Day 3: Housing and Homelessness

  Day 3- Tuesday 3/22

We woke up bright and early before the Sun and drove over to The Bridge to prep and serve breakfast. The Bridge is a day shelter in St. Louis that used to be a church. The two head individuals that prep and serve meals do so Monday-Friday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Most, if not all, of the food is donated from various religious organizations, stores, and volunteer groups around the area. Its a long process so having volunteers is definitely needed to help everything go fast and smoothly in time for serving. We helped prep the meals starting at 6:30am and started serving at 8. The individuals that utilize the shelter and the meals were greatly appreciative and so friendly. Some of them would stay and chat with us for a moment and talk about their experiences. It was very humbling to say the least. When we were cleaning up the line and head back in the kitchen to prep lunch, many individuals stayed at the tables and we learned that many stay in The Bridge all day long for shelter. 9:30 came around quickly and we sadly had to leave. The plus side to getting up very early is that we still had the whole day ahead of us!

Once we got back to our apartment we had our sessions on homelessness, eviction, and discrimination. The leading cause of homelessness is not addiction or mental illness, but poverty. Many believe being homeless is a result of someone being lazy, making bad choices, etc. but that is definitely not the case for the majority of those without homes. One article we went over during a learning session was “I’ve been homeless 3 times. The problem isn’t drugs or mental illness– it’s poverty” by Veronica Harnish. There were 8 causes of homelessness that were discussed in the article: Homelessness is expensive, people think you’re low-income/homeless it’s because you’re lazy or uneducated, lack of affordable housing (leading cause), lack of living wage –> no affordable housing, landlords can make it impossible to get a lease- regardless of savings or job, politicians won’t help, roommates are the fastest but most problematic way out of homelessness, and people uncomfortable with homelessness want you to be invisible. Our group discussion delved into each of them and we had great reflections and realizations about the issues surrounding (and causing) homelessness.

Our sessions ended and we had the whole afternoon for fun!! We started by going to St. Louis Zoo for a few hours. The coolest part was seeing kangaroos hopping around their exhibit and watching hippos swim around through their huge exhibit window. The zoo closed at 5 so right from there we went to explore Laumeier Sculpture Park! We explored almost all of the park and left as the sun was setting over the city. It was the PERFECT weather to be out and about for activities. We went home and had dinner when we met our downstairs neighbors for the week from Central Methodist University- which is just a few hours away from here. It was great getting to meet other volunteers working with Kingdom House and planning to get together again this week!!

 

Zoo adventures!!

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Laumeier Sculpture Park

 

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Our new downstairs neighbors for the week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Days 1 & 2: Oshkosh takes on St. Louis

 

Day 1 was lots of driving, but was nothing short of fun!!! We made a new friend named Beanz and had an interesting grocery store adventure. Beanz is a goat magnet on our fridge that has become our trip mascot, along with our hashtag #OshLouis (search for it on Facebook and Instagram!). The grocery store we were referred to was a Save-a-Lot across town. The environment was very different from what we were expecting. Once we got there, there were people sitting outside, some walking around panhandling for money, and once inside the store we felt out of place and outside our comfort zones. We expected to be pushed out of our comfort zones, but it’s another thing to be totally submersed into it and be in the middle of others’ realities and every day life. Once we got back we reflected on the experience, and went to bed after a loooong day.

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Day 2: We woke up and headed across to street to the agency we’re partnered with, Kingdom House. Once there we were assigned to different ages within the day care, which was a vibrant and much needed start to our morning. The children ranged from six months to four years old within the day care area. We got to hang out with the kids, do different craft activities leading up to Easter, and played in the gym for active break. After that was finished we got a tour from our lovely Kingdom House volunteer coordinator, Julie. We learned that they have a corner style room for clothing and necessities that are not covered by most federal programs such as feminine hygiene products, toilet papers, diapers, and household cleaning supplies that are sold for only one dollar. Anyone that utilizes the Kingdom House for any program can stop in and by these products along with a variety of clothing. Down the hall, they have an emergency food pantry for individuals that are in a short-term emergency situation (leaving an abusive relationship, house fire, etc.). They also have a variety of classrooms for courses available for all ages focusing on different topics, such as financial advice- budgeting, after school programs, Kingdom House Academy (to help with St. Louis having a lower high school graduation rate), and then ACT prep and assistance with college and scholarship applications. They have done so much for the community since they opened in 1902. What makes them so different is that they are constantly changing to adapt to the actual needs in the St. Louis community and have strong connections with social workers that go out and interact with families on what they need most so that Kingdom House is as helpful as possible.

