My first Alternative Break Weekend and I am going as a site leader in charge of 8 eager (first timers or people that have only been on one other AB) CMU students…help. Luckily, I got put with my best friend Katie Rae as a site leader too (but she also was a first time weekend AB and site leader). Our two leadership styles and love for AB created a great atmosphere for the students though.
November 20-22nd, the Alternative Break program sent all 10 of us to Detroit, MI to work with the social issue of Hunger and Homelessness. We worked with CASS Community Social Services that had us creating projects and working in the kitchen for a total of 10 volunteer hours. We started off with cooking in the kitchen Friday night (even though we weren’t suppose to do service that night) and helped cook food for lunch tomorrow. We made potato salad and bread, along with dancing and blaring to music. It was very hands on and fun but it was also eye-opening as we saw all the flaws that went into cooking the meals. We sorted papers Saturday morning and put them through this conveyor belt into a shredder which was tedious but enjoyable. Saturday evening we made mats from recycled tires and that was probably the part we all enjoyed the most. For making the mats, we had to follow this pattern of thin and thick, making sure it laid straight against the wall, putting beads in a specific pattern of every two rows, and making sure the smile was towards you or the frown was away from you (the way the tire rounded out) and slipping those through the wires and tight to the starting 3 lines. Sunday morning before we left we also were back in the kitchen making food before we left for lunch.
I was really excited to go on this break and see the other side to being a person who has no home to go to. I was excited to learn about their past and stories but instead all I saw was a negative aspect of it. During lunch on Saturday, there was about 200-300 people in line for food in this room for 50. We were waiting at a table for everyone else to get their food but the guy who was in charge of us said that we need to get food after the woman and their children meaning to cut the line so we could get to service on time. We already felt uneasy about it but he insisted multiple times. So when we cut the long line of men, someone who was sitting down eating made the comment “white men get to eat first”. That really hurt us and made us feel judged when we were only there to help them. The next day we were back for breakfast and as we went to the kitchen to grab our plates, one girl stayed at the table because she wasn’t hungry. She later told me she was asked “why she was down here eating their food”. Once again, we felt judged and unwelcomed.
But with those negative things aside there were many positives. During lunch on Saturday, a different church group came in to make food that was native to their culture. These people of Indian descent were very heart warming as they stuck to their beliefs and culture to pray over the food in front of all the judging homeless. They sang holding their hands out and we just sat and watched in amazement. We also visited the Heidelberg project and saw all the culture and love that went into that art culture. And we all learned about the amount of work and love that goes into helping these people. We made new relationships within our group and loved the break overall. We especially loved living minimalist and feeling like we were in their shoes for the weekend.