For the evening, we had one simple task. Having been assigned a specified square in D.C., we were supposed to discover for ourselves the faces and challenges of being homeless for one very chilly evening. To do this we were given only a few supplies: a bus ticket, two dollars each, a map of our area, and the instructions to have a meal with someone and a conversation about homelessness in the city, and somehow get them a pair of socks. With the correct attitude, this seemed easy enough to my group. What we learned in the process of our endeavors is hopefully something that will stick with us for the rest of our lives.

We started out with an idea. We needed to earn more money somehow. While contemplating our options, we scoped out Dupont Circle to see what was around to eat and who our dinner guest might be. After determining that we had pretty limited options in dining on six dollars, we figured talking to some people about the issues at hand might help us out. We spoke with a woman representing a newspaper about homelessness, and she explained to us that the shelters present in the Dupont Circle area were dirty, the food was not good, and the people weren’t really treated like people. Devastated to hear about her one bad experience, we left feeling a little more sorry for the people we were supposed to be servicing during the evening. Quickly, however, this notion was reversed by an old man who had approached us the next block up. He told us that many of the panhandlers on the streets were faking homelessness, and that in reality pretending was just an easy way for them to get money. We thanked him for his insight, he gave us his blessing, and we were on our way, bitterly conflicted that we may wind up helping the wrong person.

Still, our main concern was being able to afford food to share with the right person, and so our hunt for more spending money ensued. After receiving a free pair of socks from a very kind man who was selling them on the street, and buying a newspaper for a dollar from the first woman we spoke to, we had five dollars to our name, which was not very promising for a meal for four.  Kait and I got our courage up to approach two generous young boys on the sidewalk. We explained to them our issue, and with a little haggling they forfeited another six dollars. Boy, were we lucky that people were so kind! We had doubled our budget!

As there were no McDonalds and no real grocery stores in the area, we settled for what we thought would be the best bet for getting a good hot meal for under $11: Subway. Two $5 foot long hot meatball subs cut into two pieces each gave us four sandwiches, and with tax, it had cost us exactly $11! The prior coincidences in the day led us to believe that everything had to have happened to us exactly this way for a reason.

So, here we were, completely ready to start our mission, when we walk out of Subway and find that we cannot find any one in need of our meal. After much searching, we finally came to a man sleeping on the steps of a bank, and offered him our sandwich. He was grateful, but declined our request to sit down to eat with him. I was a little disappointed, but figured it was okay since we were the ones who had woken him up from sleeping.

Still, the whole bus ride back to our meeting place I had contemplated what had happened in the past couple of hours. At first, I thought we had failed. Then, upon further thought, I realized that the actual meal part if the trip was not the task, but a tool. Sure, we hadn’t exactly had a conversation with the man sleeping at the bank, but in order to offer him a sandwich, we had encountered several different people who had taught us more about homelessness in D.C., exactly what we were meant to do in the first place. We did not have the satisfaction watching the man eat, but instead we learned a lot about life. The newspaper woman taught us that people are people, and no matter what happens to them in life, they should be treated as such. The man who stopped us on the corner explained that things may not always be as they seem to be. This, I know, can go both ways. Someone who may not seem to be struggling could be bearing an enormous pain inside; then again, those how seem to be in need may be getting along just fine. Finally, the two boys and the street vendor showed that human kindness can go a long way. Many people are willing to give of themselves when asked, with no prior knowledge of a situation or the people in them.

At first I had thought that when I heard about the other group’s experiences, I might be a little jealous that they got more out of their day than we did. Thinking about all that I had discovered, though, I knew my group’s experience was perfect. The guy on the street corner had given us his blessing, and I knew it had carried through during our entire journey. Whatever it was that was keeping an eye on us at Dupont Circle today had helped us achieve our goal, and forced us to really understand the more about ourselves and our lives.

Afternoon delivery

Miles from the aftermath, we spilled our guts to each other. Tales from the hours prior. Lacking rhythm and rhyme we expressed a plunge into the concrete jungle beneath. My heart pounds faster, stomach grows sicker. 8 o’clock. 9 o’clock. The stories continue in an outpour of unsettling perspective. My turn approaches, it was inevitable. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. A deep breath. Begin.

“Whole wheat bread, please.”

The day begins. Chinatown is an interesting set point, if only it appeared on the map our eyes scanned. Moments later… finally! Just blocks away. We walked in a hurried fashion, as if the cold would treat us with more compassion if we agreed to travel in haste. The clock ticks, the restless Sun refuses to wait. We had a mission, a goal. Something bigger than ourselves, bigger than any of us… or so we thought.

