Youth Service Opportunities Project - My Family Travels

 Founded in 1983

 Most teenagers are busy hanging out with friends, going to the beach, vacationing, and getting jobs during their summer vacation. I participate in these things as well but, in addition, I have been lucky enough to meet and work with people like Dizz. Dizz is a person unlike any other I have ever met. She is an outgoing and charismatic whirlwind of energy and compassion; she is the head of a soup kitchen in the Bronx. The soup kitchen, Part of the Solution, or P.O.T.S., is a welcoming place for all those unfortunate enough to need a hot meal and a warm smile. Dizz is the epitome of selflessness and determination. She runs this soup kitchen 365 days a year with or without volunteers. I have learned more than I could’ve ever imagined from Dizz. Through her example I have learned about helping others and about what it is like to perform God’s work.
           The past three summers I have had the privilege to participate in a weeklong work camp through Youth Service Opportunities Project. Despite the amount and the difficulty of the work, I return year after year because it is such a moving and rewarding experience that opens my eyes to the horrors in our very own backyard and it allows me to make a difference. The soup kitchens, food banks, clothing banks, and furniture banks depend on volunteers to function. P.O.T.S. would not be able to feed thousands of hungry and homeless men, women, and children without the help. The time and work put in by volunteers are helping fight the battle against hunger and poverty. In the past year over 4,200 participants served more than 365,000 hungry and homeless men, women and children in New York City.
            During these weeklong work camps the volunteers live in the city for five days and six nights. The alarm goes off every morning at 6:00am and we head off to the soup kitchen or food bank we are volunteering at for the day. By the end of every day, about 400 people are served a hot meal. The overwhelming gratitude of the homeless men, women, and children make all of the hard work worth it. It is a remarkable feeling, knowing that I am truly helping these people; that I really am making an enormous difference in the fight against homelessness and hunger.
Another extraordinary thing that happens during my week of service is that we take part in a night where we cook a full dinner for a select group of homeless men and women. After we cook dinner for them we spend time socializing, talking, and playing games with them. I have learned that more often than not, it is not the person’s fault that they are homeless. Sometimes the problem is due to the economy, mental issues, or even natural disasters. This is a truly amazing experience because it shows me that they are completely normal people. Believe it or not, most of them are up-to-date with sports, politics, music, the economy, and other prevalent issues. Prior to this experience I would’ve never looked at a homeless person and guessed that we could have a conversation about current events. It has changed the way I look at the homeless. The men and women are so appreciative of the time we spend with them and the huge dinners we cook and serve. My experience with YSOP is one that has changed my life and the lives of countless others; it is one that will never leave me for as long as I live.

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