A class project turned community event– students partnered with the Social Work Student Association to serve the homeless. These students collected materials and assembled care packages for the homeless, distributing them at a public luncheon on Nov. 17 at Hauula Beach Park.
Cristina Martins, a senior from Laie studying psychology and leader of the donation box group, shared this event was her way of giving back to the community.
“You see these people and you notice that they are suffering in their own ways, but you also have your own issues that you’re going through. So, you don’t always have time to notice or reach out to them.
“This is my peace offering to you. I notice you, I know you’re here, I want to be able to help, and I am trying.’ It might not be enough, and it probably isn’t enough … I do want them to know that I am thinking of them.”
Martins is a part of the Human Behavior in Social Environments II course on campus, where students are required to participate in the Make a Difference project, which encourages students to serve in their communities.
Teo Buckingham, a junior from Hauula studying social work, said he sees people less fortunate than him every day, and he wants to help, but does not always know how.
He said giving back helps him feel more included in community issues. “Somebody who is not invested in their community doesn’t really get to complain about the problems of the community.”
Picnic for the community
Martins said the event hosted on Nov. 17 was specifically for the homeless to receive a meal along with a care package and to socialize. She shared that she thinks there is a division in the community between the homeless and the rest of the community– an “us versus them” concept.
By reaching out and showing genuine care for these people, Martins said she wished the people they were serving felt their love and hopes for them.
“This is a person, a person in your community, and you should treat them as such. They’re a friend that maybe you don’t know so well, but we need to let them feel like people.
“We’re the same. We want [them] to feel like [they] can come into these places and not feel like we have to feel so different from one another.”
The event consisted of complimentary food and games for anyone in attendance. The luncheon was roughly two to three hours in length, and Martins said 20 people outside of their team were in attendance.
Averi Strickenberger, a sophomore from Colorado studying psychology, said she helped run the games for the children during the event at Hauula. Through running these games, she was able to form connections with people in the community.
“My classmates said even though people are in a different situation than us, they are still people, and we should treat them like they’re people. It’s such a good feeling afterward. You almost feel like you’re on a high. You feel that you can do anything.”
Desire to give
Buckingham rejected the idea that people have to do elaborate acts of service to give back. He said even small things, like Band-Aids and a single can of Hawaiian Sun placed in donation boxes are steps in the right direction.
“I don’t think perfection or complete adherence to anything really brings any real kind of expectation for success. It’s about progress. . . It’s about being willing when the opportunity arises.
“The only control you have over [anything] is your willingness. If you are willing to do it, do it. If you’re not, then accept that you’re not.”
He shared many community members, including himself, have become desensitized to the homelessness in their area. He hopes events like this will help to shine a light on the prevalence of homelessness.