Behind the scenes action!
As I passed for the first time through Stanley street into St George's Anglican Church Hall, the room was filled with action, people moving with food and busy writing, taking calls or helping each other. You would think you entered into a human-bee nest! I instantly felt the rush and excitement of taking part of something bigger than me.
Greeted by one of the volunteers, I was asked for my name and handed a name tag with the "Civitas" sticker referring to the joint interfaith project founded by PEACE Initiatives Canada & St George Anglican Church . My first mission achieved!
Moving into the kitchen, I spot volunteers preparing the kebabs. The smell was already D-I-V-I-N-E! Is it because we were in a Church! Or was it because it was Sister Sabria's magical touch? I shall never know...
Into the main hall, food stations were prepared to simplify the food preparation. Before the actual food preparation, brother Steven and Brother Musabbir gave us a pep talk on the expectation of food distribution in the streets. I really liked this part of the day as we were advised on how to approach homeless individuals without seeming as off pretentious (e.g., kneeling down, smiling, not waking them up from sleep, remembering their name to build trust, etc). All of this was done with in a light hearted and animated way.
Then came the actual food preparation. Volunteers were placed on a large table on each side (facing each other). Each was assigned a task and, within an hour, lunches were assembled with deliciously freshly baked homemade cookies, fruit and water. It was a beautiful thing to see, volunteers with different walks of life and different faiths working hand in hand to feed 300 individuals.
After such hard work, the volunteers went to feast on the food they made. Nothing like a nice chit chat with other volunteers and the homeless to bring us close to each other and enrich our experience.
Ready? Set, food!
Among the stations volunteers were assigned to, like Atwater, Berri-Uqam, McGill, the volunteers had their supplies ready and off they went with their group leader! The experience of going in the streets and greeting the homeless is eye opening to say the least. The need for supplies can be seen as my team walked to meet and greet. We presented ourselves clearly and what we were part of (Civitas).
We were greeted with relief and smiles. Many even approached us and it was astounding how fast the lunches were given! Hearing stories from individuals who weren't not always homeless humbles us. It is an eye opener on how life can throw curve balls and that anyone can find themselves in this situation.
This experience was not only a social event but a lesson that each person must experience at least once in their life, regardless of where they are in life. A sense of belongs starts to grow on you and you would want to go back to see the friends you have met on the streets.
So the next time you see a homeless person, stop, smile and talk with them. They each have a story to tell you...and even something to teach you. :)