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Mission Trip 2009: Project Hospitality in NYC

    Early in the month of August, nine senior high youth along with three adults from the congregation traveled down to Staten Island in New York City for this year's Mission Trip. There they worked with an organization called Project Hospitality, an interfaith organization dedicated to feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and caring for people with HIV/AIDS.

   
To report back to the congregation about their experiences, the youth ran the worship service on Sunday August 23rd. Below is an excerpt from their presentation, and to the right is a video slideshow that was presented during the service.



   
All of us had a variety of expectations before arriving on Staten Island. We knew that we would be helping people by working in a food pantry and a soup kitchen. We expected to work hard, but it ended up being so much more.


    We discovered that we were working for a wonderful organization called Project Hospitality, otherwise known as PH. This organization has completely devoted itself to the homeless and other needy people on Staten Island. PH is amazing on many levels. They serve the community in a large number of ways: they provide food, shelter, counseling, and medical assistance to anyone who needs it. They offer their clients respectful, non-judgmental treatment no matter what their circumstances are. They are especially committed to HIV/AIDS clients.

    The bulk of our work was conducted on Bay Street at the food pantry where food and meals are provided to clients. Clients may utilize the food pantry once a month and meals are provided twice weekly. Our work included assisting clients with their food selections from the food pantry, carrying their groceries, and stocking the pantry. We also helped prepare and serve meals for the clients. Most of the clients were very grateful for our presence and thanked us for being there.

    Work was also done at two other locations: the Hospitality Center and the Drop-In Center. The Hospitality Center is a building where single mothers and their children fleeing from abuse can reside. The Drop-In Center is a place where homeless people can come and get a hot meal, check their mail, and receive other services.

    On Tuesday and Wednesday we were privileged to hear the life stories of four different clients. They shared their stories of homelessness, substance abuse, and what it's like living with HIV. They shared their struggles and their successes; their stories touched our hearts.

    Universally, the one thing that we did not expect was the personal connections that we made with the volunteers and people who work at PH. Many of the volunteers are people who had been helped by PH. They realize that they owe their lives to the project and desired to give back. We had the privilege of working with and beside these people. It was these people who had a profound effect on us all.

    From this experience we learned that:
  • Often the clients' situations are unavoidable
  • People with HIV/AIDS and/or who are homeless are really not too unlike us. We recognized that we held a stereotypical image of the homeless
  • Some of these unfortunate people had as great a start at life as we all have had
  • People should not be judged by what they have or what they look like
  • Everyone's individual life journey is important
  • Everyone has feelings no matter what their plight
  • Materialistic things are really not all that valuable
  • And finally, in the words of Tony, a volunteer at PH, we learned: "you are in charge of your own decisions, no matter what your life experience, and people do care even if you think they don't. We can all make an impact in a positive or negative way and not even realize it"

Many thanks to Dianne and Leanne for assembling everyone's pictures into a wonderful slideshow.

Please note that many pictures of the work sites and clients have been withheld out of respect for the clients and the difficult situations they are in.

For more information about Project Hospitality you can visit their website:
http://www.projecthospitality.org/