The youth also raised over $1,100 for a local homeless shelter in Hemet, The Valley Restart. During this event the youth enter into solidarity with those suffering from poverty, hunger and homelessness. They fast from all food except for bread and water for a period of 30 hours. Similar to a walk-a-thon, these youth had a financial sponsor for each hour of fasting. They also are sponsored by the members of the parish community during the weekend.
During the 30 hours the youth also participate in workshops and activities that help them to understand the causes and effects of homelessness and poverty. Each year guest speakers from various community outreach programs speak to the youth about what is truly happening in the local community, the needs of the people and other opportunities for service. This year’s speakers were from the Hemet Community Pantry, the Valley Restart Shelter, and the Vocations Office of the Diocese of San Bernardino.
Then at the end of the evening the youth build and live in a cardboard city overnight, outside, with nothing but the clothing they came in. No blankets, no pillows, no extra clothing, or comforts from home. The reason for this is that the homeless cannot change their reality, and neither should we if we are to really understand what they go through. The youth come away from this experience with a new found appreciation for what they already have, and a new heart for those who are suffering. We are trying to change hearts and minds so that when they pass that man or woman they see on the corner asking for food, or assistance, they see Christ, and they can remember just how bad it feels to be hungry, cold and lost.
“I learned that not only do I need to value my blessings more, but I also must take into consideration how others are suffering when I waste something valuable,” said Manny Macias, a senior at San Jacinto High School who has participated in this event for the past three years. “And I will continue to thank God for everything he gives and I am thankful to have sacrificed some of my time to help those in need.”
His brother, Jose Macias, participated for the second time this year and added, “I have learned two things. One is that I experienced the true meaning of poverty, and second, I cannot take everything for granted because it could be gone in a matter of seconds.”
Another participant, Edward Coronado, said, “Most people have a belief of homeless people being homeless because of drugs or alcohol, but learning about the true causes and effects of homelessness really opened my mind and heart. I now realize the greatest form of poverty is being unwanted and mistreated by society and how we are called to show them love and compassion. I am extremely blessed to have experienced this amazing event.”
This event is a labor of love and takes a great deal of work and support in order for it to take place. We are blessed to have been able to provide this event for the past six years and I am extremely grateful for all those adults who come to supervise the youth during this weekend, as well as all the support from the parish to make it such a success.
Alana Bell is Coordinator of Youth Ministry at St. Anthony Catholic Church in San Jacinto.