Archive for February, 2012

Meeting the residents for the first time

A few nights ago I was asked to stay late and attend a meeting at the new James Widener Ray Homes building to tell them about the event we are planning. We (the development staff) were there just to announce that the main entrance doors would be closed off during the event but we winded up staying for the entire community meeting.

The way this building is set up it to actually build a community neighbordhood within the apartment building. It reminds me a lot of the community you would find in a college dorm. Inside the building is a fitness center, a library, a computer room, and a common area or community room. Project H.O.M.E. invites local chefs for cooking demonstrations a couple times a month and movie nights take place often. All of these little things really impressed me. It reminded me of a word I learned in Guatemala-Subsidiarity.

In other words, they didn’t just build this building, found poor people that needed a home, dropped them off and left them there. They provide these people with a home but act as a lifelong resource. At this meeting they listened to the people’s concerns, asked them what else–do THEY think–can help break the cycle of homelessness. One man raised his hand and said that there are people who are homeless and not visible. They don’t hang out on busy street corners, but maybe in the woods. He had friends who suffered from mental illness and drug addition who spent in the woods in the dead of winter. I thought that was amazing that the Project H.O.M.E. staff were able to hear first-hand where the need is greatest and how they can help.

This meeting was another community event that brought the people together to not only have fun and enjoy the snacks and entertainment, but to talk about serious things like voting. Project H.O.M.E. has an education and advoacy team that makes sure the residents have an opportunity to advocate for homelessness, and are in the loop with policies that are helping and hindering the efforts to break the cycle. At the meeting they handed out voter registration cards and made sure each person was registered to vote. They opened the floor to ask the residents why voting is important. A woman named Hyancinth, a former homeless woman who is now employed by H.O.M.E. said that voting is more than who you elect, but it’s to show the people in power that we are participating and we do care what happens to us and we are watching what you are doing to help or hurt the people of the community.

After this powerful discussion Sr. Mary Scullion, the co-founder of H.O.M.E. and the legend I had heard about prior to applying for this internship introduced herself to the residents and formally welcomed them for the first time. The way she spoke to them, with such passion for the cause, you’d think it was her first time because it was SO genuine. Later, my boss told me she probably delivers a similar welcome speech on a weekly basis. You would never know. The people respect her and were visisbly gracious for the work she does to save the lives of many people I met that night.

Each day I come in to this place I’m reminded of the hope for alleviating poverty. I really think there are enough people out there who care enough to devote themselves to it, and I’m glad to know some of them.

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Feeling welcomed at my new H.O.M.E.

I’m in my 5th week at Project H.O.M.E. and just reflecting for the first time.

I began here just one day after landing in Philadelphia airport from a week-long immersion trip to Ecuador. I was still getting acclimated to life back in the states when I jumped into a huge workload at my new internship here at H.O.M.E.

Project H.O.M.E., in my own words, is a holistic organization that allows a person in need to live with dignity. While H.O.M.E. does have an outreach unit that picks people up off the street, it is designed to do so much more. It’s programs include affordable housing, opportunities for employment, medical care and education. It’s designed for men, women and children. It does not discriminate against any race and welcomes and supports people with addiction problems and mental illnesses. It’s a program that helps any person who has great need and is willing to accept proper guidance to get their life back on track.

I work in the Development office as a Special Events and Communication intern. I have two HUGE projects I am working on this semester. One of which is well under way is the grand opening event of a new affordable housing building called the James Widener Ray Homes building. The building is a million dollar project, thanks to donors including co-owners of the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies owners, Leigh and John Middleton, were able to buy this building that was run down and decrepid. With funding from the Raynier Institute and Foundation (a private organization that funds individuals and organizatiosn of charitable nature) H.O.M.E. has been able to revitalize the building into a beautiful apartment building in Philadelphia.

I have been behind all of the logistics of planning this grand opening event that will welcome 150+ guests, including the Mayor of Philadelphia! While I had limited interaction with the true benefits of H.O.M.E.–the residents themseleves–I feel privledged to be planning an event that is celebrating social justice in an incredible way. (I’ll explain more about the other event as the time gets closer)

I feel I am starting to see my personality fitting nicely into the world of a develpment office and my communication skills–writing, media, and even some ametuer design really coming in to play. I can tell this is an environment where there’s a lot of passionate work taking place, and although they might not be making three figures…ever…the reward is something a paycheck can not provide. Granted, I am saying this without a mortgage or college loans beckoning at my mail box yet, but I still desire to take on this kind of job nonetheless.

As I’m seriously starting to consider all of these elements of a career–the workplace, who the work is benefitting, how it benefits me, the pay–I have a lot to consider. I’m excited at the idea that a few short months away from now I will really be faced with deciding what I will be doing with my life!

In the meantime, I will relish at the thought of being a free-spirited event planner where everyone at the work place is vegan and spiritual-but not religious, and all about the social justice. (not saying those are the kind of people I work with………;) )

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