Trip coordinator and chaperone Kit Beaudouin ’72 (Hiatt Center Director of Community Engagement) reports:
Upon our arrival on Friday (March 12), we prepared, served and ate a meal with local homeless clients. After an enjoyable time of socializing, we then had a speaker from homeless services in the city. She shared stories and statistics from her years of work. We spent Friday night in the church sanctuary of the Quaker meetinghouse in Union Square.
Saturday brought a rainstorm, but we were excited to go off in our small groups with our new friends from Al-Noor to volunteer all over the city with programs addressing food and housing issues. Groups worked preparing meals in large soup kitchens, serving as many as 400 people, and sorting and distributing food in food pantries. After a closing reflection, we headed to Brooklyn to the Al-Noor School, where we had a wonderful dinner, and an evening of singing, dancing and talking late into the night. (The trip was intentionally all-female out of respect for the gender separation at Al-Noor, where we spent Saturday night.)
Following are excerpts from student reflections:
I will continue to think about the differences between the Muslim girls we met and the way Muslim people are portrayed in the media.
The statistics of homelessness in NYC (40, 000) are shocking. This becomes real when you talk to homeless people like we did.
We helped over 900 people in our two days of service.
There was an intimacy in talking with people who are homeless. Boundaries were broken. They were intelligent, fun and it was just so human.
I was appalled to learn about government cuts to homeless services. As upsetting as it is, I am glad to be informed about the cuts.
Perfect combination of cultural, service and fun.
Was not sure if we would have anything in common with Muslim girls, but we totally did.
I have a different and more realistic perception of what it is like to be a Muslim in the United States.
I had a preconception that the Muslim girls would be reserved, but that was not true.
I loved the huge girly slumber party.
The sleepover at Al-Noor was the highlight for me. We were able to share our cultures and teach each other things that you don’t learn in school.
I learned so much; like how to belly dance, and about Muslim culture — the clothes, the food, and the girls’ viewpoint on conflicts occurring right now in the Middle East.
This trip allowed me to further my journey towards open-mindedness, and will impact my choices in terms of my preconceived perceptions of others.
I will think about the staggering number of homeless people on the street, and about how great it is that there are so many amazing programs and organizations helping out little by little. I also will think about how protective some of the parents of the Al-Noor girls are; many of the girls were not allowed to sleepover at the school, although it was only girls. It really surprised me. It truly shows the difference in culture and the way people are raised.
I will definitely not be one of those people who pass a homeless person on the street and “pretends” that they are not there or ignores them. In the future, when I run into a homeless person on the street I will smile, and if I have some spare change I will give it to them, but if not then I will at least say hi and that I am sorry but I have no spare change. The most important thing is to be friendly and acknowledge someone, and not make them feel like they are nothing. I never tried to ignore them but I never smiled either and in the future I would like to smile and be more kind to these people who are unfortunately living on the street.