WNS 344: Day 6
7 Bridges to Recovery: Sandwich prep (Friday) and Bridge Outreach (Saturday)
SECTION 1: ORID
What? What are your observations/descriptions of what you did/what happened today? Include all of the places that we went to that particular day.
On Friday night, my mother and I went to the sandwich prep. We were able to catch the tail-end of the dinner for the residents at 7Bridges. We had made and brought Chocolate Bread Pudding to serve as dessert, which we arrived in perfect time for! We walked in and meandered around the kitchen until we found the woman that was serving the dinner, Ms. Margaret. She took the bread pudding from us and began to serve it. “Chocolate Bread Pudding for dessert,” she yelled throughout the dinning area. She grabbed a spoon and a bowl and scooped herself a portion and began to indulge herself. “Mmm. And it’s good, y’all, come get some!”After watching several people eat the bread pudding, we cleaned the area and got a quick lesson in sandwich making. “We make it like we are making it for ourselves… Our brothers and sisters are going to love this y’all.” We began assembly line making lunches. My mom and I counting out slices of bread, throwing away the occasional moldy loaves, and mustarding and adding meat to the slices. After the sandwiches were assembled, we grabbed hands-full of bags and began stuffing Ziplocs with ham sandwiches. 650 sandwiches later, we prayed and swept the area and bit farewell until the next day.
On Saturday, Mom and I arrived at 7 Bridges during the orientation. The two routes were explained to us: The Bluff Route and The Bridge Route. The Bluff Route was the heavy heroine, prostitute and sex-traffiking route; while the Bridge Route consisted of more apartment-styled homes and the actual bridges — this was our route.
We drove into the carpool line and drove off with the rest of the caravan. We followed to the first stop, a parking lot, on a cross street of Fulton Industrial Boulevard. After about 5 people received food, socks, and hygiene products (and of course, prayer) we loaded back up and headed to an apartment complex down the road.
One of the leaders from 7 Bridges explained to me about the living situation of the people in the apartments. One side black, one side hispanic. “They hate each other.” We pulled up in the court yard in between ‘the tale of two complexes’ and the kids came running. We began to hand out necklaces with crosses on them and began to play and sing songs with the kids.
Three little hispanic girls came to me wanting me to pick all of them up simuntaneously. Needless to say, we all came tumbling down…
“Potato Chip, potato Chip. Crunchy, crunchy. I love Jesus a bunchy, bunchy.”
After we hung out with the kids, we prayed and began handing out lunches to the children. I met a little boy named Caylen, he had dreads longer than he was tall and he was perfectly content munching on his Cheezits. He was 4 years old.
After saying goodbye to my new friend, we packed up and left for the next stop, a bridge of Cleveland Avenue and I-75. Under this bridge we met two homeless individuals and prayed with them while giving them lunches, hygiene products, and fresh socks.
After leaving here we drove to smaller houses off of Cleveland Avenue and delivered the packages door-to-door. We met a guy named Shapiro who had gotten a job in the past 2 weeks and had accepted Jesus the week before that. We delivered diapers to his house, where he had 3 children in diapers.
After meeting these people we moved on to Pryor street and visited another apartment complex there. I met a man named Bernard Millens who asked me to pray for him because he had a terminal disease.
After praying with Mr. Millens we dropped some more packages to other houses near the same area. We stayed in the car while the 7 Bridges leaders were doing this.
Then we all prayed out and went our separate ways.
I really enjoyed working with 7 Bridges. Throughout the day when we would pray, we all got increasingly closer. As the day progressed, I got more comfortable with the other volunteers around me which I think helped us to serve the community knowing that we were all acquainted doing something together. My favorite part of the day was probably meeting Shapiro who had benefitted so much from 7 Bridges’ help. He told me that they had really helped him out, and that made me see that organizations like these do have a large impact on their communities.
The outreach and work they were doing was definitely working. Most, if not all, of the volunteers that went on Saturday were helped by the housing program. There was a decent turnout of volunteers for both routes. The numbers of volunteers that they had both at the sandwich prep and for the outreach made me see that their work was impactful not only on the community, but on the volunteers that they continued to return.
One woman that we served with, Kara, had been volunteering at 7 Bridges for several months and relayed how serving with them has changed her outlook on people and how she spends her time.
