Volunteering

Today was my last day volunteering at the centre. These past few days have been really, really incredible. I don’t really know how to describe the rest of my time there, other than life-changing, eye-opening, and awe-inspiring. I met so many truly amazing people, both guests and volunteers. I had so much fun getting to know the other volunteers, and talking to the guests of the centre was just as amazing.

At the end of my shift today, one of the guests came up and sat down and thanked me and my shift partner for helping; he said that he was truly grateful that all of us volunteers were so willing to talk and even just smile (a few days ago, one of the guests was really confused that everyone was smiling at him because it’s something that never happens for them). As someone who had been homeless for almost a year, this man hadn’t been able to have a real conversation with anyone until now. He told us about the circumstances that led him to become homeless, which put me and the other girl in tears, but then he ended by saying that being at this centre for just these few days had given him hope, and he knows he can make a fresh start and turn things around for himself.

I made so many new friends while I was doing this. It was such a great atmosphere, and all of the volunteers were there because they wanted to be. There was just so much positivity, and it was so uplifting to be a part of it. I am truly grateful to have had this opportunity, and I’ll be looking to do something like this again soon.

I hope everyone’s holidays are going as well as mine are!

Love, Elizabeth

Twenty minutes of battery, so I’ll make this quick!

I’m volunteering with an organization called Crisis. The specific event is called Crisis at Christmas. They set up several centres throughout the UK to help the homeless over the holiday season. Within London, there are several different shelters.

This morning, I left early and got to the centre right on time at 7:45. I signed in and was a little bit shy for about ten minutes, but I soon started talking to other volunteers and felt right at home. All of the other volunteers were amazing, interesting, genuine, caring people, and it was so much fun to talk to all of them. Our centre is a dependency centre, so we get referrals from the other centres. For that reason, there weren’t many guests yet, and we actually had more volunteers than guests. A lot of the time, we volunteers just spent making friends with each other and swapping stories. I was talking to one person about an elephant-relief program in Thailand that I was looking at, and it turns out he just got back from working with that program there last week; he highly recommended doing it (did you know that elephants can get tuberculosis, and it’s actually a huge problem within the elephant population?). Then I met someone who was laid off, and so now she’s going to volunteer and be part of the female empowerment movement in Morocco (I listened closely, because I’ve really been wanting to do the same thing in India). I heard so many amazing stories and met so many amazing people. I even met some fellow Americans; one from New York and one from Detroit. I find that I get so excited when I hear someone who sounds American.

There is something called the MXU, which is the Mobile X-Ray Unit. It’s part of the NHS (National Health Service) and it’sthe only portable x-ray machine in the country. Their job is to look for people to screen for tuberculosis. It turns out that London has the highest rate of TB in all of the Western cities. Because it is only found in people with compromised immune systems, they’ve been screening guests at the centres. My job was to talk to the guests about tuberculosis and then take them to get screened. Luckily, everyone tested negative. It was so eye-opening, though, because TB just isn’t something that we usually think of; I don’t at least, because it seems like more of a third-world problem. 

Because there weren’t many guests and the screening didn’t take long, I got to talk to a lot of them, and they were all really nice. It was a really uplifting experience, because unlike the soup kitchen I volunteered at in the States where we served people stale food and sent them on their way again, this centre offered housing, job, and alcohol/drug counseling, a doctor was available to see all of the patients, and there was even a hairdresser. Since the guests stay overnight, there are plenty of nice beds and showers, and the food was amazing. Even the volunteers got to eat the full English breakfast of toast, eggs, sausage, bacon, baked beans, and cereal. And there was a really good vegetarian option for me to eat at lunch. Plus, there were drinks available all day, so I paid many trips to the bathroom because so many guests had asked me to have a tea with them!

All of a sudden, it was 3:40 and I only had twenty minutes to go. I hadn’t looked at the time all day, and I couldn’t believe that it had gone so quickly. Today was the best day I’ve ever had, and I’m so glad to be doing this!

6 minutes of battery left. I don’t have time to proofread this, so I hope it makes sense!

Love, Elizabeth