Tag Archives: Philanthropy

Going Head2Head to Combat Childhood Poverty in New Zealand

3 Aug

Finally, after much searching, I found a wonderful volunteer project in New Zealand. Due to the dates I’m here, and most requirements by local agencies and organizations that I commit six-months to their project, well, it’s been a challenge. So while I didn’t get hands on this time, Paul Dickson from Head2Head Charity was nice enough to take me on a tour of one of their projects and tell me more about the organization which he founded.

On the day Paul and I met he took me to meet the folks at Papatoetoe-West School, an elementary school catering mostly to students (ages 5-11) from lower-income households. It was there that I met 10-year-old Oscar who, along with some friends, proudly showed me the mock-up of a hen-house which he designed. Oscar’s class was challenged to design the perfect hen-house (also known as a chicken coop) and draw the plans. The next step was to go home and gather materials lying around and build their hen-house. Oscar worked hard gathering materials and working, through trial-and-error, to construct his house. His materials included an empty cocoa powder carton, plastic from a water-bottle, wood, a tin can, and discarded plastic tubing. The kids all brought their hen-houses to school, voted for the best design, and Oscar’s won. Once the school can gather the materials, including obtaining some donated lumber, they’ll ask the school’s grounds-keeper to build it to house the hens which they hope to get. Oscar’s hen-house design includes a rainwater gathering system, a comfortable indoor area, and even an outdoor play area with a retractable cover so, as Oscar explains, “the hens can play outside even when it’s raining!” It’s important for hens to play.Hen HouseThis is all part of a national environmental studies program, called Enviroschools, which Papatoetoe joined approximately a year-and-a-half ago. With the help of Head2Head Charity, the school now has garden-beds located Greenhousearound the grounds, as well as a greenhouse, gardening equipment, a composting box and more. The kids spend time tending their gardens each week while learning about horticulture. “Kids love getting their hands dirty,” says Paul Dickson, founder of Head2Head Charity.

Head2HeadHead2Head raises money to sponsor deserving and under-supported organizations and projects. It began in 2012, when Paul organized a simple fund-raising walk to combat childhood poverty. Paul was working in the Geo Thermal field when he and some work colleagues decided to organize the 125km walk around Manukau Harbour in Auckland, New Zealand. With the success of the first walk, Paul became hooked on being a do-gooder and quit his job to establish Head2Head Charity. The next year, in order to draft more participants, the 125km was changed to a relay.

Thus far, the Head2Head Walk has raised over NZ$40,000 by over 150 participants. And Papatoetoe has isn’t its only benefactor. Head2Dead is committed to helping with creative solutions to child poverty in New Zealand wherever they may be. The next step for the Papatoetoe-West School, its Garden-to-Table program, will be implemented soon. A kitchen is being built and the kids will learn how to harvest their fruits and vegetables, and prepare and cook them. Not only will they learn about cooking, but also table manners and social-skills. Head2Head could sure use some volunteers to help with this part. As Paul says, “There’s almost no point growing all this stuff if there’s no one around to help teach them what to do with it.” As well as volunteers, donations of kitchen equipment will gladly be accepted.

School gardenIt’s clear to see the pride the kids take in their gardens. Gardening is just a part of what the kids learn in this program. They also learn patience, a sense of ownership, teamwork, and follow-through.

gardenWhen I asked Paul what Head2Head needs most he told me, for now, it’s volunteers. While Paul quit his job to establish Head2Head, he takes no salary (other than the 100 hours he’s billed at $10 per hour to cover a small part of his time), as he wants as much as possible to go to the projects. But he’s a one-man show and could really use some helping hands. Donations of cash and supplies would also be fantastic. Hubbard Foods has become a corporate sponsor for the Head2Head Charity Walk but there is room for many more.

Head2Head is the little fish in a big pond of much larger charities. What sets it apart from many is that you can actually see the difference your money and assistance are making. Another difference is that Head2Head is committed to two major issues; childhood poverty and environmental education. It’s a worthy charity which could use, and would greatly appreciate, any help offered.

