Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Third Day in DC-Muna

As soon as we got off the plane and made our way to our hostel, we immediately noticed why Washington DC was the site for our trip on homelessness. I am beginning to learn so much about my group, both the differences and similarities I hold with them. One thing we all shared in common, was that we didn't have a real experience with the issue of homelessness, and we also never met anyone who was dealing with it. DC definitely gives us all that experience. Everywhere you go, no matter the time, you are bound to see someone digging through the trash, or trying to catch up on some sleep in a dark alley. As students, we aren't sure how to approach homeless individuals, and whether or not those individuals are even willing to let us approach them.
During dinner, we have group reflections. these reflections serve as an 'aha' moment for some, and debate for others, It doesn't take us long to discover that the issue of homelessness encompasses other concerns and issues that we each approach differently, and feel differently about. For example, some of us feel that giving panhandlers money isn't a good idea, and instead we should be donating to charities that use those funds for individuals responsibly. Some of us also feel that we should give individuals money directly, since it maintains the interaction between the giver and the receiver. I stand on the latter side of the debate. For me, it's all about preserving and maintaining personal connections with individuals who live on the streets. But, as I mentioned earlier, it is not easy for most of us, especially myself, to break down my barrier and push myself to interact with homeless people more. I guess I looked at people who are living on the streets with an "us/they" mentality. While on my trip, I'm beginning to challenge that notion, and myself to really understand the issue at hand.
Today was a great day for me. We started the day volunteering with a group that provides services for senior citizens on the brink of homelessness. We helped a wonderful, sweet lady named Ellen. As soon as we got there, Ellen had a lot to tell us. We cleaned her entire home, and by the end, Ellen was crying. Ellen touches a lot of us, and our hard work inside her house made it all worth it for each one of us. For me,that experience was the best volunteer activity we did.On the way back to our hostel, I noticed an old, homeless man sitting on a bench. He didn't look like in the mood to talk. I decided to say hello, and I was surprised with the warm reception he gave me.
Right now, my group members and I are mentally preparing ourselves for the Homeless Challenge. Everyone has been doing a very good job in getting themselves in that mood. Overall, I think in these three days in DC, everyone of us have grown, and become a lot more conscientious students.

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