Seeing Hamilton for the first time

As a part of 2010 Reading Week Service-Learning trip, I had the privilege to stay overnight at the Living Rock Ministries – a nonprofit organization that offers meals, educational programs and services, and a place of belonging for street involved youths.

Little did I know that this place is located right across from Jackson Square. Many of us see poverty, homeless, and addiction as prevalent in downtown Hamilton, but how many of us have seen the solid support provided for the impoverished and the spirit of collective action embodied in the people of Hamilton?

“Even if you are homeless in Hamilton, you will never go hungry,” says a staff at Good Shepherd Centre. She goes further to explain that those who are hungry and impoverished from the nearby cities such as Toronto come to Hamilton because they know they will receive help.

These statements were shocking to an outsider (like me). Then I remembered all the food I’ve seen at the Ancaster Food Drive. This food drive yielded 75,000 lbs worth of food donations! I also remembered helping out with “It’s A New Day’ Breakfast Program”, breakfast preparation for youths who regularly visit the Living Rock. There was an abundance of food, and all of them were donated by people! According to their statistics in 2008, a total of 5715 youth were served breakfast at the Living Rock.

Then I remembered seeing the amount of clothes, shampoos, sheets and blankets donated to the Good Shepherd Centre. I had no idea how many people were dependent on these donations to survive.

Donations are only the beginning for charitable organizations to help those in need. Organizations need the man power to sort out these donations such as food and clothing to be able to give them to those in need. Breakfast programs require people to prepare for the hot meals and clean up afterward. I was astonished by how many people and how much work it took to prepare a breakfast meal. The morning started with cooking massive amounts of sausages and eggs, and setting all sorts of food and condiments on the table. When the youths come in there needed to be volunteers to serve food to them. Surprisingly, the clean-up took longer than preparation. We helped to rinse, sanitize, and dry all the dishes and cutlery. Then we helped to mop the floor and clean up the kitchen and the eating area. The entire breakfast process was completed by the hard work of at least 15 people, and about 10 of us were volunteers from McMaster and high school students. This made sense to me in seeing the reason to why volunteers are needed to help with meal preparations at most of the charitable agencies.

Throughout Reading Week, we’ve been to various agencies, and I have witnessed the generosity of the people in Hamilton and how enthusiastic they are for charity. It is no doubt that the staff at Volunteer Hamilton once told us that the City of Hamilton has the highest volunteering rate compared to all other cities in Ontario. It seems that the beauty of this City is unveiled to us – the drive for collective action, spirit of volunteerism, and a strong sense of togetherness and community.

If you want to experience this first hand, volunteering is a must. So what are you waiting for? Check out the link to the Living Rock here.