Want to help out? Contact Paul at Head2Head at this E-mail address: paul@head2head.org.nz

If you want to donate some kitchen equipment to the school, please contact Principal Diana Tregoweth at dianat@pap-west.school.nz

 

 

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A Special School for Special People in Bali

29 Apr

If you’re a regular reader, you know that Rebel-With-A-Cause is part of a larger project called www.DropMeAnywhere.com where readers choose where I travel to without a plan. This time, the readers have chosen to drop me in Bali, Indonesia. It was there that I had the chance to volunteer with a wonderful organization helping to change the lives of some special people. It’s in Ubud, a town in Bali, and it serves a community that can use all the help it can get; the mentally disabled.

It’s called Sjaki-Tari-Us and it’s a school for mentally disabled children and teens. Sjaki-Tari-Us is the brainchild of Thais and Karen van Harte. Thais and his twin brother Sjaki are the children of a Dutch father and an Indonesian mother and, while they grew up in The Netherlands, they visited Bali often as children and adults.

As Thais and his wife Karen had a child, Tari, who was born Down’s Syndrome, they and their friends decided to investigate the quality of special education services while on a visit to Bali. What they found was not great. While there are schools for these kids, the teachers aren’t trained in special ed. and students must meet minimum requirements such as a measured IQ of 55. If they don’t meet the qualifications, they have no opportunity to receive an education.

face paintingI visited Sjaki-Tari-Us on King’s Day, a day of celebration in the Netherlands and therefore, a day a celebration at Sjaki-Tar-Us. The early morning was spent in the classroom with five and six year-olds, where they learned how to introduce themselves, how to say the date and worked on writing letters of the alphabet. Beginning in the late-morning, a party was underway with sack-races, ring-tosses and face-painting. Just like other kids, these kids need both structure and physical activity and the staff at Sjaki Tari-Us provides just the right balance.

Thais and Karen founded Sjaki-Tari-Us in 2006 and named it after Thais’ brother, Sjaki, who died in 2002, Thais and Karen’s daughter, Tari, and Us, as in all of us. The first school was located in Singaraja and they soon opened one in Ubud. While the Ubud school is the larger of the two, both schools are still currently operating. The Singaraje school has five full-time teachers, twenty-five smaller children and three teens, while the Ubud school currently has seven teachers, twenty-five to thirty younger students and thirteen teenagers. Interns from Holland work at both schools as part of their university program

InternsSjaki-Tari-Us provides education to all. Parents can choose to enroll their struggling kids here with the goal of getting them qualified for the special education governmental schools within a few years. If a child does not qualify for the government run schools, they’re welcome to stay at Sjaki-Tari-Us. There is a small, one-time fee for the first school T-shirt and shorts, and then it is free to attend. And if a family can’t afford the initial fee, they won’t be turned down.

ClassroomThe youngest kids – up to eight years old – participate in “Play-Learn Groups” which provide two to three lessons each the morning and include play as part of the educational process, as these kids tend to learn differently than thers. Kids are split into groups depending on their disability and ability to learn and sit still.

The program for teenagers concentrates more on life-skills such as personal hygiene and job training, which they can use working in the on-site restaurant, of which all profits go back to the school. They’re also taught craft skills which are common in Bali and are sold at the Sjaki-Tari-Us gift shop in order to help support the school. Teenagers also have the chance to play sports which helps them socialize, learn teamwork and increase their fitness levels.

Finally, they offer a “Teach the Teacher Program” which educates Balinese teachers on teaching those with mental disabilities. Knowledge is then passed on from teacher to teacher and adds to the wealth of information and understanding about people with special needs.

