DukeEngage students serving at Northwest Harvest Kent warehouse
We require that Northwest Harvest food be given freely to anyone hungry enough to ask, respecting their dignity while serving their need.”
  • Northwest Harvest website

“We believe that no one lives in dignity until everyone can live in dignity.”
  • Habitat for Humanity website

Many think of service as a form of charity, as if we are doing a kind favor for those who need it. But my time working with Disability Rights Washington (DRW) has led me to view such services from a different perspective. Most work conducted at DRW is aimed at empowering the disability community: filing lawsuits on behalf of disabled individuals, increasing disability awareness, and providing education to children with disabilities. The organization is not focused on giving handouts; instead, it is focused on ensuring that a group of individuals can live in our society with a sense of self-determination and dignity.

This leads me to the Saturdays we spend at Northwest Harvest and Habitat for Humanity. Both organizations are aimed at preserving the dignity of those they serve, as indicated on their respective websites. While asking for food is a potentially humbling or even humiliating action, Northwest Harvest tries to make the process as dignifying as possible by maintaining a “no questions asked” policy. Habitat for Humanity offers people the dignity of living under a safe roof. We should think of service as giving people what they deserve, as human beings. We just ensure that our actions, no matter how well intentioned they are, must be respectful to the dignity of others.

Diana Zheng


07/23/2013 11:50am

Great perspective Diana! I love the idea of empowering a community. You're doing awesome work at DRW.


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