Monday, March 18, 2013

Extended Service Trip to Hope House Ministries.

Hey all!

This past Saturday I got back from a MOVE extended service trip down to Long Island, New York, where five other Saint Mike's students and I got to spend time volunteering and learning about Hope House Ministries. In a few words, the mission of Hope House is to aid the marginalized and the poor (the full mission can be found here), and we got to participate in a few of the organizations services, as well as live and interact with the men living in the community house. The community house is a place where people, primarily young men, come to grow and develop or get back on their feet, many of whom have had problems with addiction. Essentially, the community house serves the need of the community, and over the last decade or so, there's been a need for effective programming to assist young people who are struggling with addiction and other associated problems. Spending time there was really powerful for me; the guys in the house were so open and welcoming, and as a group we got to hear their stories, partake in healthy debate and discussion, and learn how to play dominos and various card games (the Hope House guys can take ANYONE in spades).

Some lively debate in the park.
We also got to volunteer at the Montfort Academy, which is similar to the Hope House model, but for a teenage demographic. I only spent a little time there, but mostly we just hung out with the kids, watched movies, or played basketball (well, Alan, another guy on the trip, played basketball, and we watched). It was inspiring to meet some of these kids and to hear some of their struggles, and to see the opportunities that going to Montfort might help them pursue.

Finally, we also volunteered at Pax Christi, which is a short-term living situation for people who are critically homeless and need a place to recuperate in order to find new housing. Here, we mostly helped with maintenance and making dinner, but I also had the opportunity to sit in on advocacy consultations for people who were in need of a more permanent residence. Having seen this makes college housing seem like pie, since we all know we're guaranteed to live somewhere. Not everyone is as lucky.

All in all, it was a really positive experience, and it all culminated in a group reflection we had with the guys at the community house on the last day. Basically, we opened discussion for everyone to share their experiences and thoughts on having us there, and it was pretty clear to everyone that this week had an impact on all of us. It was humbling to hear how much they enjoyed our presence, and I was pretty honored at what some of the guys shared with us.

If I could take away one thing from this week, it's probably that none of us are better than addiction, and it's impressive that these men are strong enough to cope with it. I was astounded at how powerful some of the stories were, and blown away at how far some of these guys had come from their previous struggles. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to spend my spring break at Hope House, and for that I can't thank them enough.

Thanks for reading! And if you want to learn more about Hope House's mission, or if you want to get involved, definitely check out their website.

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