Volunteer Lauren Carroll tells us how she and a group of others have been improving the space at Helping Hand Rescue Mission over the past year.
My involvement with the Mission began last Christmas of 2011, when I came to volunteer with the after-school tutoring program. The premise of this organization was compelling and something to which I was drawn—the unconditional love to serve others. For children in the inner city, the after school hours pose as a dangerous time; a period when they are “at risk” for getting into serious trouble. The Mission provides them with a safe and positive alternative. Even though I am fairly new to Philadelphia, my family has had a long-standing history of missions in this city and my heart is dedicated to serve the people here. With that understanding, I view the Mission as authentic and a place that values the people of the community by serving children. Amidst the plethora of activities this organization leads, the after-school tutoring program has been a significant resource for the neighborhood children.
The Mission reminded me of an organization that deeply impacted my youth, World Changers. As a teen, I was not without struggles and World Changers provided an opportunity to help others as well as meet the real needs of people and demonstrate God’s love. The trips serve populations in larger cities throughout the country and they perform construction on homes or buildings within that area. With the permission of Adam Bruckner, World Changers was invited to serve at the Mission in July of 2012 and begin a yearly partnership to assist with structural aspects of the building. Starting this past summer, a group of teenagers and adults devoted a week of their summer to come and serve at the Mission in Philadelphia. One of the girls, Tiffany, was able to come because one of the families had financially supported her. Tiffany shared the troubles of her own family and how blessed she was to be part of the mission trip. She also related that she had never left the state of Virginia and was extremely overwhelmed when the mission van drove through the city. At the end of the week, she said, “Miss Lauren, this is the greatest thing I have ever done. I just want these people to know we really care about them.”
Throughout the week, we had a group of volunteers to install fencing for the façade of the building, a cleaning crew for the upstairs, and another group that started to repair some dry wall at the lower level of the building. My purpose was to lead a crew that began cleaning a specific room on the second floor of the building. When I first walked into this room, it was like a treasure chest, but terrifying at the same time, kind of like those clowns that jump out of the box. Over the course of the week, the crew unpacked boxes, organized materials, and discarded several items. Although we didn’t completely finish our tasks at hand, we did see a light at the end of the tunnel. This space was absolutely incredible and could be used to benefit so many activities filled with purpose. The crew was able to see victory and discussed possibilities for the room, such as a starting a program involving visual arts, ceramics, digital photography, dance/yoga, drama, film production, graphic design and music. All of these activities could bolster a child’s ability to express his/herself both creatively and verbally. In addition, children and teens are often critiqued in every aspect of their life, while this would provide a program that would be non-judgmental.
I, as a social worker for foster care in this area, realize that children often endure an astonishing amount of traumatic events in a short period of time. The Mission does not seem to create events and programs in isolation. Instead, it can be noted that the events produce long-term impact by being relational and accessible. Thus, the impact of the programs for children in this area might supply them with the only resources they have to be able to succeed.
-Lauren Carroll, volunteer at Helping Hand Rescue Mission