March 12, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 11


Whitman College student starts a weekly radio show about poverty and homelessness in Walla Walla

By Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

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A student at Whitman College in Walla Walla has started a weekly radio program about homelessness and poverty.

Mares Asfaha, a senior studying economics and French, said she hopes the program, “Invisible Walla Walla,” helps students and other Walla Walla residents see the poverty that is in their community. A 2013 point-in-time count found 400 homeless people in Walla Walla.

“People are always talking about the great wine, sweet onions or the wheat fields,” Asfaha said. “We don’t see the other side of it.”

The radio program was conceived by the Helpline Walla Walla, a non-profit that provides homeless and low-income people with food, clothing, prescriptions, transportation and utilities. Housing Coordinator Kelsey Beckmeyer decided to start the program through an internship program.

The Whitman Community Fellow Program appoints 14 interns at organizations around Walla Walla. The helpline decided to use the internship to work on the organization’s social networking and start the radio program.

Eventually, the helpline plans to post recordings of the program on its website, Beckmeyer plans to have other interns or Helpline staff members keep the program going after the internship ends in May.

Asfaha is lining up service providers to interview on the program, including staff members from the local YWCA to talk about domestic violence services and the director of the Walla Walla Housing Authority.

Asfaha takes breaks in the conversation to play songs about poverty, such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Loretta Lynn or “Allentown” by Billy Joel.

“I wanted to have different views and different aspects of poverty in the music,” she said.



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