March 8, 2013
Today’s “Spring Break with a Purpose” post is from Lee Grander of the men’s soccer team.
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - The experience has been really eye-opening. We’ve gotten to see a lot of people living truly in poverty. It’s something you don’t see very often and it makes you take a step back and think, ‘wow, these conditions actually happen in this country.’ Skid Row is the most densely populated homeless area in the United States. To me that was the worst because it’s located right next to the financial district. On one block you see the homeless and on the next are men in suits and ties. The contrast was incredible.
But from going on a couple of tours, we’ve found a lot of hope around the area - things like ‘Homeboy Industries’ and a school that graduated 100% of their students. It’s things like that that make me think there can be a change.
My work site has been at Ramona Gardens – it’s a very low income housing project but it is kept fairly nice by the community. We interacted with some of the kids the first day. We talked to them and asked them about their lives. The last two days, we’ve been cleaning out a closet. It sounds like nothing, but because the people there have so much going on they don’t get it done and the kids can’t have access to the sports equipment.
There is a park there that is nice and I think that is a sign of hope. The kids get to be kids there – they are in such bad living conditions that they need an escape. The park provides that.
We’ve been learning a lot about the difference between service and community. Service provides an immediate benefit, which can be good, but sometimes it gets their hopes up, but after the service is done, you leave. That’s especially hard for the kids. Community means interacting and asking them what they really need and then to provide it. It’s a much more effective way to effect change and give them hope.
Today we are going to Home Boy Industries to get a tour and have lunch at the Home Girl Café. After that we will go back to our sites. We are going to take a tour of Ramona Gardens today and find out more about its history.
When I get back, I want to be able to tell people about what I’ve seen and open their eyes to something that’s real and something has is happening in these impoverished communities. I want to bring back what I’ve learned with my faith and community and share it. This trip has definitely changed the way I think about things and has given me a better sense of how blessed I am. It makes me want to give back and see real change in the community. What they’re going through, it doesn’t seem like humans should have to.