Sunday, March 30, 2014

Now What?

Hello all,

I was meaning to post my blog on Saturday, March 29. Just to reflect upon some of the things that happened during the week. But had a very difficult time with the realization that our trip ended yesterday morning, but I must say that our journey isn't completely over. This is only the beginning of a new movement, an entire generation of youth who have the power to bring attention to issues that we believe could end in our lifetime.

This year, I applied to take the role of a student leader that leads the Washington, D.C. catalyst trip. I was a bit hesitant, due to the fact that I was still learning about many of the issues that cause homelessness. But I realized that I had previously learned so much, as I was once a student attending my first catalyst trip during my freshman year in college. I was more than willing to continue learning, along with the students that applied this year to be a part of this trip. I must say that I' am very proud of each and every participant, as my co-leader and I put 100% of our time, commitment, and heart into making this trip a success, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of individuals.

People experiencing homelessness have long been stigmatized and blamed by their situation. When I was younger, I used to think that homelessness was a "choice," but this week only reaffirmed me that homelessness’ is not a "choice," it has only confirmed to me that it’s an issue caused by many of our institutions, and circumstances as these institutions do not allow people who are living in impoverished conditions break free of that cycle that holds them captive.

During the 48 hour homeless challenge, I came across a missing person poster. It was a young girl, 8 years old. Once we returned to the hostel, I was reading news reports and came across the same picture of the young girl who had been missing for the past few days, and that’s when it hit me. The little 8 year old girl who was missing, was experiencing homelessness. I was frustrated, and angry that I didn’t have the power to end homelessness right there and then. We have a stereotypical image of people experiencing homelessness, but it can be invisible as it also affects many youth.

So what now? I say we continue to educate others about homelessness. We MUST continue to advocate for each and every person experiencing homelessness, as I believe my generation has more power than they can imagine. Support organizations that are more than willing to improve the conditions of people who are experiencing homelessnes, and those who have the goal of ending homelessness. Possibly start a movement, that not only gets the general public attention but of those in higher positions, that have the power to make policies to end homelessness.

I would like to thank Margot Howard, Coordinator of Social Justice Initiatives and the Hamline to Hamline Collaboration in the Wesley Center at Hamline. Margot, who was also our staff person on the trip is the reason why I continue to grow as a student leader, and want to be the change that I wish to see in the world. I couldn't have asked for a better mentor, as she was always supportive from beginning to end. Thank you for believing in me, and for putting all your dedication into making these catalyst trips possible.

In conclusion, I would like to thank my co-leader, Cristina. Cristina, co-leading this trip with you will always be something that I keep close to my heart. I honestly don't know if I could have made this trip a success had you not been a part of the entire process, you have taught me the many amazing qualities that it takes to be a WONDERFUL student leader. I couldn't have asked for a better friend to work with, as many challenges came my way, and you stood right by my side, and supported me. I am sad that you will be graduating from Hamline, as I won't get to see you around, but I know that wherever you decide to go, you will only continue to accomplish many great things. I am also excited to see where your passion and talents will take you. (:

Thanks to everyone who made this trip such an amazing experience. Margot, Cristina, Zoe, Law, Gordy, Patricia, Lauren, McKenzie, Erica, Rayla, Melissa, and Sandy. 


Friday, March 28, 2014

The End of an Era, the Beginning of a Movement

Hey all,

Cristina here. Well, here we are. The conclusory (co-) leader post of the week.

But this time it’s different. This time, I can’t write, “See you next year.” This time, I can’t write, “I’m excited to see where my Catalyst trip experiences will take me next year.”

This is it. This is the end. Or is it?

In this post, I’m going to reflect on: 1) the past week and our 2014 Washington, D.C. Catalyst trip, and 2) my past four years of Catalyst and my individual transformation.

This week, we served with A Wider Circle, DC Central Kitchen, So Others Might Eat, Bread for the City, Capital Area Food Bank, Martha’s Market, Georgetown Ministry Center, and Samaritan Ministry. We spoke with and heard from the United Nations Foundation and speakers from the National Coalition for the Homeless, and we completed the 48-Hour Homeless Challenge. We heard a lot, saw a lot, did a lot, and learned a lot.

Just to give you a little background, my co-leader and I have been planning and preparing for this trip since October/November. I’ve been so excited since we started planning the trip for the service that we would be doing and the student participants with whom I’d have the pleasure of spending time.

