My name is Maggie Ferrara and I'm a peer leader over at the MSU Wesley Foundation -- the United Methodist Campus Christian Ministry right down the road. We were very grateful to be invited to work on Project Downtown and I just wanted to share my experiences with you all.
At first it was a little intimidating -- going into a building that I had no idea about, meeting with a group of students, that to be honest of whom I didn't have much true knowledge about. After playing a version of soccer with some of the school kids that included "just kick the ball" we met up with the group to start making sandwiches. We had a great time getting to know each of the other students and an easy and comfortable conversation was shared by all.
Then we all piled into the church van and went downtown. I believe that the Project Downtown students really did a pretty good job of preparing us for this super-awkward-out-of-our-comfort-zone experience. They gave us pointers for how to approach people, and how to start talking to everyone.
This is where my eyes were opened like nothing else in my experiences.
I spoke with two gentlemen who had fallen on hard times. We talked about weather, sports- our favorites to partake in and to watch, MSU, education, and our living situations. One is in rehab and getting his feet back on the ground. He is working towards getting a job with WKAR and finding somewhere to live. The other really spoke a lot about his situation with his family. Firstly, he is a Vietname Veteran who had been badly injured and came back and had some trouble adjusting back to civilian life. He lives with his daughter and his granddaughters. They live paycheck to paycheck and when his daughter had become ill, their combined income wasn't enough to make their rent payment. Although he said that he had the money and could get it to the landlord the next day, they came home at night with their belongings on the curb, leaving them to fend for themselves. He currently has a job at a Meijer and is working to support his family, but the low-wage job is just not enough.
It really made me think of my perceptions of the homeless and how wrong they were. Especially about how many factors can lead to homelessness. It really also made me think about how fortunate I am, and how not everyone is infalliable -- we could all fall at some point.
Overall, this experience was an amazing eye-opener for so many things -- homelessness, my backyard, other beliefs and how beautiful human nature can be.
From talking to the Wesley Foundation Students who were at the Project Downtown, there was a lot of positive feedback and I think I can speak for us all when I say that we were touched and wish to grow this partnership with not only Lansing, but the Muslim Student Association. We all had a great time working with you all and are excited for the possibilities of working together in the future.
Thanks again -- sorry for being so wordy!!
Peace and Love