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Durham, NC

My final days in Durham, NC allowed me to see the fruit of my labor at the Scrap Exchange. After having done research on makerspace models, trips to other makerspaces, upcycling projects for trial-and-error, and after having created new signage for the Design Center, Sarah Sculco (my DukeEngage colleague) and I helped set up and organize the Design Center’s first craft night last Wednesday. The theme was repurposing picture frames, and Sarah and I had created example projects—a jewelry hanger and a checkerboard. We gathered a variety of supplies to allow customers to not feel limited, and the result was an incredible pilot run of the craft night. Nine people showed up for the craft night, which was relatively ideal for the amount of space we had cleared in the Design Center. Furthermore, the crafts that people made were not just limited to the ideas that Sarah and I had come up with. For example, another craft that came out of the event was a bulletin board made using a picture frame as the boundaries for the cork board.

It was not easy to say goodbye to the Scrap Exchange and everyone I have met there in such a short time—exactly for the reason that it felt like such a short time! I could have seen myself continuing to assist with the miscellaneous tasks that arise daily and with the media and fabric sections of the retail store. When I was not working on the Design Center, I was most often working with books and fabrics. I loved finding all sorts of fascinating oddities and antiques when researching books, especially for the personal touches added to plenty of older books, whether it be little slips of paper with notes or art drawn within them.

Durham, United Kingdom

Even if the weather has been a bit gloomy and we ran into some travel difficulties while heading to Durham, U.K., these first few days in this Durham have been amazing. On our first weekday, we were able to play New Age Kurling with a special needs group. I met one of the supervisors of the group there, who told me he was glad that we had traveled to Durham instead of a more metropolitan area and was even happier to hear that all of us were engaging in community-oriented social work. Later in the day, I met one of my supervisors at Her Majesty’s Prison Durham. Although I have not yet begun work, her plan for me and Connor (my DukeEngage colleague at HM Prison) is an efficient use of the limited time that we have here. Instead of asking us to specialize in one section of the work to be done in the prison, her schedule for us shifts our tasks and locations every day so that we have the ability to experience the many programs that the prison has to help prisoners in their rehabilitation. For instance, one day, we will be assisting with tutoring, while another day we will facilitate the weekly father-child day. We will also spend time in different sections of the prison to gain an appreciation for the complexity of the operation going within HM Prison. These locations include the library, the gym, and the chapel.

For now, the group has been escaping jet lag and receiving an orientation to Durham. Just today we had tours of both the Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle. The history behind both of these structures is immense, as both began construction back in the time of Norman expansion into England in the late 11th century. I was even familiar with some of the important historical figures associated with the cathedral—the venerable Bede and St. Cuthbert—thanks to a history course I took at Duke concerning post-Roman Europe. Despite the fact that we all have single dorm rooms rather than the doubles in Durham, NC, our group has already begun spending more time together than in Durham, NC. Because this Durham is new to all of us, most of our free time has been spent discovering this town that will be our home for the next month.


One of the example projects for our pilot run of craft night – the checkboard that Sarah and I made earlier on during our time at the Scrap Exchange! We made a variety of DIY checker pieces as well to give people inspiration for how to get creative with their boards.
Durham Castle – in the middle of the photo (taken from the courtyard) is the keep, which is not what one would first believe it is. A keep is a traditional defense fortification, yet the keep in the castle was rebuilt in the 19th century to be used as dormitories for students at Durham University.
One of the doors of the Durham Cathedral. This cathedral is notable for its still intact Romanesque architecture, and several of the arches (such as this door) are especially noteworthy for their use of Norman arches. The interior of the cathedral was breathtakingly beautiful, but unfortunately no photography was allowed inside. The amount of history and art housed within the cathedral would take days to go through!