But I was also very nervous, especially in the weeks and days leading up to the trip. I was nervous that the Homeless Challenge wouldn’t work out, that the group wouldn’t bond or grow together, that our community partner experience would be horrible, etc. etc., I could seriously go on. But once we arrived in the city and started doing service work, my nerves were quickly put to rest. I was immediately reassured of the power of a Catalyst trip when the group started reflecting and discussing the issues surrounding homelessness that plague our society and the impact our service had on the greater community.

I am so proud of each and every participant on this trip, and I could not have asked for a better group of folks with whom to have spent the past week. I can’t even count the number of times that I have learned from someone on this trip, or the number of times someone on this trip has impressed me with the quality and depth of their reflection and critical analysis. I can’t even explain how much this group has shown me that homelessness is an issue that deserves attention and that, with the effort of many, can be solved. I can’t express enough how grateful and honored I am to have met and gotten to know everyone on this trip, and I am so happy to leave Hamline with this experience.

I wanted to say thank you to everyone on this year’s trip for this experience. You have all made it so great, and I am so fortunate to have spent this week with you. I love you all.

As some of you may know, I am a graduating senior, and this is my last semester at Hamline University. This is also the fourth time I’ve participated in the Washington, D.C. Catalyst trip. I was a trip participant my first and sophomore years, I was the student leader my junior year, and I am now a student co-leader this year.

I seriously can’t even accurately articulate how much Catalyst has done for my life, and how much Catalyst has impacted my growth as a student, leader, and advocate. To be honest, Catalyst trips haven’t changed my life, because I think I was meant for this track all along, but Catalyst has transformed and molded my life and has pointed me in a direction in which I am proud and extremely excited to go.

During my first semester at Hamline, someone told me about Catalyst and I applied haphazardly, honestly not realizing or intending the experience to turn into anything. I thought that service sounded like a pretty good way to spend my freshman spring break. But the experiences I had in D.C. that first spring break sparked something inside me. I was introduced to a world of issues I had never really given much thought to. I was angered by what I was told, but also motivated to learn more and do more. I have learned so much more (about both homelessness and social justice) on every Catalyst trip to D.C. since, and the spark that began on my first Catalyst trip is now a fervent fire.

My collective experiences on Catalyst trips have given me the opportunity to learn about meaningful and reflective service. Catalyst trips have allowed me to realize my passions and talents, and have moreover given me the tools to construct a plan with which I can combine my passions and talents and utilize them to enact change.

After graduating from Hamline, I intend on going to law school and becoming a public defender. Participating in Catalyst trips has allowed me to discover a way to combine my talent (the law) and my passion (homelessness and poverty); because of Catalyst, I have discovered a way to do what I love with a community with which I am very excited to work.

I have learned so much from my Catalyst experiences, about homelessness and social justice and social change, but also about how to be a better person, a more engaged community member overall. I have Catalyst to thank for so many life lessons and experiences. My time at Hamline definitely would not have been the same without my Catalyst family.

I really have found a family in every Catalyst trip I’ve been on. I have bonded with and grown with people I didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to meet, but Catalyst brought us all together. And I am very thankful for Catalyst in that respect as well.

Another significant part of this gratitude post is the impact that Margot Howard, Coordinator of Social Justice Initiatives and the Hamline to Hamline Collaboration in the Wesley Center at Hamline. Margot was also the staff resource person on the D.C. trip this year. I can’t express enough just how thankful I am to have Margot as a leader and mentor. I know that I have grown so much as a student and leader from her example and support. Even though the trip leaders have certainly done their fair share of work on their trips, Margot has served as a behind-the-scenes resource person and source of support for every pair of student co-leaders. I can only guess how much work has gone into what Margot has done for every one of the Catalyst trips and all of the student leaders. I know much of my journey and growth is a direct result of the lessons I have learned from Margot. It is my hope after leaving Hamline to go out into the world and be even half of the leader, advocate and champion that Margot is. Margot, you mean so much to me and to my journey, and I am so honored to have had the pleasure of working with you and getting to know you. Thank you for everything you do for Catalyst.

