Intern Odyssey: Burritos, Bicycles, and Ministry-That’s a Wrap!

Kat and I showcasing our expertly crafted Burritos

Times like this one make me regret being the (seemingly) only person on the planet who never learned how to properly ride a bike. (“Properly” as defined by spending more time on the bike than on the ground). For years it has been only a point of embarrassment, but when I arrived at the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry, an awesome ministry where volunteers make burritos, and then take them on their bikes to give to people on the street who are hungry, I began to regret never learning how.

Here you can have your burritos...and eat them too!

Here you can have your burritos…and eat them too!

One of my favorite things to do at volunteer sites is to get to know the people who both run and volunteer alongside me. I have found, more often that not, that people who spend time volunteering in the community have extremely interesting back stories. It is almost always worth asking them questions about their lives, as their answers might shock, astound, and inspire you. It was a very interesting crew of volunteers that showed up to help prepare burritos the night I was there. As I made burritos, I found myself surrounded by people from various backgrounds, like a New York speech pathologist-in-training and an avid church goer with a ponytail. No matter what their backgrounds were, though everyone was eager to pitch in.

A few of the awesome volunteers who made the magic happen

Alongside me was my friend Kat, a Volunteer Odyssey participant who I met earlier in the week through volunteering (hooray) and who also happened to have worked at her schools burrito shop previously, so I was lucky to have such a seasoned professional guiding my movements. Each of us worked as one arm of the human burrito assembly line, creating a smooth and seamless process.

Kat and I showcasing our expertly crafted Burritos

Kat and I showcasing our expertly crafted Burritos

After assembling all the burritos we moved downstairs and began packing goody bags of snacks to give to people. While we packed, people began arriving with their bikes and the room became lively with people (both old friends and first timers) twittering excitedly, pumping up their bike tires, and putting burritos into their backpacks as they prepared for their journey.

Volunteers pump up their bikes and prepare for their journey!

Volunteers pump up their bikes and prepare for their journey!

While I myself was not able to go along for the ride (I figure the first time I experiment with bike riding probably shouldn’t be at night with a backpack full of delicious but easily squishable burritos), I nonetheless felt part of the Urban Bicycle Food Ministry community and was grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to such a unique and worthwhile ministry. It is interesting how sometimes the simplest of ideas-such as riding around on a bike handing out burritos-can be such a tremendous impact on its volunteers and its community.

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? Mira Biller is the intern at Volunteer Odyssey and is passionate about a variety of social justice issues. She especially loves connecting people with organizations that will be mutually beneficial and helping to create a better and more connected community. Contact her at mira@volunteerodyssey.com

—————————————————————————————————————————————————
If you like our work, please DONATE to keep it going!
Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!

Intern Odyssey: Spirit of the…Stomach?

Since I went through college as probably the only student to never drink a cup of coffee, it was a little strange to find myself at a beverage cart in charge of distributing hundreds of cups of coffee to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital nurses and patients. After a crash course on how to make coffee (a skill that patients found hard to believe I did not have), we were off!

When I first heard that I would be distributing coffee at Le Bonheur, I thought it sounded like fun, but not something entirely vital for a hospital. It wasn’t until I manned the beverage cart and visited each hospital room that I realized how wrong I was.

What I found to be most unique about Le Bonheur hospital is that it does more than just focus on treating health issues–it also focuses on each patient’s quality of life. This is apparent in both the specially  created artwork, and the attitude of everyone who works there. I realized that sometimes it is the little things that make the most difference to hospital patients: things like pet therapy, chocolate chip granola bars, coffee, and smiles. It was clear that some of the patients and parents just wanted company, someone to talk to, something normal in their lives. I couldn’t blame them.

As I pushed the cart through the hospital corridors, red and green hands affixed to room doors indicated that visitors were welcome or prohibited into the rooms. Walking down the beautifully decorated hospital halls, I saw a wide variety of patients from teenagers being pulled around on stretchers to beautiful little girls, one with a parade of balloons from the hit Disney movie Frozen tied to her wheelchair. Le Bonheur walls are decorated in beautiful hand-crafted and uplifting works of art, again aiming not just to keep patients well, but working to enable them to live and enjoy high quality of lives.

An example of one of the hospital's unique and uplifting art pieces

One example of the unique and uplifting works of art displayed on the hospital walls                                                                 

Joining me at the beverage cart was Gordon, the Le Bonheur volunteer who built the beverage cart himself! I loved chatting with Gordon throughout the day, and learned all about his religious beliefs. I grew up with a rabbi for a father, but have previously worked at a Lutheran church’s social justice ministry and served as the president of my college’s interfaith club, so I am always interested to learn about people’s faith beliefs and how their beliefs help form their actions and life views, particularly in regards to service.

Gordan and I Manning the Beverage Cart

Gordon and me in front of the awesome Beverage Cart

The beverage cart itself is ridiculously awesome with windmill fans, sparkles,  and streamers. Side note, Gordon first discovered his role at Le Bonheur through his daughter Timorie. I couldn’t get over what a beautiful thing this was for a father and daughter to be able to work together and it made me think back to when I was 13 and my father (being the rabbi of the synagogue at the time) said the blessing over me in front of everyone for my bat mitzvah. I was honored to temporarily ‘join’ Gordon’s family for the day. It was clear from the interactions between Gordon and the nurses that they all knew and loved and supported each other. I watched them joke around: Gordon joked that certain people were restricted from coffee and their good-natured teasing further illuminated to me how tightly-knit the community there at Le Bonheur is.

This community extends past staff and volunteers. On multiple occasions we were refereed to by patients as “a God send.” It is amazing how a cup of coffee can change the outlook of a day and as we continued, it was clear that the beverage cart’s magic was as much for the nurses as it was for the patients.  Many of these nurses had been up with patients late through the night, and this small cup of coffee was what revived them and renewed their energy and spirits.

I learned a lot at Le Bonheur and as I move forward in my own life, I plan on being more conscious of the small things that I can do for people that actually go an extremely long way. I am thankful to Le Bonheur for reminding me the invaluable impact of conversation and a free cup of coffee.

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? Mira Biller is the intern at Volunteer Odyssey and is passionate about a variety of social justice issues. She especially loves connecting people with organizations that will be mutually beneficial and help create a better and more connected community. Contact her at mira@volunteerodyssey.com

—————————————————————————————————————————————————
If you like our work, please DONATE to keep it going!
Want the insider story and more pictures? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!