“Everybody’s story matters,” observes Danyca Schneider. “We can learn from everyone, if we are open.”
She was reflecting on the stint she and other members of the Alexandria-based Youth For Christ group spent as volunteers helping the homeless in Montréal.
There were many stories to be heard by Danyca and the other volunteers -- Lukas Auer, Susan David, Joshua Fast, Abby Koshiol, Lischa MacCallum, Rowen McCormick, Maddison McRae and Max Woodley. They spent three days “serving and learning alongside the marginalized,” relates group leader Viviane David. “I think we’ve become richer people by sharing with the ‘poor.’ Maybe they’ve shared the richness of their lives with us.”
Working in soup kitchens that feed 100 to 150 street people per day helped the group look beyond the labels often attached to those who “live on the edge” or have “fallen through the cracks.”
Danyca recalls there were a few people who were unappreciative. “One guy didn’t like the way the Cheez Whiz was spread on his toast,”‘ she recounts with a laugh.
But most were grateful to receive assistance from strangers.
“They have big hearts,” adds Rowen McCormick. “They are kind; they are not what society thinks they are. They’re not mean; they’re people.” Maddison McRae comments: “It was a really great experience. I’d do it again.“This was the second year the Youth For Christ members served at Logifem and L’Abre House shelters in the Griffintown neighbourhood.
Paying $100 each, the local volunteers slept on the floor of a church during their “inspiring” and “eye-opening” visit.
There were many rewards. “We’re so glad you’re back,” was the greeting the volunteers received. “They remembered us a year later,” says Ms. David.
The homeless had “a lot of cool stories” to recount.
A business man had lost a fortune; somehow a 70-year-old science teacher from Congo wound up penniless.
“Rich” is a subjective term, observes the group leader. “We live very different lives compared to those who live only an hour from here,” notes Viviane David.
“There is a high percentage of people who are barely surviving. There are many people who do not know where their next meal is coming from. But they are not angry.”
Top left: Rowen McCormick and Maddison McRae at Logifem in Montreal where they helped serve lunch. Top right: Serving at L’Abre House, Griffintown Montreal were Lischa MacCallum and Joshua Fast. Above: Lukas Auer, Joshua Fast, Abby Koshiol, Danyca Schneider, Max Woodley.