“Lettuce, tomato, the works. Just no peppers, the wind burns enough as it is.”

Spare change is a unique subject. As if any human in their right mind consciously separates the contents of their pockets, labeling the “undesirable” metal as “spares.” As we traveled deeper and deeper into the heart of this “town,” we saw more and more people who could use these “spares” more than any of us could. The clock ticks, the restless Sun refuses to wait.

“And a water, please, he would appreciate that, I’m sure.”

We reached our conclusion. Our goal was to feed a man, any man. 6 dollars isn’t a lot of money, but that’s okay. We were in college, we were used to “long periods of financial instability,” if you could call it that. Come to think of it, these periods seemed to last a long time for myself, but anyway…

Excuse me,” she spoke softly, nudging the man’s shoulder. Disrupting the sleep of a perfect stranger is a delicate act, especially when the sleeper is in the middle of the sidewalk on a busy city street.

No response. The man was a depressing site himself. His long bushy gray beard took the backseat as a distinctive feature, second only to his eyes.  They were brown, sunk into his calloused face, half closed, yet conscious.

Excuse me, sir.” She begins again, wondering if this was such a good idea after all. The man looks to us, surprised as expected, yet subdued as if she was just another talking face.

The clock ticks, the restless Sun refuses to wait.

Yes?” the man gestures as would I if someone had awoken me from an afternoon nap. “We brought you some food,” she replied in a sweet voice as I handed the man a bag with a sandwich and water.”God Bless You,” the man said as he seemingly went in and out of awareness, “I’ll eat it when I stand up.

And that’s how it was. As if longing for something more, something outstanding, lasting, we parted ways. Back to the concrete, into the spiritual mouth of the lion, we were led, with knives cutting through our stomachs, and our throats at our knees. I kept looking back as I walked, hoping I would be able to see him stand up and take a bite. Just one bite. Just so I could see the tension in his eyes settle, and the tension in my mind depress. Nothing changed after that. We felt weaker than ever, as if a 5 dollar sandwich, became bite size. It is something we carried with us, however. Something we won’t forget.  At that moment we became more mature.  20 was no longer just a number for me.  We were the strangers here, we were strange. And the only thing that could change that is…

The clock stops, the restless pain refuses to wait.

Burnt Turkey

Today we volunteered at the Bowery Mission. Throughout the day we were separated into three groups. One group was responsible for kitchen prep, one served the food, and the other did miscellaneous tasks including folding clothes, packing food in the food pantry, and sorting deliveries for storage. The highlight of most of our days was to actually serve the food to the people and the ability to interact with them. Our “highs” for the day included the politeness and gratefulness of the people we served. In the same way, we made sure that we were polite to each of the people. We made sure not to be judgemental because we do not know the specific situation of each person and that these people are inherently the same as we are.

Tomorrow we will be working at God’s Love We Deliver and generally no one knows what to expect. I’m looking forward to seeing how each meal is individually prepared based on that person’s dietary needs. I think it is safe to say that we are all growing closer as a group and are looking forward to working together for the rest of the week.


Happy Martin Luther King Day and National Day of Service!



Cultural Day

Since New York City is perhaps best known for Broadway, we decided that our cultural activity would be the Broadway show Chicago. This was especially exciting for Anda, Jenn and Maeve since it was their first Broadway show! Anda thought it was interesting to see the professionals perform, since she was in musicals in high school. We all really enjoyed the show even though the more experienced Broadway goers thought it was a less “traditional” musical. It was extremely funny and entertaining. Before the show we also spent a little time walking around Times Square.

Upon returning to the hostel, we made pasta for dinner and then had reflection. During our reflection we discussed our personal and our group goals for the week. We each wrote our own and then read them out loud. We all realized that we have very similar personal and group goals. These included learning more about each other, bonding as a team, learning more about our organizations, and learning more about our social issue.


The First Half Day in Washington D.C.

After a few obstacles, we made it to Washington D.C. to kick off our service trip. The focus will be on exploring and addressing various facets of the less fortunate communities in our nation’s Capital.

We were warmly greeted by our temporary trip leader Robyn, who brought us together and explained to us our responsibilities and expectations for this trip. After this, we embarked on a journey to take a tour of the city and have a great dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant.

