For most people, "Spring Break" conjures images of wild parties, palm trees, and overindulgence. It's fair to say that most students prefer to spend their week away from class as far from campus and their academic responsibilities as possible. This year, four ENC students not only spent their spring break on campus, but they spent it ministering to those affected by homelessness in Boston. How's that for a change in perspective?
Rebeca Portela is one of the four women who choose to give up a spring break of fun and frivolity and spend it instead investing in Boston's most underserved populations. Trading relaxation for community service, these students got to see first-hand the so called underside of a metropolitan area.
"Our goal for the week was to build relationships and really just to get to know Boston more, from a real place of understanding not just the tourist parts. Our group leader, Emily Ludwig packed a lot into a short week!
One day we worked at a diaper drive organization for a Nazarene church in Cambridge. We participated in ENC's sandwich ministry, (run by Emily) and made sandwiches and walked around Boston handing them out to anyone who might need a bite. Another day we volunteered in the kitchen at the Haley House, a soup kitchen and bakery for those affected by homeslessness. We went to a church later in the week and got information on exploited women and ways that certain organizations are reaching out to them. We did quite a few prayer walks and drives around Boston and Cambridge. On Sunday we went to Common Cathedral, an outside church on the Boston Commons that happens every Sunday regardless of weather. The same organization that runs Common Cathedral runs a program called Common Art. Common Art meets at a church every week. They have art supplies and food and let anyone come. People can paint or draw, or just eat or take a nap inside where there's heat and AC. We also volunteered at the Greater Boston Food Bank and helped separate and sort the food. I had no idea so much work went into running a food bank!
For me, the biggest moment of the week was going to Common Art. I got to help with the kitchen and I talked to the cook and got to see how talented he was and hear a bit of his story. We talked about his background and early life in India. He is one of the people the ministry serves and he also cooks for the ministry. Everyone there has a job as part of the ministry and they all contribute to the event. I helped him prepare food in the kitchen and he clearly knew what he was doing and was a talented chef. If he hadn't told me, I never would have known that he was currently affected by homelessness. One thing I noticed with all the people we talked to was that they were all so accepting! I've never felt more accepted than I did when I was working in the homeless community. Everyone we talked to has gone through so much and they don't want to be judged so they don't judge back. They just wanted to hear our stories like we wanted to hear theirs. Age didn't seem to matter, we were all just people. I mean, everyone has struggled. We all go through stuff. These people aren't defined by their current living situation, it's just something that's happening to them right now.
It was a busy week and we saw and experienced a lot of things I don't think any of us were expecting. The four of us girls all stayed in the same dorm room during the week. That was really helpful as it gave us the time to process as a group what we were seeing. It was really hard to see people struggling with so many things then to come back to a nice warm dorm. We saw a lot of really big impactful things and we needed to process it all with people who were feeling the same things. The relationships that were built in just that one week are ones that I'm going to keep for a long time. The other students, pastors, and the people we met on the streets: I've made friends I never would have imaged.
I am from Boston. I've lived here for 15-years so I've seen the little things Boston needs but you don't often see it in depth. I choose the Boston Fusion trip because it was one way for me to get to know my city better and what I can or could contribute. The whole trip changed the way I see people. Sometimes stuff happens and it puts people at a disadvantage. Some people have more opportunities. That's no ones fault it's just how it works. Just because you see someone on the side of the road doesn't mean they are lazy or an addict. They might just need something to eat. We all go through hard times. No matter our current circumstances, we're all really just the same."