Friday, September 9, 2011

Optimism for the year ahead

Philly volunteers building community at orientation (left to right: Kaimeesa
Stevenson, Leslie Clague, Julianna Ryan, Megan Mathews)

Life in Philadelphia has been going great. My house mates and I have gotten settled into our house in Narberth and into our new jobs. We have also had some time to explore the city and see some of the sights including Reading Terminal Market, Penn’s Landing, and the Italian Market.

My position is with Bethesda Project as the Church Shelter Assistant. This means that I work with the men who stay at Bethesda’s three church shelters. Right now only one of the churches is open (the other two open in November when it starts to get cold), so it has been kind of slow and there has been some down time, which has given me a great opportunity to get to know some of the guys.
This is my first time working with the homeless population, so I was a little worried that I wouldn’t have the right skills or that the guys wouldn’t feel like they could relate to me. But, the guys have been great! They have put all my doubts aside and have been so welcoming to me. They have also been tremendously helpful. Anytime I have a question or need a favor they are quick to help. They also have given me great suggestions on where to go and what to do in the city. Not only are the men generous with advice, but they are generous with their stories. Already, so many of the guys have opened up and shared their incredible life stories with me. This has been a great way for me to get to know them and start to build relationships with them.
Having the men be so willing to open up to me has shown me that I have more in common with them than I thought. We may come from different backgrounds and have vastly different life experiences, but I have seen that we still have a lot in common. We might have the same hobbies, like the same food, or have the same favorite sports teams. And, at the end of the day, we all like to have a good laugh.
Being able to relate to the men and already being able to develop relationships with them gives me optimism for the year ahead.
Leslie Clague - Bethesda Project - Philadelphia, PA

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