It has been nearly two months since my ASB: NY experience and now that I reflect back on the experience, I am able to pinpoint lessons that I initially did not even consider. Through ASB: NY, I was made aware of a population that is often forgotten. Our group worked with individuals, left in the shadows because obstacles exist in their lives, which inhibits their ability to stand up for themselves. They do not have anyone in their corner who can speak on their behalf. The Bowery Mission and God’s Love We Deliver gave the eleven ladies of ASB: NY (Caitlin, Anda, Maeve, Jenn, Laura, Renee, Stephanie, Hannah, Jess, Sarah, Gabby) and myself an opportunity to represent these individuals for a week. As a group, we learned that true volunteerism is not often glamorous, and sometimes comes with little or no reward, not even a “Thank You.” However, it is not about the glamour or the “Thank You.” It is about the people that we are helping. It is about the human beings, who are overcoming hurdles every single day just to stay alive. The clients, who benefit from the services of God’s Love We Deliver and The Bowery Mission, overcome personal, health, financial and social barriers that many of us could not even fathom. Thus, it is our duty as fellow members of society to do our part to help them because society cannot just relegate them to the fringes of our community. Throughout the week, each member of our group had an opportunity to reflect on their preconceived perspectives on New York City, its homeless population, and the people that benefit from social programs that operate within the city’s limits. Some learned that a “homeless” person is not necessarily what you see on TV. Others were able to step outside their comfort zone in order to learn the truth about the world. Some even learned how strange it felt to be an outsider in a different community.
We did have moments of fun and hilarity. These moments came about during the daily recaps when everyone shared stories about their journeys throughout the boroughs of New York City. I learned that “pesto sauce” and “fish” do work well together. We all learned that there is a technique when chopping up potatoes and cauliflowers. Everyone had the technique down by the 4th or 5th bag of 50lbs of potatoes.
Simply put, ASB: NY was a great experience. It was not easy, but at the end of each day, we all played a part in providing a necessity someone else. I hope that through our service, the eleven ladies and I were able to increase awareness about homelessness and terminal illnesses, and continue the great work done by ASB and non-profits like The Bowery Mission and God’s Love We Deliver!
Yesterday was our second day at God’s Love. Our task for the day was van deliveries and everyone was really excited for the personal interactions. When we got to God’s Love, Stephen (the employee that oversees van deliveries) informed us that only nine of us were needed for van deliveries, so while everyone went out into the city, Kester and I worked in the kitchen. The kitchen experience was different than Tuesday because we knew what we were doing and were kind of seen as the “experts.” New volunteers were asking us questions and at times I found myself annoyed that they didn’t know what they were doing. It made me understand how the usual volunteers felt when we walked into “their” kitchen on Tuesday with no idea how to do anything. Kester and I also met the reigning Miss USA 2011 who volunteers at God’s Love every Wednesday.
Throughout the day we had the rest of the team check in with us and I was excited to hear about their adventures around the city. Anda, Jess and Renee were delivering to different parts of Brooklyn. Sarah and Hannah were in Queens and Lara and Steph were in Manhattan. Overall everyone had a positive experience in their vans. The drivers were really nice and made sure that each Lafayette ASBer was safe.
One thing that everyone seemed to be disappointed with was that the clients didn’t seem grateful for the food they were delivering. The team expected big thank yous, hugs, etc. and instead they mostly received a hand through a door and nothing else. However, some people were overly grateful and even offered food, money, etc. Everyone also was surprised of the conditions that people were living in: whether it be really nice apartments or really run down conditions. The run down buildings made us wonder how people with such serious illness live in terrible conditions.
The biggest thing about yesterday’s service, though, was that everyone stepped out of their comfort zone. None of us are from New York City and something as simple as buzzing into a building was difficult and uncomfortable for some people. However, everyone dealt with these situations. Even in some scary situations, all the deliveries were still made.
<3 ASB NYC
The social issue for our trip is AIDS/HIV and terminal illness relief and today we were able to learn more about that issue as well as an organization that goes to great lengths to bring relief to the sick. God’s Love We Deliver was founded in 1985 by one woman and toady delivers 4,000 meals a day. We knew that our job today was going to be kitchen work and when we arrived Kate, the volunteer coordinator said, “I hope you like chopping.” I thought she was joking but she was most definitely not. Chopping up vegetables was one of our main tasks for the day. We chopped carrots, 200 pounds of potatoes, zucchini, broccoli, and 100 pounds of onions. Some of us also prepared chicken and fish and wrapped 1200 rolls. After our lunch break, we then packaged meals for delivery. The kitchen at God’s Love was extremely organized and almost factory like. The packaging of food was done on assembly line. This made the process very efficient. As Anda commented, “I thought today was amazing to see the number of meals we made.” Jess also said that she was concerned that today we wouldn’t feel like we were helping people because we didn’t see them but that she felt like we did help people because we packaged and prepared so much food.
Tomorrow our experience at God’s Love will be different. Instead of working at “headquarters,” we will be out delivering the meals to different parts of New York and New Jersey. I think the team is more excited for this than they were about kitchen prep. For a lot of the team members, personal interaction and actually seeing the effect our work has on people is very important. As Lara said, she is excited to see the personal
side of the organization.
In comparing the Bowery Mission to God’s Love We Deliver we felt that the two were very different organizations; in their mission and the people they serve and in the way they were organized. God’s Love caters specifically to those with illnesses and they are proud of the fact that they have never turned anyway away who needed a meal. The Bowery Mission provides services to a larger variety of people. Although most team members liked the personal interactions at the Bowery Mission more than the “stiffness” at God’s Love, we understand why God’s Love has to operate more like a “business.” As Kester pointed out, we all witnessed today what it takes for an organization to develop.
During reflection, “If you had the money to give to an organization, what would you choose?” was proposed. A good amount of the team felt that they would give money to the Bowery Mission because it seemed like they needed it more. Others disagreed. I cautioned the team, though, to remember that no organization is “better” or “worse” than another and that they were just different. God’s Love receives a lot of money from corporate and other sponsors and it is amazing to see how many people are passionate about this cause. I hope that whatever the cause, my team and I walk away from this experience with a cause we are passionate about, whether it be the Bowery Mission and the issue of hunger and homelessness, God’s Love and terminal illness relief, or one of the many other organizations and social issues.
<3 ASB NYC
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!
<3 ASB NYC
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.
<3 ASB NYC
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.