The Lotus School joined students from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Montclair, N.J. and the Poplar Ridge Friends Meeting of upstate N.Y. for a Youth Services Opportunity work-camp in New York City to aid homeless and hungry residents.
After spending a lovely summer afternoon checking out the farmer’s market and various goings on around Union Square, Lotus volunteers received a brief training about homelessness, boundaries, and preparing food in the organization’s kitchen, the students got to work making dinner.
The evening program was a discussion about the complexity of hunger, homeless, and poverty with a the manager of a food pantry in mid-town. The students from the three schools came from a variety of backgrounds and personal familiarity with economic difficulty. Their questions and observations ranged from their own observations of poverty, to concerns about social policy, to the effects of medical bills and mental illness, and the suffering so many people experience. Our hosts discussed how homelessness and hunger is a normal fact of life for tens of thousands of Americans who are unlikely to be seen as “typically homeless”, and how providing just a few meals a week can help a family make it from paycheck to paycheck.
Students slept in the meetinghouse sanctuary and were up early for breakfast and work assignments. One group headed to a midtown food pantry to prepare and serve lunch. Another headed to a church in East Flatbush, Brooklyn to help pack dinners for neighboorhood residents. Several hours of work at both sites provided hundreds of meals. “What an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience serving those in need,” Joyce Kellinger, a Lotus parent commented. “Because of these unique learning experiences, Lotus School students… will undoubtedly be willing and compassionate participants in their communities.”