Rachelle Veldkamp says during her recent class service trip in Toronto she learned a lot about people who live on the street and has respect for people who dedicate their lives to helping others.
Veldkamp is one of 52 Grade 11 students at Toronto District Christian High School (TDChristian) who learned more about the issues of poverty and homelessness first-hand during a recent service trip.
The school runs the trip for the Grade 11’s every year, with half of the students going in the fall and half in the spring. While on the trip, students are divided into smaller groups to serve at some of the 10 different missions and organizations the school visits.
“They each got to experience at least three different missions or organizations, so we’re trying to give them a wide-range of experiences,” says Justin De Moor, vice-president of communications at TDChristian.
De Moor along with six teachers went on the trip, which was Oct. 2 to 5. They stayed at Knox Presbyterian Church.
Each group had the experience of preparing and serving food. Students did clean-up and maintenance at many of the sites, such as Matthew House, St. Felix Centre and three Salvation Army locations. Some students went to the Yonge Street Mission where they helped with the daycare and serving a Thanksgiving meal for the senior’s group.
During the evenings there was a variety of activities for the students. Students participated in a welfare simulation, where they took on the characteristics of a family or individual and had to prepare a budget. They then had to present their budget to a caseworker.
On another evening students went on a street walk. The walk started at the Salvation Army Gateway and went through much of the city’s downtown core. Veldkamp says this walk was probably her favourite part of the trip.
“I guess I really got to see our city in a new light,” she says. “We went under this one bridge about a block from the Royal York Fairmont hotel. People lived under it… it was full of garbage and you could see where people slept.”
Students also had the opportunity to talk with people who live on the street. Veldkamp says she won’t forget speaking to one man who told her to follow her dreams.
“I think everybody should take a trip like this,” she says. ¨It made me want to help others more.¨
Velkamp says she learned more about her classmates, herself and her city from the trip.
“The service trip as a whole was an eye-opening experience for the students, challenging them to face the issues of poverty and consider how we can bring hope and help to a seemingly hopeless situation,” says De Moor.