The food was exceptional, and we then departed on a comprehensive tour of the city that included the extravagant Capitol Building and Washington Monument, as well as the south-eastern part of D.C., which is one of the most neglected parts of the city. It was shocking to see these different worlds juxtaposed against one another, especially when Robyn detailed the vicious cycle of poverty and crime the residents of the south-east have to face every day due to the negligence of corporations and government entities. It was humbling to hear of some few heroes’ efforts to alleviate the hight poverty lifestyles of people in the city. It is clear, however, that more work needs to be done to improve the lives of many thousands of D.C. residents.

To end the night, Robyn took us to a beautiful field which overlooked the entire city of Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia. In the distance we could see the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Capitol building. In an effort to get a better view, we moved closer to the edge of the field. But trees loomed ahead, obstructing or view, and we were forced to move back again and take in the city as a whole.

And that’s when I realized that this was a metaphor for Washington as a whole. When you look at small snippets of the city, the beautiful monuments and overpriced apartments, you only appreciate a narrow part of it. To truly appreciate Washington, you need to step back and look at it as a whole, regardless of the poverty and strife you may encounter.

Be the Change

I’ve never been so hungry that it keeps me awake at night.  Nor have I slept outside in the bleak midwinter.  However, a surprisingly large number of people have had these experiences.  It can be hard to remember how fortunate we are unless we have a constant reminder of all the benefits we have – or all these benefits that others lack.

My goal for this upcoming community service trip is to take in everything that surrounds me – and to remember it so that at every time I encounter a situation where I can truly give help, I will be able to magnify the lessons I’ve learned.  This will continually increase the extent of help that those in need can get.  Just as Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” I will hope to never stop giving what I can of myself to those who need it.


Be the Change

I’ve never been so hungry that it keeps me awake at night.  Nor have I slept outside in the bleak midwinter.  However, a surprisingly large number of people have had these experiences.  It can be hard to remember how fortunate we are unless we have a constant reminder of all the benefits we have – or all these benefits that others lack.

My goal for this upcoming community service trip is to take in everything that surrounds me – and to remember it so that at every time I encounter a situation where I can truly give help, I will be able to magnify the lessons I’ve learned.  This will continually increase the extent of help that those in need can get.  Just as Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” I will hope to never stop giving what I can of myself to those who need it.

Travel Day

Today we all arrived to New York safely and some explored parts of the city. We have settled in to the hostel and are getting ready for our cultural day tomorrow and our service on Monday. We are looking forward to learning more about how God’s Love operates and the people they serve.



Senior year of high school we were required to take part in “The Homelessness Project,” an event where we built ourselves cardboard boxes in which we had to sleep on our quad in the middle of November.  Actual homeless people were brought to my school to fill the night with their stories of loss. Though the event was meant to raise money and awareness, talking to the individuals on a personal level is what I believe had the greatest impact on all of us- well, besides spending a night outside, too cold to sleep.  Everyone has a story, a path they took to get where he or she currently stand in life.  Sharing those stories with one another is the best way to change one’s path for the better.  The problem of hunger and homelessness is a giant issue in our country that needs to be addressed, and while I am looking forward to figuring out a way to help battle this problem, I am more interested in getting to know people’s stories and break down stereotypes.  I learn more and more every single day of my life that people are so much more alike than we would like to let ourselves believe.  My hope is that on this trip our group is able to share life experiences with each other and the people with whom we work every day that create amazing bonds. My worry is that I let stereotyping get the better of me- even though I try not to make snap judgments, it happens many times.  No matter what, I am confident that this will be yet another experience of mine that helps to make a difference in the lives of others as well as my own.

The last time I have been to Washington, D.C. was five years ago, on a two day long class field trip- the most long-awaited trip of me and my peers’ young adult lives. From what I remember about the trip, I had an amazing time. This was probably because while our main objective of the trip was to learn something about our nation’s capital and see its various monuments and museums, I was more concerned with what I was going to wear to the party cruise we were going to take on the first night, or who made out with who on the bus to the Lincoln Memorial. Back then I had romantic views about the city, views that haven’t exactly changed since then. I have worked with hunger and homelessness in El Salvador for the past four years; I think the shock of seeing the conditions some people are forced to live in has worn off. Still, though, I think that in my home country, with people who are very much more like me than many of the people of El Salvador, seeing hunger and homelessness this way will be a pretty big shock to my system. I’m hoping to learn a lot from this trip, and I have positive high expectations for my experiences in the coming week. I’m definitely a little nervous, especially because I will be the only first year in our group, but I am really looking forward to getting to know everyone and having a lot of fun! So, tonight I am throwing my nerves out the window and saying, “Bring it on, D.C.!” I can’t wait to see what this week holds for me.