StudentsSjaki-Tari-Us is supported by the original foundation and the on-site gift shop and restaurant, as well as private donations. While the school is happy to accept school supplies, money is the best gift, as it can be used for a variety of needs from gas for the small shuttle bus which picks up students from further out whose parents have no transportation, to cleaning supplies, to paying the minimal staff in the restaurant, to funding for field trips. And if you’re ever in Bali, they’d love for you to visit one of their schools take a tour or eat at the restaurant. By helping these special people live up to their full potential, the people at Sjaki-Tari-Us are doing important work and all support is greatly appreciated.

To find out more about Sjaki-Tari-Us, and how you can help, visit their website at http://www.sjakitarius.nl/

Also check out their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SjakiTariUs

Tutoring Refugee Kids in Malaysia

11 Apr

His name is Rohollah. He’s 17 years-old and was born in Iran; he and his family then moved to Afghanistan. Fearing for their lives, in March they fled Afghanistan and were temporarily resettled in Malaysia. Rohollah is very smart, but it’s tough adapting to a new country after escaping a country at war; especially when you don’t speak the language. Rohollah attends Pandawas Academy, a school for refugee children in Kuala Lumpur. Pandawas Academy employs five teachers, only one of whom speaks English as their primary language. The school charges no fees, which is a great thing because, while these families were all settled through the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), they receive no financial or educational assistance.

I had the pleasure of tutoring Rohollah, one-on-one, for two-hours one recent Saturday. Tutoring was organized by the volunteer group Let’s Tutor a Refugee Child which I found through Facebook (see link at the end of this article).

Each Saturday volunteers show up at the school to offer tutoring to some of the child refugees who have been temporarily resettled in Malaysia. While this group has been assisting at the Pandawas Academy for over a year, they’re now planning to search for another school to help, as there are many others in even more desperate need.

Volunteers for RefugeesVolunteers arrive at 11:30am where they then meet to find out more about the organization, as well as the structure for the next couple of hours. This group has an international group of volunteers from Germany, America, Malaysia, Australia, England and more. They’re either living in Kuala Lumpur or visiting temporarily. Upon arrival, volunteers meet in the office while students in the warehouse-like classroom are assigned a desk number where they take their seats. At 12:00, volunteers are asked to choose a piece of paper with a number  on it and head over to the desk with their corresponding number. There they find their student, along with some basic school books and a notebook. In the back of the notebook they find the notes on that student which previous tutors have written. As volunteers are not required to commit to coming every week, the children tend to work with a variety of volunteers.

Though the concentration is teachingEnglish, the students and tutors also work on math and science. Still everyone recognizes that the kids need to learn English in order to thrive in Malaysia, or wherever they eventually end up.

Though Rohollah is 17-years old, the books he is using are for five to eight year-olds as Pandawas Academy works with students of a variety of ages, yet funding for books is limited. While not the perfect tool, it’s fine to teach English. Unfortunately, his math and science books are at the same grade level. And while languages vary from country to country, math and science are the same wherever you go. His math book offers basic arithmetic, but Rohollah knows Geometry. I spend part of a day during the next week buying books for all the kids, but especially some math books for Rohollah which, while not completely up to his level (they’re difficult to find at everyday book stores), are definitely more advanced than his current ones.

The final half-hour of our two hours working with the children is allotted to games. When the whistle blows, the students go running to the game desks where they find Connect Four, Chess and Checkers, card games and more. They return to their desks to teach their tutors their favorite games. Many have missing pieces but the kids don’t seem to mind. They’re just happy to have games to play. Volunteers have also begun smaller tutoring groups which teach photography, music, football and chess.

On May 9th, Let’s Tutor a Refugee Child will be holding a fund-raising event at the Bentley Music Auditorium, in Kuala Lumpur, in which attendees can receive advice from top Malaysian investment experts. Tickets to this event are for sale through the contact below and proceeds will be distributed amongst some of the schools for refugees in Kuala Lumpur. They will ask the UNHCR to advise them on the ones most in need. Information on this fund-raiser, as well as volunteering and other ways to help this great group of volunteers is on their Facebook page.

If you’re in Malaysia, they’d love to have you come meet the kids and teach for a few hours. There’s no long-term commitment, but you might just find yourself wanting to return. (I did!) It’s rewarding work with people who are making a difference.

