Written by Emily Kam
Journal Entry 6: Streetlife Ministries
July 8, 2016
"Would you like some salad? What kind of dressing?"
I tried to understand the garble the man was saying. Was he speaking Italian? Spanish? Elvish? Finally, I uncertainly drizzled ranch over the small pile of lettuce and cucumbers and passed the paper plate on to the next person.
"Would you like some salad? What kind of dressing?"
"Yes, thank you! Thousand island dressing, please."
At Streetlife, I meet an assortment of people, people who are not so different at all from the people I encounter everyday...except for the fact that they are homeless.
Since January of 2016, I have been making regular visits to the Menlo Park train station with my siblings and mom. Sometimes I bring my ukulele and sing worship songs for the homeless men and women gathered around. After worship and a short sermon, a van comes along and I, among the other volunteers, help to set up the tables and the food and drinks.
Ironically, the first few times I visited Streetlife Ministries I neglected to eat dinner before I went, so I would be serving hot plates of beef, corn and beans, soft rolls with butter and iced tea to the homeless, while I myself would be starving. My hunger was amplified by seeing the plates of delicious food pass through my hands. This is just a taste of what the homeless go through each day - watching other people eat nourishing meals, so close to their reach and yet untouchable. After about three weeks, I started eating my dinner before visiting Streetlife. But I can still remember vividly what it was like to have a glimpse of how the homeless might feel. And I haven't even counted in other factors, such as not having showered in weeks, dirty clothing, cold weather...
I love attending the street church each week. Currently I am working up the courage to interact with the homeless, to talk to them and get to know them better.
Two East Villagers interns, Sarah Chang and Janna Wang, have just left the US to work for Transparent Fish Fund in China for the summer. They will both be living in Gansu working primarily with our partner Little Red Scarf. This summer they will have the opportunity to work with the TFish staff in Gansu in and out of the hospital, visiting and talking with the children and learning about the Little Red Scarf company. They will also have the opportunity to learn more about TFish and the process local NGOs go through to become a member. We look forward to hearing about their experiences!
The 2012-13 EV Internship is finally coming to a close. Many of our interns - most have interned with us for two years - are headed off to colleges all over the country, and it has never been more appropriate to celebrate their achievements and contributions to TFish Fund. Ally, Emily, Isabel, Janna, Kevin, Lauren, and Sophia: you will be sorely missed.
Sophia goes through a multi-sensory exhibit.
On January 25 and 26, two of our EV/TFish Interns, Isabel and Sophia, attended Freedom Summit 2013, one of the largest anti-trafficking coalition conferences to ever be held. The following are each of their reflections on the experience.
On Friday, January 25, I attended Freedom Summit, a Bay Area anti-trafficking coalition conference. The event was filled with activist speakers who had gathered to share their own personal experiences related to the issue. Although I had previously been educated on the issue from friends and various media sources, Freedom Summit broadened my understanding of sex trafficking and served as a reality check for me on the importance of the issue. While sitting on the aisle of Harbor Light Church, I listened to various activists sharing several experiences and stories that were troubling to hear. One activist spoke of young girls being strapped to tables and sexually abused until getting murdered. Another activist showed us a video of a little skinny boy, enslaved by a man whose only defense of keeping the boy was so that he could feed himself. The stories were heartbreaking, and caused me to question the morality of this world. How can someone be so selfish as to put their own desires and needs before the lives of others? How can someone take away an innocent child's life without guilt in his soul?
One of the most significant moments of the evening was hearing from a sex trafficking victim. Her name is Leah Albright-Byrd, and she had spent four years of her life on the streets of Cupertino, living a life haunted by sexual exploitation and drug addiction. In addition in becoming a sex trafficking victim, Leah also became a recruiter for her pimp. Her life changed when she recruited a young girl, Bridget Gray. On Bridget's 22nd birthday, Bridget was murdered after being tied to a bed and sexually abused until death. Today, Leah has escaped trafficking and now serves as the executive director of a non-profit organization, Bridget's Dream, which provides practical and immediate clinical services to women who are exploited as she and Bridget had been.
Anhui Farmers' Cooperative is an organization for farmers' rights, and has undertaken several community development projects.
Before I joined the Transparent Fish Community, I had already heard of many aiding projects supported by The Ping & Amy Chao Family Foundation in Gansu and Sichan provinces. As I visited many other NGOs who got help from Transparent Fish, I felt it was a good platform committing to offer aid to those with need. As a new starter, I really hope I can learn a lot from experienced NGOs and help convey my affection to those in need.
The nonprofit "Light of Love", is a volunteer group established in 2008 by students in China Pharmaceutical University. The group aims to develop health education in rural areas in Western China to teach people to safely use medicine.
The beautiful fall weather welcomes new students along with crunchy leaves, and our free lunch program also begins to serve them now! Due to important business in and out of school in the beginning of new term, we are sorry for the delay of our following report.
As the program was smoothly conducted, we organized a home-visiting led by teacher Zhao Kaihong. This time, we were concerned about a quiet girl-Zhao Yutian, who has become sluggish and cannot hand in her homework timely and properly. Her downcast condition got our attention, and we decided to go for a home-visit to help Yutian and to learn more about her family condition.
This year, East Villagers gained a very unique partnership with the Clover Project. Together, they initiated an “art collaboration,” in which both the East Villagers US interns and the Chinese summer camp students explored a common theme through the medium of art.
