There was time to read through several homeowner stories as I waited for the volunteer shift to start at the Habitat for Humanity South Hampton Roads ReStore (HFH-SH) in Norfolk, VA.
I learned of single moms working multiple jobs to make enough to put food on the table and care for their children.
I read a story of a family forced out of their apartment by rent increases. Another family struggled to move to a safe neighborhood to get away from gun violence and drug gangs. One family, unable to secure affordable financing, was forced to live with relatives in crowded conditions. Read more
Pockets of rain passed overhead on the 2 mile walk to the Environmental Defense Center’s (EDC) headquarters in Santa Barbara, California. It is impossible to ignore the breathtaking beauty of the area… even in the rain.
Behind me spread peaceful, wide beaches, shaped by the waves of thousands of years. Before me rose the undulating foothills of the imposing and majestic Santa Ynez Mountains, its tops hidden by thick shreds of clouds. Santa Barbara is nestled here, in this oasis. Read more
At just about 2:00 a.m. Danielle and I realized our roof was leaking. We’d been battling the rain for the past two hours, huddled inside our cardboard shelter with a dusty tarp as our ceiling. It was 50 degrees and everything around us had slowly become wet as the rain seeped in – our blankets, our clothes.
A bit exhausted and definitely uncomfortable, we made the decision to dismantle our section of the cardboard city and head inside to the church atrium. Over 575 people had come to participate in Liquid Church’s Homeless Church event. Read more
Jerry Walker is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to protecting, supporting and encouraging his students to succeed in life! A four-time High School All American and collegiate basketball standout and a product of the tough city streets of Jersey City, he returned to his Jersey City community to found TEAM WALKER in 1996.
As with many mid-sized cities in America, Jersey City, New Jersey (pop. Close to 250,000) is undergoing a revitalization. Certain areas have been reclaimed and rebuilt with skyscrapers full of businesses and world headquarters, fancy new apartments and condos, green parks and great views of the water and the NYC skyline. The change-over in those areas have displaced long-term, low-income families and manufacturing plants. Woven between these pockets of glitter and glam are a mix of middle-class neighborhoods and old-city streets with dilapidated houses and high levels of poverty and crime. Read more
Volunteering while traveling allows you to peek behind the curtain of a community to get to know its inner heart. It provides a uniquely un-touristy look at the local culture through the eyes of residents who are passionate about supporting, protecting and enhancing their corner of the world and the humanness that exists within it. For a brief moment in time you participate in their story and become part of the strength, compassion and resilience which makes their community thrive. Read more
“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves” reads a quote in the volunteer kit. I was reading up ahead of my scheduled day at Mane Stream, an adaptive horsemanship and equine therapy center in Oldwick, NJ. I would quickly learn that Mane Stream was much more than a therapeutic program. It is a community of joy and healing. The special staff, therapists and volunteers who work at Mane Stream light up the lives of their patients and their families.
In the movie The Never Ending Story, Bastian learns the power of imagination….
Empress Moonchild: One grain of sand. It is all that remains of my vast empire.
Bastian: Fantasia has totally disappeared?
Empress Moonchild: Yes.
Bastian: Then everything has been in vain.
Empress Moonchild: No, it hasn’t. Fantasia can arise in you. In your dreams and wishes Bastian.
Empress Moonchild: Open your hand.
She puts the grain of sand into his hand and he looks at it…
Empress Moonchild: What are you going to wish for?
Bastian: I don’t know.
Empress Moonchild: Then there will be no Fantasia any more.
Bastian: How many wishes do I get?
Empress Moonchild: As many as you want. And the more wishes you make, the more magnificent Fantasia will become.
Empress Moonchild: Try it.
Bastian: Then my first wish is…
Moonchild follows his gaze and smiles…
The first question is usually, “How hot was it?” And I’m never quite sure how to explain it in a way that makes sense. Think about sitting in a sauna fully clothed and in work boots. Then think about playing soccer and football, digging trenches and sifting gravel in that sauna. For 8 hours. That’s pretty much the physical experience. But that does not convey how happy you are. That the heat only really registers occasionally, when you’ve hit the wall of exhaustion. Otherwise, you are feeling fulfilled in a way you just don’t feel in your everyday life.
Sometimes charity work puts you in contact with people and places you’ll never have the opportunity to see first-hand. Even without that first-hand contact, these interactions can become a path towards broadening your understanding of humanity and learning more about this amazing world. Such was my connection with The Arctic Eider Society, a non-profit working with Inuit and Cree communities in the far Northern Canadian Greater Hudson Bay area. Their focus is on understanding environmental changes and working with local communities to address food security, safety and environmental stewardship in this critical and understudied region of the arctic. Read more