To find out more, please visit the Facebook page Let’s Tutor a Refugee Child

Visit the Pandawas Academy Facebook page to find out more about the school and how you can help at https://www.facebook.com/pandawasacademy/timeline

To find out how to secure your ticket to their fundraising event please write to jessica.wee@cimb.com

Hungry in Hungary

9 Feb

Once upon a time there were three travelers who came to town hungry, yet had no food. The villagers were unwilling to share their food with the hungry strangers, so the travelers went down to the river, filled a pot with water and dropped in a large stone. They placed it over a fire and, when asked what they were doing, they explained that they were making stone soup and would be happy to share it when it’s cooked. They told one villager that, while they had the best recipe for stone soup, it would be much better with a few extra ingredients. Before long, a villager brought over some carrots to go into the soup. Then someone else showed up with some herbs to drop in the pot. After that, someone added some meat. Before long, the “stone soup” had turned into a full and hearty meal.

FoodIn the central part of District 7 in the heart of Budapest, is a restaurant called Köleves. Translated, it means Stone Soup. Köleves is one of many local restaurants in Budapest’s District 7 who are working with Heti Betevö, a local charity, to help feed the hungry.

It’s funny, most everywhere I travel, one of the most common volunteer opportunities I find is feeding the homeless and/or hungry. Perhaps funny isn’t quite the right word as, well, it’s sad that this need is so common. But it’s not all doom and gloom as, also wherever I go, I find caring people, not only willing, but eager to help.

Today I found those needy and caring people through the Facebook page of Heti Betevö, Loosely translated Heti Betevö means “weekly good food staples,” which is exactly what they provide. Well, that and perhaps a little pick-me-up to show those in need that others care about them.

FruitHeti Betevö is the brainchild of Bandi and his friends. One day Bandi, a cook at Kisüzem, a restaurant in District 7, began speaking with his friends about how much food waste there is in the restaurant business. They all understood that, as in many large cities, there are people living on the Volunteersstreets (and in Budapest, also in the forest). And even if people do have the most basic flat, many can’t afford food. Many of us have had these same conversations and commented that someone should do something about it. Well, these people did. About a year ago, they started preparing food out of Kisüzem and serving it in the square out front. Before long, word spread.

These days, fifteen-to-twenty people meet every Sunday at 12:00noon at Kisüzem, which is used as a staging area. Various restaurants in the area take turns cooking the hot food which is then collected by volunteers. People drop by bringing fruit, cakes, loaves of bread and candy. After two-hours the sliced-bread, polished fruit, hot food, and coffee and tea are carried outside to the square where there’s a growing line of two-hundred people patiently waiting for what might be their only hot meal of the week.

Budapest Hete Betevo Crowd“We don’t need to ask who they are or why they’re here,” says Hajnalka, one of the regular volunteers. “If they’re hungry, we should feed them.”

Budapest Hete Betevo ManEach week, a different person is designated to lead the team. They assign different food stations and crowd control areas to volunteers and make sure all food is brought out and trash is collected following service. And Köleves and Kisüzem aren’t the only restaurants involved. While Kisüzem acts as the staging area each week, many other restaurants in the area trade-off cooking duties.

Budapest Heti Betevo Donation JarIn addition, you can find Hete Betevö’s collection jars at over forty-businesses in the area. The change people drop in is used to buy food, napkins, plastic-wear, cups and other supplies. And two-weeks ago, Hete Betevö became an official non-profit and can now accept financial donations in the form of checks or cash directly to them. They hope to expand to other parts of the city where they see great need.

Budapest Hete Betevo Carole servingI was lucky enough to join them and their wonderful group of volunteers this past weekend and, as I’ll be in Budapest for at least the next few weeks, I plan to join them again. If you’re in Budapest, they would love for you to share just a few hours of your week with them. All volunteers are welcome and, trust me on this, you’ll meet amazing people and walk away with an incredible Budapest Heti Betevo Logomemory of your visit.