For our project, each of the EV interns created posters and pictures, representing our understanding of Christmas and how it is celebrated in America. We broke down the most important themes and traditions into four categories: Christmas decorations, folklore and myths, the Christmas Spirit, and the Nativity Story. Each piece included a visual, along with a brief background of the tradition: its history, importance, and relevance to how Americans celebrate Christmas. Made to be interactive, each one included suggestions for the students at the summer camp to create something tangible of their own in hopes of learning a little more about Christmas in the Western Culture.
As we hoped, the students were interested in our project and were very responsive with their own creations. In response to our “decorations” activity, the students went above and beyond what we asked of them, creating not a shopping list, but the actual decorations! They first compared Christmas decorations with those of the Spring Festival (i.e. Chinese New Year) and later made their own Spring Festival decorations, such as Chinese couplets and paper cuts shaped as swans and lanterns. For our “folklore and myths” section, the students also made a visual, representing the background and history of Spring Festival. Lastly, the students depicted the Spring Festival Spirit by creating a shadow paper cut drawing to show how the Spring Festival originated and its developments since.
We would like to thank the Clover Project for such a successful collaboration, especially with it being our first of the sort! We are ecstatic that the students enjoyed this project and hope they learned more about Christmas and how it is celebrated in America as much as we have about the Spring Festival and its celebration in China.
This is only the second time back at the office since 2012, but we've already done so much! We've recently started translating, editing, and rewriting updates on various NGO's. We've also been assigned to a specific NGO, for which each of us are responsible. I'm learning about Little Red Scarf Care, specifically 3 of the kids in the program, and YongNing Children's project of creating a basketball court. Little Red Scarf Care provides scholarships for students with financial needs, distributes nutrition boxes, and supports local farmers by purchasing high quality produce for distrubtion to low income families. YongNing Children's Support Group renovates schools and allows for a more sanitary, pleasant school life. In addition, they are working to build a basketball court for their primary school. Please continue to keep up with the EV blog to learn more!:)
Furthermore, we are already planning the next couple events for fundraising! Be sure to check back on our blog to receive the latest updates!
Ally Nguyen, EVSS Intern
Saint Francis High School, California, Grade 11_
__On January 2nd, the East Villagers interns gathered together at Stanford Shopping Center in order to spread awareness about the name and vision of Transparent Fish Fund. The game plan was to split into three groups, and then station each group at different sections of the mall. Each group carried fliers that contained information about the TFish Fund, and began stopping people respectfully in order to talk about the organization. We hoped to communicate our vision behind spreading a movement of philanthropy.
I was assigned to a group that consisted of three volunteers and myself, an EV intern. The experience was exciting, but at the same time, nerve-wrecking. We were all nervous at first, unsure how to approach people, and had to do a quick “rehearsals” before asking people walking by if we can borrow some of their time. Like any other mission, there are times of success and failure, and after a couple of rejections, people began to stop and listen to what we had to say. A few caring individuals were genuinely interested in our work and message and listened attentively, making our jobs as the communicator easier. After talking to six people, our group was stopped by the mall’s security official, stating that we could not continue because we needed to sign paperwork for permission.
Even though our mission had to conclude earlier than expected, the experience was still worthwhile. Together as a group, we sat in chairs in the center of the mall and debriefed the one hour that we had spent talking. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the experience, besides the challenges of rejection, and the early conclusion of the mission.
Now that I am more exposed and comfortable with communicating to the members of my community about the TFish Fund project, I cannot wait to spread the vision of TFish Fund through the many other projects coming forth this year!
Sophia Huang, EVSS Intern
Los Altos High School, California, Grade 11
As school has been in session for the past three months for my peers and me, I find that the majority of us has been placed under a tremendous amount of stress. From AP Calculus to AP English to Physics Honors, we often find ourselves asking the same questions: Why did we do this to ourselves?, When will these matters ever play a part in our everyday lives?, and, my all-time favorite, What sleep?!
What we fail to recognize, however, is that we have been given such an amazing opportunity through acquiring a top-notch education from supportive teachers and parents. Unfortunately, this is not the case in other countries, such as China, where the lack of education is a prominent problem for many. Specifically in Gansu, China’s second poorest province, a stronger effort to increase investment in education and improve educational facilities is crucial to increase the amount of children who attend school.
In Gansu, education is a dominant factor in determining whether or not rural laborers have the capability to attain more profitable occupations outside of the farm. Unfortunately, children from the poorest households with the fewest amenities to support education or social welfare are the most at risk for an absence of education. Furthermore, the ones that are barely allowed to receive an education are thrown into schools with poor infrastructure and unqualified teachers. Now let me ask the question, does this sound fair? Is it justifiable that children who have no control over their economic backgrounds are forced to settle with an improper education?
Although this is still a major problem, steps have been taken to expand the accessibility of education to those who cannot attain it otherwise, regardless of the reason – travel restrictions, language barriers, limited transportation, or poverty. China’s reformation saw the decision of 1985, consisting of the requirement of a nine-year obligatory education, which rural areas financed through tuition and miscellaneous school fees. Additionally, the decision called for the increase in vocational instruction, reinforced educational leadership, promoted subsidies, and financed an overall reform by providing new resources.
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