In addition, this trip definitely would not have been possible without my student co-leader Maleni. Maleni, you have been such an amazing person to work with and plan this trip with, and I could not have asked for a better source of support during this process. I feel like Maleni and I have held each other up and have empowered one another to be the greatest leaders we can be, and I am very fortunate to have such a good friend and genuinely good person as a partner. Maleni, I know that you are going to do so many good things in this world, and I am very excited to see where your passions and talents take you. I know it will be far.

Thank you 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 D.C. Catalyst trips, thank you Margot, thank you Maleni, THANK YOU Wesley Center, and thank you friends and families of all Catalyst trips and participants.

I want to conclude by saying that this certainly is not the end. I know that though my time at Hamline is ending and my time as a student on Catalyst trips is ending, the work will not end, the need will not end, and the drive will not end. I am very excited for the next steps, and I feel very confident that my Catalyst experiences have prepared me well to take these steps. It is with a very heavy heart that I say goodbye to Hamline and Catalyst, but I am motivated, hopeful, and optimistic to continue this journey.

Let the journey continue… :)


Be the change you want to see

How do you see the world? I see it as a place where there is a big gap between the rich and the poor. I see it as a place where peace doesn't exist; there is a lot of violence. I see it as a place where discrimination happens and ignorance occurs. It is a sad place to be in. I also see it as a place where people are helping other people despite the different classes. There are people who care. I see it as a place where people come together to promote peace and justice. There are people who are just. I see it as a place where people accepts one another despite their identities. There are people who understands. It is a great place to be in. How do you want to see the world? I want to see people coming together to create a community where segregation doesn't occur, where there is a welcoming environment, where there are no violence, where anyone could be who they want to be without barriers tying them back, where everyone has equal opportunities to thrive, where education is an option, where everyone has a roof over their head, food to eat, and clothes to wear without being discriminated. I want to see unity, respect, understanding, peace, and love. What can you do in order to see the world you'd like to see? Understand and accept who you are and what you want to do. Be the leader you want to see and promote other leaders. Don't give up hope in yourself or in humanity. Be the change you want to see in the world and set examples. -Sandy Lo

Thursday, March 27, 2014

D.C Catalyst Trip Day Six: Law

Hello World!

So today is Thursday Day 6. We venture off to a new journey of our day. We woke up at 7:00am, pack a lunch and got breakfeast. Left to the metro/bus to our new destination: Martha's Table. Click link to find out  out more : 

Arriving to Martha's table we helped carried boxes and set up tables of food and distribute them to people.
Photos below to portray what we done:

After helping with Martha's table. My group went to Capital Area Food Bank Click link to find out more  from there our task was to box, tape, and separate food.  
After this we went back to the hostel where dinner was prepared for us spaghetti made by the Maleni, Zoe, Erica, Gordy & Patrica. The meal was delicious. My rating: 10/10. Great job!

We then had our reflection and talked about our days, play games and had a great bonding time together. Share laughs and smile :) As our reflection was done we went off to Froyo to grab us some delicious, amazing, & awesome yogurt. After Froyo we were split up to go to any destination we want. My group went to cruise around Chinatown.

Thanks and have a great night! I am looking forward to Day 7: Friday.

Day 6 Melissa

Wow, we're already six days into the trip and so far it has been a whirlwind of experience-- ups and downs, rights and lefts, Ks and Js and Ps and Os and 11ths and 12ths and New Yorks and Connecticuts and Pennsylvanias... (navigating the DC streets has proven to be quite a chore).

 Our service experiences have been inspiring and life-changing, but what has really defined those experiences for me was the 48-hour Homeless Challenge. Each step, each hour, taught me so much about humanity, the way people work, and what it means to be in a privileged socioeconomic situation-- because even though I am by no means wealthy, being middle class and able to live a fairly comfortable life (having access to a bed, shelter, food when I'm hungry, a shower, an education) equates to me as a large privilege over sleeping in the streets and begging for money because I simply have no other option in order to survive. My socioeconomic situation may not always seem a privilege to me as I walk DC and see well-dressed government officials and CEO's running around with their Starbucks and fancy briefcases, and my privilege may not be as extreme as theirs, but middle class is still privilege, and having been on the challenge and recognizing that privilege has made me so grateful for the things I have, until recently, taken for granted.