Click here for their Facebook Page in order to contact them or find out more

And, if you’re looking for a great organization to donate money or food to, please consider these people who saw a need and decided to act on it.

A Living History Museum Providing Training for Successful Living in the Future

19 Jan

Living History MuseumDo historical museums bore you? Walking from room-to-room seeing pieces of paper and objects from times long since passed, feeling cold and impersonal. What if a museum were more like theatre? If you could actually meet the people who the possessions belonged to and hear their stories? If this sounds interesting to you, well, I’ve found the perfect place. It’s called the Bremer Geschichtenhaus (Bremer Story House), in Bremen, Germany, and it’s not only a combination of a museum and live theatre, but most of the “employees” are either volunteers, or are found through “bras eV”, an employment and job-training agency (through governmental support) which works with the local government to help the jobless and homeless get back on their feet.

When people file for assistance they’re connected to bras eV which provides a variety of classes, training and life-planning programs. Their methodology for Life/Work Planning is based on “What, Where and How.” The “What” is an analysis of a person’s abilities based on a detailed biography. The “Where” helps them figure out in what industry and which companies they might like to work and be a good fit. And the “How” helps them research which companies have positions which might suit their interests and qualifications as well as understand which skills they need to further develop and how to go about applying successfully.

But where does the Bremer Geschichtenhaus fit in? In its most basic form, it gives employees what’s known as a “1 Euro Job.” While it pays only slightly more than €1, it’s the term used for a low-paying job that’s not meant to be permanent, but a transitional job to gain confidence and skills. And that’s what the Bremer Geschichtenhaus unquestionably does.

I met Herman who has worked there for exactly one-year. His journey began five-years ago when his father died. He was a truck driver and stayed home to take care of his mother. He lived with her until she went to a care facility which is when his brother stopped paying the rent on the rental house they were living in and Herman’s life began falling apart. He ended up homeless for four-months before seeking help at a mission. As is the norm, they housed him for six-months (it allows for people to get their heads together and try to get back on their feet on their own). After six-months his case-worker sent him to the museum. He enjoys what he does as he has interaction with visitors and learns new skills all the time. He plays the part of historical figures of Bremerhaven and likes performing a variety of roles which bring history to life.

I also had the opportunity to meet Silke who’s been working at the Bremer Geschichtenhaus for four months. After losing her job, her apartment and her boyfriend, all within a two-week period, her life also fell apart. She started working at the Bremer Geschichtenhaus in October and found it difficult at first. She felt overwhelmed by the regular schedule and expectations. This is a basic part of the training that the Bremer Geschichtenhaus provides – training people to stick to a regular schedule and be on time for work. It can be difficult when you’ve lost your self-esteem.

The Bremer Geschichtenhaus, which opened in 2006, is the brainchild of business partners Sara and Mick. Prior to opening the Geschichtenhaus, Sara worked in theatre as a director. When she was approached to be a part of the Geschichtenhaus, she thought it was a crazy idea that just might work. She decided to take a chance and join in the project to open a living history museum which could entertain and inform while assisting to help those in need. It was a win/win situation. While Sara handles the performance side, Mick deals with the business side including the partnership with the bras job center. They also employ three other full time people who help run the place.

Coffee MerchantThe shows cover the time period from 1635 until just before WWI. The performers tell the stories of the characters they portray who might be a coffee-maker, for which Bremen is well-known, or Heini Holtenbeen, who walked with a pronounced limp due to an accident. As he could no longer complete his apprenticeship, he made a career out of collecting the discarded stubs of cigars in the market square and selling the tobacco as pipe tobacco. You’ll “meet” the adventurous fish merchant, Fish Lucie, as well as Bremen’s most famous poisoner, Gifts Gottfried. Known as the “Angel of Bremen” she was convicted of poisoning fifteen people using arsenic-laced butter and her execution was the last public one held in the square. The stories are informative and entertaining with a little comedy thrown in. And audience members can actually ask the characters questions about their lives and the times. On Fridays they have shows in English.

