In our evening debrief tonight Bonnie described our first day as “full,” and she is spot on – hard to believe we’ve only been here 30 hours!
To catch you up, as briefly as I can:
Last night was mostly procedural, getting the lay of the basement and meeting our host for the week, Lauren, who is a real dynamo. We went to a Vietnamese restuarant for dinner – many of us tried pho or bunh for the first time! After dinner we went on a two hour prayer tour of San Francisco. We couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful night – hardly a breeze and a full moon glistening on the bay. We drove through several of the neediest neighborhoods of the city including the Tenderloin and Civic Center areas where we will be doing much of our service. When we came back to our home base in Old Oakland, we quickly assembled about 50 “hygiene kits” – bags filled with socks, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, and the like, from your kind donations. These kids are so enthusiastic!
Today we dug in. This morning we headed to the Alameda County Community Food Bank where we, working alongside one other group, packed 16,900 lbs of oranges for distribution – before lunch time! We were given a fascinating tour of their operation and learned that 1 in 6 people in Alameda County received from the food bank last year – that is a staggering figure. The food bank is spotless and efficient – for every $1 donation,, they are able to distribute $5 worth of food to the needy. They have a full recycling program and compost on site. The tour guide was so inspiring, drawing us into how needed the food is and how valuable our efforts were. Some of us were move to tears. (I’m not saying who).
We had sack lunchs at the food bank, sorted more oranges and cauliflower for another couple of hours, and then departed for San Francisco. In the city we divided into two teams and, on foot, delivered hot meals for Project Open Hand. All of the clients live in Single Room Occupant (SRO) hotels in the Tenderloin and are suffering from AIDS or other chronic or terminal health conditions. We walked quite a long way, at city speed, and climbed many many flights of stairs – the elevators in many of the hotels are not safe.
Dinner tonight was at the Home of Chicken and Waffles in Jack London Square – delicious! We pulled the fried chicken off the bone and ate it atop the waffle, drizzled with maple syrup, with a side of grits. All proclaimed it delicious.
After dinner a few of us could have happily collapsed into bed but Lauren had other ideas and we headed out for another prayer tour, this time of Oakland. We drove through, or near, the West Oakland, San Antonio, and Fruitvale neighborhoods, and it was eye-opening. We learned about the incidence of gang violence, drug use, and prostitution in neighborhoods where most residents make far below a living wage. Literacy rates are terribly low and schools struggle to keep good teachers in such challenging conditions.
Throughout both days we stopped regularly to pray for the people we are serving as well as others who serve them such as emergency workers and our partner agencies. Lauren calls on the group for volunteers to lead prayers and we are sincere, but concise.
The kids have finished up their board games and are brushing their teeth in time for lights out – voluntarily! They must be tired.
Many thanks for your continued prayers and support. We are all learning and growing.