After volunteering and the tour we had 3 learning sessions focusing on racism. Our first session dealt with defining racism and prejudice and how they are similar and different in the way they impact society. An equation we learned was Prejudice + Power = Racism. We watched a few different videos on these topics and how stereotypes are harmful to individuals. Then we discussed the Department of Justice release report on Ferguson, focusing on the relationship between law enforcement and youth (especially black youth and families). Many of us first learned about “The Talk” families of color have with their children on what to do to come home safe at the end of the day. It was very emotional and heartbreaking and it made us very aware to what we need to do to be an effective ally- which was session 3. The 5 basic rules of being a proactive ally include understanding your privilege, listen and do your homework, speak up but not over, realize you’ll make mistakes and apologize when you do, and then repeat steps #1-4. “Ally is a verb; you’ve got to do the work.” A big takeaway of being an ally and knowing your privilege is that no matter how much you learn or understand about the issue, you will never experience it first hand because of your identities. Each person has differing intersections of identities in which we need to come together with mutual respect and kindness, and celebrate what makes us different from one another.

For dinner we had a very pleasant surprise! Missy Burgess (Assistant Director for Student Involvement) had arranged with her mother (who still lives in the area) to prepare a ‘feast’ for us volunteers at the apartment. She even made a cake for Kelsey’s birthday on Thursday! She was so kind enough to do this for us and we were completely taken aback by her generosity. It was definitely very appreciated by all!!!After dinner we decided to take a walk around the area and explore the city. We found trolleys, the Busch Stadium, and a closer view of the arch. It was a nice ending to our busy day.

 

Our session on racism

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Surprise dinner!!

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Kelsey+Cake+Beanz=Happiness

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Day 2: Harlem Soulfood, Buddha, and Soho

Today was a jam-packed day with about 13 hours and 20,000 steps spent exploring New York City. We began our adventure where all of our adventures will begin, Harlem. Some things we got to see around Harlem werimagee Strivers Row, Abyssinian Baptist Church and even special access, thanks to some every kind police officers, to the Harlem  Hospital Center’s art exhibits. We continued down numerous blocks with crisp New England air testing our patience. We made it to the Apollo Theater which is a venue that has hosted so many famous figures throughout the years, especially those of color. Our last stop in Harlem gave us a chance to appreciate the Harriet Tubman Memorial Statue. Afterwards we took a ride down to enjoy the natural beauty of the world renown Central Park. Endless, winding paths carve their way through this city’s treasure.

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Walking around the streets of Harlem you get a good sense of their strong, proud black history which was beautifully shown through various murals and restaurants throughout Harlem. None better than Sylvia’s to show us how soul food is done. The most popular dish of the group was chicken and waffles. All senses where active here, as we were serenaded by some soulful live Gospel music. The singer went around to each table and asked where everyone was from and the diversity of New York was in full affect. We of course had people in the house from different states like Lousiana, but even more surprising was the number of international people there. Some of the nationalities were Swedish, Danish, French, Spanish, Korean, Argentina just to name a few and this took the entire group by surprise.

 

After lunch we wandered in Chinatown which mimageight as well be a different country. Vendors lined up as far as the eye can see peddling their goods onto the ople and visitors of New York City. We even received many offers for Louis Vuitton bags from random corner hustlers! How exciting! We ventured on into the Mahayana Buddhist Temple which was awesome. Many cool buddhist relics where bought; little porcelain cats and karma bracelets.