The museum receives approximately 30% of its funding through paid admissions and pays 30% of the wages to employees referred through bras, while bras pays the rest.

The Bremer Geschichtenhaus is located in the heart of the Schnoor District of Bremen and welcomes visitors daily. They also have programs for school groups as well as catered private parties. They appreciate volunteers to help with general administrative duties, guest relations, catering and even performing. And they’re grateful for any donations which assist in operating costs such as costuming, laundry, rent and general needs. Please visit their website listed below for all information.

Bremer Geschichtenhaus website: http://www.bremer-geschichtenhaus.de/

Bremer Geschichtenhaus website (in English): http://translate.google.de/translate?hl=en&sl=de&u=http://www.bremer-geschichtenhaus.de/&prev=search

To donate or volunteer, please contact: fruchtmann-bras-bremen.de

Are you in Bremen, Germany, and need help getting back on your feet? Contact: http://bras-bremen.de/

Celebrating Pride

17 Aug

I’ve always been a big supporter of equal rights. Not gay rights, not women’s rights, not African American or Latino or any other groups’ rights. Simply equal rights for all. On this last Drop Me Anywhere trip, I had the unique opportunity to support people who just want to be treated equally. I worked with ILoveLimerick.com and their film crew spending four hours running around Limerick, Ireland filming scenes for a promotional video announcing the 2014 Limerick Pride Festival.

FilmingHow did Limerick Pride come about? Well, it began with the decriminalization of homosexuality in Ireland in 1993 (unbelievably recent). But due to violence and the general non-acceptance of people who identify as LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer), there were no celebrations and it was generally not spoken about. Finally, in 2002, a weekend of events was held. It was small, but it was a beginning. In 2004, the first Pride Parade was held in Limerick with six people walking up O’Connell Street. Steadily it grew.

In 2007, the first Official Pride March was held and included Limerick Pride’s first float. Much different than the 2004 parade, this march also included the University of Limerick Students Union marching behind their banner, as well as an art exhibition. In 2008, Richard Lynch, Founder and Manager of ILoveLimerick.com joined the party and with him came mainstream involvement. By 2013, Limerick Pride had grown to a week-long event with an attendance of thousands.

I Love Limerick Richard Lynch

Richard Lynch, Celine, Madonna and Sheila

This year, Limerick Pride Week kicks off on August 24th with Pride in the Park, which will include a dog show, sports, kids’ entertainment and music, along with an official opening ceremony in the evening. It continues on Monday with HIV testing, and a presentation and discussion on hate crimes. Other events throughout the week include political debates, a wedding fair, sexual health, sexual empowerment and coming out workshops. But it’s not all serious business at Limerick Pride Week. There will be BINGO, a Mr. and Mrs. Gay Limerick contest, a “Twas the Night Before” party, Pridefest and, of course, the official Limerick Pride Parade, which takes place at 2:00pm on Saturday, August 30th. Limerick Pride Week has become so large that the events are too numerous to mention. Please click here for the full schedule.

Limerick Pride is a volunteer led, not for profit collective, working to promote positive visibility of LGBTQ people and their community in Limerick. The goal of the Limerick LGBTQ Pride Festival is to promote ‘EQUALITY, LOVE, DIVERSITY, CELEBRATION.’

Limerick Pride Promo Video Crew

Limerick Pride 2014 Promo Video Crew

You can find out more information about Limerick Pride and Pride Week at http://limerickpride.ie/

To learn more about ILoveLimeric.com please go to their website at http://www.ilovelimerick.ie/

Corresponding Drop Me Anywhere story of the filming at http://dropmeanywhere.com/2014/07/29/limerick-is-a-drag/

Limerick Pride Week 2014 will be celebrated August 24-August 31.

