The blog is following the student participants in this year’s Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program. Each student will be providing their own reflections from a Summer Research Program Seminar Series event. Some students will also reflect on their experience in the summer program.
By Taylor Ross, medical and master of public health student, University of Missouri-Columbia
Walking through the warehouse doors of The Little Bit Foundation my eyes went straight to an area set up with two clothing racks, a pop-up changing room, and a small child size mannequin with cargo shorts and a blue zip-up jacket — this is the layout that greets students participating in The Little Bit Foundation at their school. The program works to provide free clothing to students in need through community schools. Their pop-up boutiques allow students to select clothing in setting similar to a retail store, creating a sense of independence and self-confidence for the children who receive clothing through the program.
The Little Bit Foundation receives clothing and toiletry donations from the community and through partnerships with corporations, they strive to pick clothing that teenagers and children will feel confident in wearing. For instance, one of my favorite items was a pink pair of tennis shoes with lime green polka dots that I would have proudly sported in elementary school — these shoes came from a corporate collaboration.
The goal in providing needed clothing for children and teenagers is to break down barriers to education for students living in poverty. At first, the needs of the students and the impact of the clothing seemed to be a simple connection; but I did not truly understand the depth of disparity and the height of barriers faced by these children until I heard their stories shared by a representative of the foundation. One story of four brothers was particularly moving. Amongst the four, there was only one pair of shoes. Since only one brother could wear the shoes on a given day, whoever was wearing the shoes was the one that attended school that day. Through the foundation each boy received a pair of shoes, thus kicking down a major barrier to their academic success. This immediate and impactful change is what The Little Bit Foundation strives for.
Once we viewed the boutique, we were taken to a room with donations to sort. We sorted through hotel soaps, shampoos, and conditioners (things that I snag as souvenirs and eventually throw out) to put into hygiene kits for students. Sorting these soaps made me realize how something small, can have a positive impact on a child and is a reflection on how The Little Bit Foundation began; with one woman identifying a need and working with her friends to address it. Through her actions, she was able to grow a network that supports children in many schools across St. Louis.
I encourage anyone to find their “small” thing, watch for need, step out of your comfort zone, donate, and volunteer. This can mean more than we may ever understand.
This post is part of the “Summer Research Program” series of the Institute for Public Health’s blog. Subscribe to email updates or follow us on Twitter and Facebook to receive notifications about our latest blog posts.
Tags: community outreach, Summer Research Program, volunteers