Monday, January 21, 2019, was a tremendous day for OnSide. There is no better way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day than by making a difference, something he fought his whole life to do. So, OnSide members Zayd Ali, Luke Primis, Alex Sundberg, and Nicholas Spasojevic all spent the day by helping to furnish and decorate an apartment for Afghan refugees. In this project, OnSide collaborated with KindWorks (www.dokindworks.org), an organization dedicated to making community service opportunities available to those with busy daily lives. KindWorks has helped settle in over 40 refugee families, and has done incredible work in our area, the DMV. In addition to bringing some furniture, our OnSide team also brought 2 soccer balls for the children in the refugee family, as part of our dedication to building bridges with the refugee community through soccer. Zayd, Alex, and Nicholas cleaned all of the chairs that had been donated by KindWorks and prepared the dining room. Luke, who has experience working in the A/V and networking fields, also lent a hand setting up a TV and Blu-Ray player that was provided by KindWorks. All of the OnSide members also helped by moving furniture to and from the KindWorks members’ cars, which was particularly challenging in the blisteringly cold weather. Part of what makes KindWorks’ work so special is the attention to detail in setting up the apartment. All of the furniture matches, and there is a distinct, homey aesthetic to the apartment after it’s done. Also, they purchased Afghan spices to stock the pantry, so the refugees would be able to cook food from their home. Finally, they even prepare a dinner so that the first supper in a new country is a home-cooked meal. Helping out with the apartment was an incredible and humbling experience. It was amazing to see strangers come together to help this family, knowing that the next day, they would not just arrive to a house, but a home.
The other reason this MLK Day was so important for us is because it marked the launch of our “DISRUPT.” Collection, a fashion activism line of clothing designed and sold by OnSide. We decided to adopt a 1 to 1 sales model: for every piece of clothing bought, we will give a soccer ball to a child in an underserved community. When we launched the merchandise, all OnSide team members posted on Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook to spread the word. The social media advertising worked, and soon friends, family, and even people we didn’t know were purchasing their OnSide gear. Our goal in fashion activism was to provide clothing that people could wear to spread the message about the refugee crisis, while at the same time bringing in money that OnSide can use to help bridge the divide between the American and refugee communities; in that regard, the merchandise launch was a huge success.