All photos copyright of Dolf Patijn 2014

Dignity, It’s What’s for Dinner

6 Jun Song Lyrics

 

When you think of a “soup kitchen” what comes to mind? A bunch of sad looking people carrying trays while making their way down a line while workers in net caps spoon ladles of food onto plastic plates? That’s exactly what Josie McCarthy disliked about them. Well, that and the name “soup kitchen.” “It’s their (the customers’) food too,” she says. “And they haven’t served soup since the 1940’s.”

On the last Drop Me Anywhere trip I had the honor of volunteering at The Dining Room, a restaurant serving those in a current state of poverty. Part of FOOD for Lane County’s Family Dinner Program, The Dining Room is a unique venue which serves the homeless population, or simply those having severe financial difficulty, in a respectful, restaurant-like atmosphere.

Josie McCarthy is the Program Manager of the Family Dinner Program and the catalyst for The Dining Room. FOOD for Lane County ran your typical soup kitchen out of a school in Eugene, Oregon until 2004 when they moved to their current location. While they had a new location, they were still struggling to serve the population they had hoped. In 2005, Josie was brought in to try to make it work. She fought for five years to turn the program from a soup kitchen to a restaurant model. The Dining Room began serving food in a restaurant atmosphere in 2010.

When guests arrive, they are given a reservation. When seats become available, they are invited in, five at a time, wherever they like and are immediately offered water, milk, juice or coffee. They are then offered a full meal with a main course and healthy side dishes. During their meal, a volunteer comes through with a dessert tray offering a variety of cakes and pies.

The Dining Room serves a variety of guests from families with young children to elderly people, including a 90 year-old woman with mental illness who lives on the streets and has been a customer for 9 years. The staff and volunteers really get to know their guests; Josie mentions that this woman has beautiful handwriting, but the woman has also expressed her embarrassment for where her life has ended up.

There are also quite a few success stories; guests love to come in and share their successes with the staff and volunteers, who love to hear them. Josie tells me of one woman, a widow in her late-fifties, who had lost her housing and was living in her car in the wintertime. She had a full-time job at a fast food restaurant but, as housing can be quite expensive in Eugene, she found herself homeless. She was working to save enough money for first and last month’s rent. She came to eat at The Dining Room and, when she returned to her car, she realized she had locked herself out. She returned to The Dining Room in distress as she couldn’t get into her “home.” The staff chipped in to hire a locksmith to gain access to her car. A few months later she came in and said, “Do you remember me?” Of course they did. She went on to tell them that she had found an apartment and wanted to let them how grateful she was for their help.

The food The Dining Room serves is provided through FOOD for Lane County. To improve the atmosphere, expired flowers are provided by Market of Choice and Trader Joe’s, and artwork painted by customers decorates the walls. As many of the homeless have dogs, The Dining Room provides crates outside and food for their guests’ canine companions.

IMG_1209

The Dining Room has 367 volunteers of which 25 per-day work to serve meals to those having financial challenges. Between them, they work 800 volunteer hours per month. The Dining Room is open Monday through Thursday from 1:00pm-4:00pm. During these hours they serve up to 300 people per day.

When asked what people can do if they want to help, Josie says that people should advocate for a restaurant model food site. No more soup kitchens. Her goal, she says, is “educating people that these people are their neighbors.” The only extra resources the restaurant model uses over the traditional soup kitchens is a few more volunteers. Oh, they could also use some silverware, paper towels, salt and pepper and hot sauce.

The first word that came to my mind during my day volunteering there was “dignity.” Often people feel that treating people less fortunate with less respect will encourage them to change their situation. Most of these people would like nothing more than to change their situation, but mental or physical health challenges, abusive home lives, loss of a job or simply bad decisions have landed them in an unfortunate situation. Besides the food, the respect provided by The Dining Room helps their guests in their fight to change their circumstances. As one customer put it, “The main ingredient in their food is kindness.”

To find out more about The Dining Room, go to their website at FOOD for Lane County Family Dinner Program. You can also find out more about FOOD For Lane County through this website.

Song Lyrics

 

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