I thought of the bridge route leaders, the ones in the housing program, as recycled. It sounds bad when I write it. 7 Bridges helps them have a home and a community, in return they are helping other people in the same situations. It reminded me of the Lift the Blindfold Documentary about homelessness in NY. One man that was staying in a shelter gave money to a man that was panhandling on the street — recycling. It might be a very demeaning view of volunteerism, but it is how I translated it.
I loved volunteering at 7 Bridges, from the sandwich making to the outreach with the caravan. The environment was positive and inclusive, which is great among these kind of organizations, but I felt obligated to come back for the people that I met along the way. Kara, the veteran volunteer, encouraged me to continue coming back because of her enthusiasm and immediate dedication to the organization. Continuing to volunteer at 7 Bridges would be amazing, mainly because of the almost sudden connections that I made there. I will absolutely volunteer with 7 Bridges in the future. Whether I will be going under bridges with the outreach teams, or serving a dinner to the residents, or even just making the sandwiches. It is so easy to see the results of what this organization is doing in the community.
SECTION 2: DEAL
I was at The Garden on the location of 7 Bridges and then we traveled around to the following locations: Fulton Industrial, Cleveland Avenue, and Pryor Street.
We made sandwiches, caravanned around the city and found people that needed a meal and a prayer.
Each new person that got a sandwich we would ask their name, ask if we could pray with them, and talk to them a little bit more. We also played and sang songs with children. We did this because we were providing children with food who might not have had any before hand.
I felt very anxious throughout the day because I didn’t want to do or say anything wrong. For the first few stops I stepped back and surveyed what everyone else was doing, asking questions about what would happen and how the people lived or would react. I wished I had a bit more of a crash course before going so that I would have been more hands-on at the first few stops.
When I got warmed-up, I felt hopeful that the people in these areas were getting things that they needed and that these people were not as bad as I might have thought beforehand. I knew that several of the areas were very bad parts of town (sex-trafficking capital and lots of gang violence) and had always known to not go there out of safety concerns. But going there with 7 Bridges, not only did I feel more than safe, but I was a little more ashamed that I was afraid of these kind people. (Not all of them would have been so nice had I not been with a large group of men and were bringing food, however, the thought still counts).
I felt very hopeless for several of the people there, knowing that some of them, like Mr. Millens, would never leave that lifestyle of food insecurity and poor healthcare. That almost broke my heart.
I was incredibly impressed by the streets-smart children. Some of the kids no more than 4 or 5 years old were finagling food and waters from the other children and the 7 Bridges volunteers. I thought it was hilarious, but it made me uncomfortable knowing that children this young had already been forced to care for themselves in this sense — knowing what they want and finding a way to get it from anyone. Most of the kids this age that I have been exposed to are more dependent, they cry when they don’t get what they want; but these kids don’t cry they get it themselves. Definitely different.
I should have been more proactive on Saturday than I was. I think that my comfort level definitely held me back from being as helpful as I could have been. I believe that if I had been with the rest of the class and got a brief intro to the organization, I would have felt better acquainted with the situation. When I return to volunteer, I will probably take more initiative because I won’t have the first time jitters.
L: Learn through Articulation
I learned that organizations do have a great reward in the community that they are in. 7 Bridges is fueled by their faith to not better the community, but to serve the people that they are brothers and sisters with in Christ. I think that these motivations might not have an overall manifestation in the organization, but the manner in which the people do their work — activism — is approached differently. Some organizations, like Hearts, want to see a change in the community; while others, like 7 Bridges, want to treat their community members well. While they are not exactly mutually exclusive, there does seem to be a difference in the atmosphere.
I think that this is important for knowing which kind of organization or activism that one is trying to approach. If I was volunteering at 7 Bridges wanting to see an immediate change in the community, that would be very short lived, unless I continued that work for years and was able to see how the little tasks added up, but overall would be a little more less satisfying.
In short, doing small tasks wanting to see a major reward is discouraging, but when they are done with a faith-based motive they can be withheld. However, when an obvious visible change in the community is needed, larger tasks are able to be accomplished for the reward, it is easier to recruit non-faith-based volunteers for the shorter reaction time.