 

Next part of our adventure brought us to the Staten Island Ferry, bringing us close enough to the Statue of Liberty to talk many groups pictures and plenty of selfies. Trust me when I say, we have enough selfies to last us a while. Then we ended the day with some New York style pizza at Lombardi’s and italian pastries from Ferrara Bakery. All in all a pretty busy, yet satisfying day.image

Day 3: Black Gold

Hello all!

Today was our first full day in Gautemala and it has been quite the learning experience!

We woke up at around 7:30am and had fresh eggs and beans for breakfast! It sounds so simplistic but it was amazing. We then hiked up Volcano Aqua. It took our group about a half hour to get to the plantation, it was a really steep hike but the view made it worth it!

Once up to the plantation we learned all about planting, growing, and caring for coffee plants. A few of us even dared to try the raw coffee fruit and drink what the locals call “honey” from the fruit! We picked coffee fruit for about an hour and a half. In total our group picked about 69lbs…which sounds impressive but really isn’t!

We next went to Froilan’s (the owner of the coffee plantation) house for lunch. His family taught us how to separate the fruit from the coffee beans! Who knew it could take up for ten days to dry the coffee beans out?! We each took a turn roasting and grinding our coffee so we could each have a fresh cup. Our group ended up buying about 54 bags of coffee all harvested by Froilan!

After that we enjoyed our first meal without our translator! It was an awesome experience getting to pr actice my Spanish for the first time! We met with Gregorio’s family and learned that he has worked with De La Gente for about seven years! His daughter Julia taught us how to salsa and despite the language barrier we were able to have a wonderful traditional Guatemalan dinner.

 

Tomorrow we wake up bright and early again to help paint and build a coffee fermantation tank for a farmer!

¡Adios!

ASB

Day 2: Star Wars and Sandwiches

We are alive and well, and FINALLY in Guatemala!

The day day started out early catching a 7:10am shuttle back to the airport for a 10:30am direct flight. The plane ride was a little bumpy… literally because of turbulance… but all was well because we got to watch the new Star Wars movie during the flight. And we get sandwiches! Overall, pretty sweet ride.

We arrived in Guatemala City, Guatemala, around 12:30pm their time, and that’s only where the fun had just begun.

First, we took an insane bus ride to Antiqua up a winding, busy, narrow mountain side – motion sickness was definitely present for most of us.

Next, we ate a fresh lunch at a place called “Café Sky”. The food was BEYOND amazing, to say the least! All of it was freah from local farmers, and prepared in a safe way for our adapting American stomachs. Austyn, as well as a handful of the others, had quesadillas… “it was so incredibly fresh! I can’t ever go back to Taco Bell!” Nicole and Molly shared the most decked out nacho’s we have ever seen. And the salads were so fresh it’s almost as if the ingredients were picked right then – acovados have never tasted this good.

After that we tried to exchange our money at the banks in Antiqua… but because it’s Holy Week, and more importantly Psalms Sunday, nothing was open past 3:00pm, so we could not exchange our money. However, we did get time to scavenge the market! While in Antiqua, we were able to witness the traditional “carpet making” (photo attached below) and a ceremonial parade prosessional – the parade floats, for lack of a better term, are carried on the shoulders of men. This tradition is passed down through family generations, and is incredibly sacred. Followed by a full band, it was wonderful to get a snapshot at the culture as we did today.

Finally, our night ended with dinner with a local co-op farmers and his family. Timoteo, the father of the farmer family, is a coffee farmer who has been working with coffee growing for 26 years. He has been a part of the co-op here for 11 years. However, Timoteo has been working on a farm with his family all of his life – after he finished fourth grade, his family could no longer afford to send him to school, so he helped on the farm. Timoteo has lived his whole life working so that we could afford for his children (5) to go to school. One daugther is a school teacher, another daughter is an accountant, his only son is a carpenter and coffee grower, and he did not talk about his other children. The way a family functions here is completely different than how it is back home… culture sure has shocked us.

Tomorrow, we will spend all day hiking, picking, and processing coffee with another local co-op farmer (who just happens to be Timoteo’s brother!).

Thanks for checking in with us!

ASB Guatemala :)

 

*sorry, could not upload all of the photos for tonight for some reason – we will try again tomorrow for this post.

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