ASB2009 in New York

During Alternative Spring Break 2009, nine SMU students and a staff adviser will be working in New York City for an organization called God’s Love We Deliver. They will deliver food and nutritional support to families affected by HIV/AIDS and life-altering illnesses.

Meeting the employees

An update from Matt:

This break has been one full of opportunity. Our group has had the opportunity to learn the inner workings of a great organization and also help it in its mission to feed the critically ill around New York and Jersey. I personally also had the opportunity to sit in on an employee meeting today concerning organic food labeling and its impact.

As a pre-med student with a background in public health and nutrition, I loved this opportunity to learn more about this important issue and interact with the professionals behind this great nonprofit. The employee meeting was a luncheon, with great food and great company. Everyone was very open and friendly and showed their appreciation for our group coming to volunteer.

With so many people relying on their organization, they can use all the help they can get to make and deliver the nutritious meals to the chronically ill. It was a great opportunity, which has been part of a great trip.

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44 special deliveries

An update from Christina:

Today, we jumped on the subway and headed to the God’s Love We Deliver Headquarters.

My driver, Nerry, had already loaded his van with both the hot and frozen meals before I arrived. Around 8:10, we headed out to the Bronx. At first, I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. However, as the day progressed, I got the hang of things with Nerry’s help.

The procedure was quite simple. Nerry drove up to the client’s building and told me which apartment to go to. I followed his instructions and delivered the meals to the clients. Some of the clients were strong enough to get up and meet me outside the building. Some of the clients weren’t there, which left us with extra meals. We ended up giving the extras to some of the last clients of the day. Nerry told me that we had made 44 stops today, but it really felt like much less.

I was very impressed with God’s Love’s system. The food remained in the insulated packaging until we were close enough to pack the containers into paper bags. Some bags contained the regular menu items, while others had modified items for the clients’ specific needs. Seeing a lot of the clients made me realize the amazing work that God’s Love is doing for the sick, homebound citizens of New York.

Delivering meals in the Bronx allowed me to see a side of New York that tourists don’t often see. Although I was nervous, I had an amazing experience today!

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New community of friends

An update from Nick:

Our hostel, the International Student Center, is on the Upper West Side right next to Central Park. At first I was unsure about it, since I had never stayed in a hostel before, and I was unsure about sharing a room with a group of strangers.

However, I quickly realized that there was a great community to be found here. I made friends quickly, and I felt like I could really connect with my new friends.

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A volunteer’s dedication

An update from Brandy:

Yesterday was our first day in the kitchen at God’s Love. We started out cutting and peeling onions. My eyes could not stand it. They were streaming tears, so I was moved to another station, where I chopped fish that was used in my later assignment. I got to work with the chef and a regular volunteer, Anne, mixing ingredients for seafood casserole with our hands. It was a nice change from the onions.

Later, I mixed ingredients for meatloaf in massive plastic bins – it took a lot of muscle to get all of the bread crumbs, cooking wine, soy sauce and eggs mixed in well with so much meat. We made several huge tubs of meatloaf. Today, when we returned to the kitchen, we formed all that meat into hamburger-sized patties for individual meatloaf portions.

The people at God’s Love are so dedicated to what they do, both the volunteers and the employees. Anne, the volunteer I worked with yesterday, has been volunteering there for over seven years – and there are others who have been there longer. They come regularly, regardless of their schedules or the weather, because they feel connected to the organization and its purpose, which is great.

I loved working in the kitchen the past couple of days and look forward to seeing the people I’ll be helping out tomorrow.

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Delivering meals – and hope

An update from Megan:

My experience in New York City for Alternative Spring Break thus far has been very rewarding. I have traveled halfway across the country with a group of people whom I barely knew before departure, and whom I now am proud to call friends. We have taken in the sights together: Times Square, enjoyed a New York pizza slice or two, and even caught a Broadway show last night (Chicago).

But the real point of this trip is service. The God’s Love We Deliver organization is one that I am extremely impressed with. In a nutshell, a large team composed of PR people, cooks, volunteers and other staff members work to provide high-quality food, all made from fresh ingredients, to people suffering from HIV/AIDS or other terminal illnesses. They took us in with open arms yesterday, and our relationship has been growing ever since.

Yesterday I worked in the kitchen chopping vegetables and packaging and compiling meals. Today, however, brought a new and unique experience. I drove around the Bronx and Harlem with one of the organization’s drivers, Curtis, in a very old van with tubs of food in the back. I went to each apartment that we were assigned to and hand-delivered each meal. The appreciation on the people’s faces was something I can only describe as God smiling through someone who has clearly seen better days.

I visited places in the New York area that I probably never would have if it had not been for this trip. At times I felt scared, other times brave and even others sad. I cannot imagine having to live with an ailment that there is no sure cure for. Yet the people I encountered seemed to be persevering through life and leaning on a support network of people living around them. New York apartment complexes foster these neighbor relationships.

So far, I’ve seen the city through a different set of eyes, and it has given me a whole new appreciation for each and every part of the world. It has also showed me what great things can be accomplished with just a little bit of manpower.

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Vegetable experts

An update from Saira:

New York so far has been amazing. The past couple of days we have been working in the kitchen at God’s Love. It has been quite an adventure.

We have been using 14-inch-blades to put our heart and soul into the nutritionally healthy food we have been making for the ill homebound people of New York City. God’s Love prepares 14,000 meals a week, and we have been able to help in this process. Luckily no one has cut themselves yet, though many of us have come close.

Not only have we helped in preparing these meals but we are now almost professionals at cutting onions, potatoes, peppers and a range of other vegetables. We have gotten elbow deep in preparing about 70 lbs of hamburger meat and are definitely building some muscles.

The experience has been amazing so far, and we can’t wait to continue working with God’s Love in the multiple various aspects of their organization.

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International connections

An update from Vivian:

I have to admit I was a little worried when I learned we would be staying in a hostel in NYC; a semester in Spain provided me with several hostel horror stories, and I was not looking forward to reliving those experiences in the States.

I was more than pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the International Student Center on W. 88th Street on Monday morning. It is an adorable townhouse in a residential neighborhood a minute’s walk from the subway. It is an old building, but it’s old in a cozy, people-have-really-been-at-home-here way.

Within an hour I had met staff from Algeria and Germany and guests from France and Ireland; the hostel definitely lived up to its “international” title. The lounge/kitchen in the basement is comfortable and relaxing, and I’ve already had my fair share of conversations with people whose globe-trotting backgrounds make me want to put school on hold for a few months (or years) and make my way across the world.

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Arrival in Manhattan

An update from site leader Kate:

The Impact group selected for representing Southern Methodist University in New York City for spring break woke up early Monday morning at 5 am to depart from campus and begin their weeklong journey to one of the U.S.’s most exciting cities. The group included Nick, Megan, Brandy, Vivian, Matt, Saira, Christina, Wrenn, myself and faculty adviser Amy Schofield.

We boarded the plane and landed in Newark, N.J., then continued into Manhattan, where our hostel and service organization were located. We spent the rest of Monday walking around and beginning to get acquainted with the city.

I’m excited to be working with this great group of individuals, and I’m sure you’ll see the excitement through their individual accounts of the trip so far. Enjoy!

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