On Saturday November 3rd, five Pomona College students took part in a Sagehens, Engage! trip to work with the INSAN foundation to prepare and serve lunch to homeless individuals at the Pomona Valley Christian Center in Pomona, CA. Upon our arrival to the shelter, we immediately started working, moving a huge amount of food into the kitchen to start preparing lunch; the menu included seasoned baked chicken, green beans with onions and jalapeño peppers, a mixed salad with lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, carrots and dressing, rice and ice cream for dessert.
The team, composed mostly of Pomona College volunteers and students from the Key Club from Walnut, CA, quickly got to work, breaking into teams preparing the salad, serving beverages and cooking the entree. Some homeless people from the surrounding areas began to gather in the outdoor serving area starting at 11 am, with about 40 people coming when lunch was finally served at 1 pm. Fortunately, we had more than enough food and were able to not only provide seconds but also prepare to-go meals for people to either eat later or give to friends.
After we were sure that everyone had their fill, the volunteers took a break to eat and reflect on the day. Saba Hafeez, the coordinator from INSAN, led the reflection by talking about his experience with community work overall, and then focusing on that day in particular. He particularly focused on the fact that although we are not fixing the problems in our society that allow people battling issues with substance abuse, mental illness, domestic violence, etc., to go hungry and without shelter, we were able to provide some amount of compassion and respect to individuals for whom that is not the norm. Every volunteer had the opportunity to directly serve and interact with individuals from the group of about 40 that we fed, and in reflection, many people spoke about how rare that interaction was in their day to day life, either due to insulation by an elite college or a suburban high school. Even if we were only able to provide a temporary moment for people to be fed and feel provided for, that is something. In the end, the group was tired and pensive, but happy to have done something truly worthwhile on their weekend.