Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wendsday March 18th

Today our service project was to paint a shelter in Pilsen, a small neighborhood in Chicago. Isreal Vargus, the executive coordinator of the shelter, greeted us very warmly. Throughout the day it became increasingly clear that Isreal, as well as the other staff, were very appreciative of the work we were doing. He took us on a tour and gave us various tidbits of info on the neighborhood and background of the shelter. One thing that stood about about Isreal was that he was homeless at the age of 19, making his experiences and advice all the more meaningful. The shelter, consisting mostly Hispanic men, provides them with a place with stability for 120 days. Our goal was to paint two bathrooms and a stairwell.

            We thought that this project would be over in a mere few hours, however the painting took longer than expected. This just goes to show how important it is that volunteers help out shelters on tasks like these. While most may think that painting isn’t THAT big of a deal, it provides the guests something aesthetically pleasant to look at. During our break the shelter served us an incredible lunch, we ate like kings! It was so amazing to see the power of giving in this situation. An organization that had so little was able to give to us, it was the ultimate thank you!

Tuesday March 17th

Greetings from Chicago! Day 3 of our stay here was a good one, starting at the Zoo and making its way north of the city to bordering Evanston.

To begin the day, we woke up at around 8:30, had Hostel breakfast and headed onto the L to the Lincoln Park Zoo. A beautiful day outside, it was great to be walking around the Windy City on a day that, we assume, is very atypical of the Chicago climate. Gorillas, giraffes, and other species were abound, as were thousands of mothers and fathers wheeling around their little kids in strollers. Needless to say, it was very distinct from the experiences we have had in the center of the city.

From there, we headed about 30 minutes in the wrong direction on the buses, trying to get to Hilda’s Place. We eventually got there an hour and a half after we were supposed to, but the man who ran the place, Kevin, was very gracious and quick to delegate tasks to us. We were cleaning and sorting and organizing the dusty storeroom for the organization, which would allow for the guests who stayed there to receive clothing, toiletries and other things that they needed. Hilda’s Place sought to help the homeless, by giving them a place to sleep and eat and be comfortable in, serving as a springboard back into working society. While we did not get to interact with many people but ourselves, it was great to work together as a team and help Hilda’s Place by doing behind the scenes work that was necessary to the organization.

This quote was written on the wall at Lincoln Park Zoo:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the
world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Peace out.

Kareem + Carol

Monday March 16th

SOOOOOOOOOOOooooOOOOoooooo... today was our first day out and about in the REAL Chicago. Our day's activities consisted of working at two homeless shelters. After our first experience riding the LOOP, we headed to Breakthrough Urban Ministries, which had a men's and women's shelter, separated by a few blocks. The women's shelter housed about 30 women, and we divided into a few groups, doing various tasks including sorting clothes, organizing sheets and towels, unloading food, and cleaning up outdoor common area. Part of the group stayed to help out at the men's shelter, working in the kitchen and helping to prepare lunch for about 40-50 men. After the morning of work, we ate lunch at the shelters with the residents, and learned a sweet new game that was a synergy of pool and shuffleboard. After some great lunch conversation, we regrouped and heard about the organization from the other side: asking questions and learning about the group's structure, funding, and goals. Their $5 million annual budget (not from the government) and gorgeous new facilities really impressed us all, along with the group's obvious passion for what they were doing.

After taking bus #12 to another part of town, we arrived at Hope House, another shelter with similar goals and community support systems as Breakthrough. We came in expecting a similar experience with the comparable resources, support, and organization. We had been told that we would be helping to serve dinner to the 100-200 guests that come daily, but instead, we found that because one key member of their kitchen staff was absent, the whole organization was unorganized and at a loss for what to do with us. We did whatever tasks they came up with for us, including cleaning the offices, refrigerator, toilets, hallways, and mattresses, but ended up working for less than 2 hours instead of the 4 that we had been schedule to volunteer. At the end of the day, we had some good words from a couple leaders in the organization, but overall, everyone had some weird vibes from Hope House.

After an excellent meal in Chinatown at Three Happiness, we had a great reflection, and talked a lot about the contrasts we had seen that day, both between the two shelters we had volunteered at, and between today's experience of Chicago versus the swanky Magnificent Mile of clean, upscale shopping that we had experienced the day before.

Moments of the day:
"I love p****" -Edyta

"In my family, we were raised hererosexual, so I don't do all that new-fangled stuff." - lunch table lady

Kevin: My face hurts
S Moon: Because you're ugly

"I dunno why we had to scrub both sides of the bed when one was going to lay on the dirty floor anyway"

"It was so gross, my toes were stuck together with meat juice, I was about to f****** lose it"

"There is no one so rich that they don't need help or so poor that they cannot help"
-Fortune Cookie

"No one notices how much you do until you don't do it"
-Wall sign at Hope House

Blog brought to you today by Katelyn and Tory ♥ 

Sunday March 15 2009

Today was our relaxing day after 13 HOURS in the car yesterday. We did a lot of sight-seeing. A favorite was the big bean, where multiple people hit their heads due to reflection confusion. Last night we went to Giordano's for deep dish pizza and it was delicious. I think we all gained about five pounds--but it's ok; we walked it off today. After we saw the big bean we walked to Navy Pier. A few brave souls conquered the huge ferris wheel. The rest enjoyed walking along the pier, people watching, eating our home-made lunches, and admiring the stain glass window exhibit. We'll post pictures later.
   After Navy Pier, we walked to the "Magnificent Mile," which is a stretch of Michigan Ave filled with stores too expensive for our empty college pockets (we'll need to factor that into the budget next year). If you're in for a head rush, Saks Fifth Avenue has an express elevator that travels at like 100 miles an hour (yes we're exaggerating, but it was really fast). And if you love chocolate, there's a Hershey's store right across from a Ghirardelli store. If you don't get overwhelmed easily, most of the stores have multiple floors and excess of everything. There's even an apple store with multiple floors AND a built-in theater on the second floor.
   While we were walking back to our hostel (Hosteling International if you want to look it up), we passed by several homeless people begging for spare change. It felt really awkward walking past these people, in the midst of all the glamorous shops, and not helping them--especially when we came here to help the hungry. Hopefully by the end of this week we will learn more about the issue of hunger and the work we do this week will have some impact on the community. We hope to take what we do here and apply it in a greater context both at home and wherever we end up in the future.