For my leadership project I spent a week in Oregon with my Youth Group doing various service projects. One being Project Transformation, a literacy program for at risk elementary school kids. During this project, we helped younger kids read a choice book. We would encourage them to sound out words themselves and participated in other activities that helped the kids focus and learn. In addition, we cleaned books at The Children’s Book Bank; a place for donated books to be examined, cleaned, and put in bags to give to children who need them. Books have always been a significant part of my life. Knowing that I was helping other kids be able to read and have their own books was a highlight of my trip.

Third, we volunteered at the Blanchet House. A program providing nutritious meals to homeless men in downtown Portland; people volunteer to serve the men three meals a day, 6 days a week, every week. I worked to clean tables and restock appliances whenever someone new came in. It was a fast-paced job that required communication with everyone in the room. I had a similar experience at Bethlehem House of Bread, where we assisted in the food pantry. I worked to direct families around and help them choose their food. We also picked vegetables in the community garden and repainted their entryway.

We also helped at Clark County Farm, spending an afternoon weeding, planting seeds, and harvesting radishes and squash. The farm is one of many that donates fruits and vegetables to the Oregon Food Bank, where we also volunteered. When we arrived at the Food Bank we had to put on aprons and keep the work space sanitary by washing our hands and wearing gloves and hairnets. We put apples from crates into mesh bags to be packaged and shipped to various locations. I enjoyed this because everyone was experiencing the same sense of accomplishment when looking at the apple crates we had emptied. When a small group of volunteers manages to pack hundreds of pounds of apples, it’s not so hard to believe it will make an even bigger difference to the people they’re for.

For our final project, we volunteered at Nightstrike. An organization that hosts the Portland community homeless every Thursday night under Burnside Bridge. Volunteers are assigned to stations such as hosting, sewing, food prep, foot washing, hair cutting, and clothing replacement. Hosting, the station I was in, means initiating conversations with people and making sure they know what every station offers. Overall, I appreciate being able to go on the trip and discovering differences between my home and Portland. This coming summer, I’m taking a service trip to Guatemala and hope to contribute even more to those in need.

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