residents showed me that homeless people are not bad, and are certainly not “bums.” The men I’ve met are hardworking and caring. Nonetheless they need compassion, and I have found that the best way to offer compassion is in a hands-on way. Neither the people being helped nor the helper will be able to receive the most out of the compassionate act if it is not performed in a personal way.

What have you learned about leadership through this experience?
I have learned that leadership requires a lot of planning ahead and coordination with many people. The most effective leadership is achieved when everyone is informed about what is going on, and everything is organized. The earlier the details are planned the more effective the leadership can be, and thus the more effective the project can be.

What have you learned about your own leadership abilities through this experience?
I have learned that while others are strongly supporting me I often tend to do less of the leading and rely on them as a crutch. However, when I am the only one responsible for leading I find that I can take control and lead well.

What have you learned about accountability (fulfilling the expectations of others) through this experience?
Excluding some organizational aspects (such as having sent out e-mails well in advance of the dinner) I think that I have met and even exceeded the expectations of others. While everyone agreed that this was a good idea from the start, it was nonetheless difficult to imagine it falling into place as well as it did.

In what other ways have you experienced personal development through this experience?
I typically consider myself more as a follower, not because I don’t see myself as a capable leader, but because I am shy. This project has allowed me to come out of my comfort zone and lead others. Also, I feel that because I have taken on this challenge and made a difference in people’s lives I won’t be as scared in the future to do what I know to be right and take leadership if no one else is.