The college’s Charter House Coalition (CHC) student org affilliate is a volunteer-based, community supported service organization that partners with the Charter House Coalition, a nonprofit located in the town of Middlebury that provides shelter, transitional housing, free meals and a friendly face to families and individuals in the Middlebury area who need assistance.
“Charter House Coalition was founded in 2005 in response to critical food and housing needs in Addison County. Our programs have expanded quickly since then. In 2014 we had a volunteer base of over 950 community members contributing 23,500 hours of service every year.”
Below is an interview with Luna Shen, who is president of the Charter House Coalition’s student organization affiliate at the college.
Why should folks join the Charter House Coalition? What will they take away from the experience?
One of my favorite parts of volunteering for Charter House Coalition (CHC) is building meaningful relationships with other volunteers, staff, and guests at CHC. I have gained a deeper sense community and awareness of issues in Addison County.
Student volunteers at CHC tend to want to learn more about food and home insecurity in our community, and enjoy that the CHC is a space to engage with non-college students. Also, student volunteers gain a more nuanced view of homelessness and food insecurity.
Why did you first join the Charter House Coalition?
Before coming to Middlebury College, I knew that I wanted to meet people outside of campus and feel more connected to Addison County. My first time at CHC was during United Way’s Days of Caring as a volunteer, a friend had invited me. Prior to that experience, I didn’t know that there was an urgent need to alleviate home and food insecurity in our community. I also didn’t know that a place like CHC existed. The CHC staff we met had so much passion and commitment for CHC. I immediately knew that I wanted to volunteer again and be a part of the meaningful work that CHC does.
What has been your most memorable experience as a member of the Charter House Coalition?
I befriended a guest last winter season. We would discuss topics ranging from the anthropology of communal eating to socialism. We were both interested in fine arts and showed each other our works. I always looked forward to chatting with him whenever I went to volunteer.
What have you learned, either about yourself or the world around you, as a member of the Charter House Coalition?
The most valuable things I have learned include being a better listener (through engaging in conversations with guests at CHC), thinking about myself less, and being sensitive to the language I use when talking about poverty. There are many harmful stereotypes surrounding homelessness and food insecurity. When I talk to others about the CHC and poverty, I have become very conscious of the ideas I imply through the language I use.
Where are you from and what’s your major? What other activities are you involved with on campus?
My home is Beijing, China (at the moment). I am a Human Ecology major. At the moment I’m involved with Middlebury’s Privilege and Poverty Academic Cluster (check it out!!), a crossfit group, and a Christian fellowship.