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Alternabreak 2009

Last week I participated in a week-long program called alternabreak sponsored by The Hart Volunteer Center at Pomona College. Alternabreak stands for alternative spring break, a community engagement-focused trip for students motivated to give service and learn more about the surrounding communities over their spring break. Participants travel to Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco and engage in projects ranging from work with community farms to construction projects to food banks. I decided to participate in the Los Angeles trip because I wanted to raise my awareness about the issues LA faces today by being there physically, even for a short period of time. It was a very constructive and fun week, so I wanted to share a bit about my experience.

The organizations we worked with include Union Rescue Mission, Communities for a Better Environment, Community Service Unlimited, Inc. and Ronald McDonald House. At Union Rescue Mission we helped prepare and serve a meal for the guests on two different days. On both days we saw many needy families lining up to receive their meals. In recent months, the number of families seeking assistance from URM has risen 400 percent; the number of meals served per day nearly doubled; and the number of food boxes given out to local residents is up 7 times. URM is one of the largest rescue missions of its kind in the United States and the oldest in Los Angeles, providing both emergency and long-term solutions to homelessness particularly on Skid Row. As an intern for Bread, I learned about hunger issues through readings and conversations with organizers, but to see homeless parents and their children firsthand was an eye-opening experience.

The projects we worked on through these various organizations constantly reminded me of Bread and Bread’s mission, as we all share a commitment to community engagement and real change for justice. As Carlos commented in his last entry, we are not alone in our efforts. Whether it be hunger justice, environmental justice, or social justice, we are all working toward a better world in the biggest sense and we should cherish and take advantage of this connection we share.

 

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Comments

Thanks for sharing your experience, Naohito. It is powerful. It's tragic to think about the impact of the economic crisis on so many families - 400 percent increase in the service of URM. That is shocking!

Thanks for a very thoughtful piece, Naohito.

I'm so glad to hear about different activities that are taking place as part of alternative spring breaks. The Catholic campus ministry group from Aquinas Newman Center in Albuquerque went to Dulac, La., to help rebuild homes after recent hurricanes.

And at the Emerging Church Conference in Albuquerque, we ran across a group of students from Northern Arizona University (sponsored by Lutheran Campus Ministry) who had participated in a rebuilding project in New Orleans. WOW! Talk about living out the spirit of emerging church!

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