And the thing is, sometimes living in that privileged situation allows for the freedom to focus on little unimportant bad things that happen in life and between humans. It's a privilege to have brain space to worry about small things. Don't get me wrong, while I was homeless many more faults in humanity were exposed to me, but what stuck out even more to me was the pure goodness that exists within humanity. Never before have I lived for a consecutive 48 hours solely at the hands of humanity's generosity. Never before have I been so reliant on other people's goodness. The money given to me while panhandling, the lady who let me borrow a pen at her convenience store, my guide, Anthony, who called for more blankets as I laid in an alley shivering and crying, the men and women driving the Martha's Table van who gave me an extra sweatshirt and sweatpants, treated me like a human being, and gave me food, the other people experiencing homelessness who offered me advice and their stories, my partner, Patricia, for stress-laughing with me, and my partner, Lauren, for being my pain buddy and riding the bus with me when our joints hurt too much to walk, the 19-year-old girl I met in the upstairs bathroom of the library who told me her heartbreaking story of foster care and women's shelters and who made the terrible reality of homelessness and suffering youth so real for me in a way no other person could have, the people who shook my hand as I left the church on Sunday morning and everybody else that is escaping my mind now-- each one of the people behind each of those blessings proved to me that humanity is more than designer clothes and bumping elbows, more than fancy jobs and pristine apartments--and the wanting of those things. Being a member of humanity is about standing next to each other in support and pain and humor and realizing that we are all in this life together-- no person less than or greater than the other. Each situation is only a situation, a trap only if we are alone in it--which we absolutely never, ever are if we look close enough. Being a human is about more than tucking ourselves safely inside of our own privilege and never daring to venture out and recognize the vast amount of systematic benefits that we somehow unjustly have received and how messed up that actually is. Being a human is about recognizing that privilege, and working hard to extend that privilege to others, even if that means we have to give up a little of our own. That whole extending our privilege, extending our hand, and being generous thing, that's love. Being a human is about being the walking vision of love.

This is where the organizations we have been volunteering for come in, as each place stands as a reaching hand into the hopelessness and loneliness that is homelessness. Volunteering at Martha's Market, SOME (So Others Might Eat), A Wider Circle, DC Central Kitchen, Bread for the City, as well as everywhere else, has even furthered my belief in the goodness that is the human race. As we help at each of these places in whatever way we can, I am reminded that absolutely anybody can support a good thing-- and that's where our power lies as volunteers: we get to decide what matters and what organizations we want to support with our time. By volunteering at the organizations we are volunteering at, we are making a statement to the world that we stand firmly on the side of goodness and justice, firmly on the side of ending homelessness and eradicating poverty.

As Sandy put so gracefully in reflection this afternoon, all we really need to do is "show up" and we are well on our way to making a difference. I hope that is what we've been doing this week--"showing up" in a city plagued with an overwhelming amount of people experiencing homelessness and helping in whatever way we can to minimize homelessness in the short amount of time we're here.

I am so excited to see where our last day of service tomorrow will lead, and feel so grateful to have been able to spend my break learning and serving. It has been a privilege in and of itself.


Hey from DC- McKenzie

Hey all!

So today was probably my favorite day of the whole trip.  We woke up a little later than normal, actually got to eat breakfast at the hostel, and then set-up and served the homeless population of DC through Martha's Market.

We hopped on a bus, got to Martha's Table, and headed up to the gym to set up the Market.  There were people lined up outside all waiting to get in before the trucks were even there! It was great to be able to do all of the grunt set up work and then actually serve the people.  We greeted everyone with tea, smiles, and good mornings! I even got to throw in a little bit of Spanish knowledge.  Thank goodness I remembered the words for hot and cold!

After we finished up there, my group went to the Capital Area Foodbank to sort food.  Rayla and I had a ton of energy and were willing to help with everything! It was fun for a while but I could see how it would get a little long volunteering there.

We all met back at the hostel for a great spaghetti dinner and a good reflection.  We decided we needed some FroYo after our 4 o'clock dinner and basically ran there!  And of course shopping followed..

Anyway, goodnight!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Rayla Post

After looking back at the homeless challenge I realized how much mental and physical pain homeless people go through. I don't think words will be able to describe how much pain all of our bodies are in right... our feet, legs, and backs feel awful. As far as the mental pain after eight hours of being homeless I began feeling awful the way people on the street would look at us was so rude and degrading. The homeless challenged changed my life in many ways and helped me gain a understanding of what it is possibly like to be homeless. 
 We all are extremely exhausted and even though this trip is life changing I can't wait to go home and see my family. 

- Rayla