Hi everyone! My name is Leigh McNeil and I am a Freshmen and I am from Haymarket, Va. Our trip is winding down to an end as tomorrow will be our last day of service 😦 (very sad). For this trip has really been an eye opener and has really made me realize the affects of homelessness. I chose to participate in the Reach Out program because I have always had a desire to help serve and become more aware of the homeless and how I can help in some way. I have learn a lot by going to the different organizations that the Chaoltic Charities has offered. I have really enjoyed the work I put in to each organization even when it was just cleaning out closests or reorganzing office space. Just these little things can be a huge change and can help reduce the burdens that the some might be feeling. The group has become so close and have been together for the whole week, with that comes a great comradship that we all share. I am so happy that I was giving the time to work with this group as we tackle these duties together and have formed a whole new relationship. For everyone put in so much effort, support, and selflessness that it has really shown in the work that has been conquered throughout the week. Reflecting back on the week, the days were hard and exhausting, but I do not regret my decision for replacing my spring break with the chance to help others. I am really appreicate for all that I have and I hope to keep this mentallity of serving others and being more selflessness throughout the years and to continue to volunteer and help with other projects similar to Reach Out. (Side Note Hi Mom! tell everyone that I love and miss them and that I say HI!!)
It was fabulous to wake up to the smell of breakfast this morning. Some very motivated members of our group (Spencer and Kristin) decided to make pancakes for everyone and we even had chocolate chips to top them off! A little later, our group split up to help out two organizations: My Sister’s Lodge and The Esperanza Center. The group that went to My Sister’s Lodge helped out one of the managers relocate her office to a more spacious (and quiet!) area. They also helped organize the refridgerator for all the residents. We thought it was really special getting to work with and know this organization, because we’ve spent a lot of time with the men of Chritopher’s Place and it doesn’t seem like there are as many opportunities for women. Something that we’ve all thought about a lot though is the fact that there is a battered women’s shelter (Ruth’s Place), a shelter for women with a diagnosed mental illness (My Sister’s Lodge), and a family shelter (Sarah’s House) but there is no where like Christopher’s Place for women. There’s no where for women to go unless they’ve been abused or are ill or have a family. Catholic Charities has mentioned they would like a program lke Christopher’s Place for women, but it just isn’t in their budget right now. At the Esperanza Center (Esperanza means hope in Spanish!), our group was able to be paired with ESL teachers and work with Hispanic immigrants. Two of us even got to lead our own session! It is hard for the program because the students can drop in whenever and they never know who is going to show up. All the students are at different levels of English that can be affected by how many years of school they had in their home country, how literate they are in their own language, how long they have been in the country and even whether they are male or female. It was an interesting method because the teachers are encouraged to use as little Spanish as possible to get their point across and use modeling instead. This is helpful when recruiting volunteers, however, because this means that almost anyone can be a tutor because you don’t need to know any Spanish. This program is helpful, not only because it helps Hispanics learn the language in order to get jobs, but because many times the immigrants look for a community when they first come over. Instead of turning to gangs, they can see familiar faces and receive aid from the Center. It was sad to learn that Catholic Charities might cut off their support of the Center.
After we regrouped and made sandwichs for lunch (and many of us took naps!), we headed to Sarah’s House, a shelter care center for broken families. We we first arrived, we were introduced to the mission of the program. It is actually a place where homeless families can stay for up to 12 weeks and then can apply for a 2 year living program where they move into a permanent apartment. Sarah’s House has 8 buildings that hold the shelter area and apartment and they are actually army baracks. It can hold approximately 35 to 40 families at a time and this program is basically the only one of its kind in America. First, we did some organizing for Sarah’s House and then we were able to eat dinner with the residents. After dinner, we provided childcare for children whose parents were in GED class. It lasted about 2 hours. The kids were adorable! At first they were very shy, but they warmed up to us quickly and we had an amazing time playing games and watching movies with them!
After a very long day, we came home to our temporary home at the parish and reflected. Afterwards, some of us played a mean game of spades, caught up on Glee, or watched some YouTube videos to unwind. We’re all getting pretty tired and its going to be an early morning tomorrow! Leaving at 7:30 to grab breakfast at Our Daily Bread with the people of Baltimore! Can’t wait for what’s to come!
That’s all for tonight!
Linda and Mackenzie
I’m Jemal Harris a junior Econ Major/African-American Studies Minor from Richmond, Virginia. I am new to the blogging world and wanted to take sometime to introduce myself. I am a fun-loving person and I tend to brighten lives on occasion. I have been known to crack a joke or two in times of need and pride myself on the cherishing people. I decided to come on this trip to gain new experiences to help me learn how to better accommodate our population at Newport News. During my work with various community organizations in Newport News I saw that there was a greater need than I had the resources to provide. I have had a great time so far and learned much more than I ever could have imagined. There are a lot of great people on the trip with me who have already introduce themselves, and don’t worry there is more to come.
Hello faithful followers!
Today was a very busy day. We started off the day with six of us going to Esperanza House and the other five of us went to My Sister’s Lodge. At the Esperanza Center we had the opportunity to hear all about what Catholic Charities is doing for the growing Hispanic population in Baltimore. They provide legal services to become a citizen of the U.S., health services for those without health care, and English as a second language classes that also coincide with classes about US Culture. Pretty nifty stuff! At My Sister’s Lodge, the group organized their food storage pantry (an entire basement!) including putting a date on everything. They also washed dishes and organized bathroom supplies and toiletries pantry. They then talked to the Director of the lodge for quite some time and had a very informative conversation.
We then went to Saint Vincent’s Villa, which is a home for abused/sexually harassed children to come for a few months to become rehabilitated and back to a healthy lifestyle. After that we came back to the Parish and had tacos that Isabel, Mackenzie, and Mar’Tina cooked. The best part of the day for all of us was going back to Christopher’s Place tonight. We got the opportunity to listen to the two of the guys who are a part of the program tell us about there stories and also had the opportunity to meet the director of the place. The stories the men told were SO inspiring. It’s amazing to see how committed these men are to change even at their age. One was in their forties and the other was 60, but they were both so determined to change their lives and start over.
Tomorrow should be an awesome day! The two groups from today are switching locations and going to Esperanza Center/My Sister’s Lodge and then we will be going to Sarah’s House later in the day! We will give details tomorrow!
Kristen & Anita
p.s. SPRING BREAAAAAAKKKKKK!!!!
I just wanted to introduce myself to everyone who doesn’t know who I am. I am a senior from Yorktown, VA. I am a sociology major and would like to teach special education one day. I decided to go on this trip because I had done previous volunteer work but I have not done it in a while. I did not want to take the normal senior year spring break trip to somewhere tropical; I wanted to make a difference. I really have enjoyed this experience so far even though we have not been here for long. Today I felt so accomplished and felt that I had made a difference in someone’s life. I sat with a few men at dinner tonight who were in the program at Christopher’s Place. They were so happy to have us there and to sit down with them and have normal conversations. They ironically were all from Virginia and were so excited to have us there and told us that they felt at home with us there. It was an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week holds.