Quarter Finalist 2010 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
Â Â Â When you live in a small town like I do, you donâ€™t worry about homelessness or poverty. You donâ€™t have to worry about when your next meal will be.
When you live in a small town like I do, you don’t worry about homelessness or poverty. You don’t have to worry about when your next meal will be. Housing, food, and even clean water is often taken for granted. Last summer I was thrust into a massively impoverished city, and I have to say it was one of the most humbling and informative experiences I have had in my life. The city I visited was Vancouver, Canada. It is a colorful, bustling port city. People flock there each year. Between the beautiful ocean beaches, fantastic skiing, and endless expanses of forest all around, its no wonder people enjoy it there. This city also has a very dark side. It is estimated that nearly 3000 of the towns 611,869 occupants are homeless.
Every two years my church youth group travels to a different city. We volunteer in homeless shelters and work for the benefit of others. We received no pay, and had to raise all of the money in order to go. We had very little support from the congregation. The entire trip was to last nine days.
We left town early in the morning. Eight people altogether. All of us great friends. Our leader was one of my favorite teachers. The ride there was a bit boring. Having raised the money to go, we decided it would be more cost effective to drive instead of fly. Most of us slept the for the drive. After half a day of driving we made it to Vancouver. Everyone made it safely over the border, and arrived faster than we had anticipated. To save money we decided we would only sleep in a hotel one night, and that would be the last night we had in Canada. The first night was spent on the floor of a church on the outskirts of Vancouver. We walked around a little bit that night. The volunteer work started in the morning so we had a bit of free time. We were in the good part of town.
The next morning we woke up bright and early, packed up our things, and headed to the youth camp we were going to stay in. The camp was located deep in town, and we were going to be living in a renovated warehouse for the next week. The warehouse was nice, but we had to sleep on the concrete floor with a bunch of teenagers we didn’t know. I was sent to a church each day to help fix it. This is where the culture shock kicked in. The church was in horrible condition, but we worked hard to get it fixed. Several times we went on walks through town, just me and some teenagers from the church we were fixing. It was amazing to see how many people were homeless. Some people actually lived below the patio of the church.
We spent a little time with homeless people. Many of them told us about their lives and what they enjoy to do. A lot of them just wanted to talk. They were some of the nicest people I have ever spoken to. I will never forget what the pastor of the church we renovated told me when she showed me the makeshift bed underneath those rotting floorboards. She said, “Who are we to tell them where to live? We’re not using that space anyway. My only complaint is that they burn candles under there, and I don’t want them burning down the church.”
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