How we touched the lives of 16 people and 1 dog in one hour

This month we went on a giving spree. In one hour and armed with 100 pesos per person (about six US dollars), six people from our team headed to the streets around our Mexico City office. Our goal was to reach out to as many people as we could who needed some kind of support.  We broke into three teams. Team 1 (Dania and Fernando) soon went to glorieta de insurgentes where many homeless youth hang out.

They bought lunch kits (sandwiches and bottled water) and handed them out to seven hungry teenagers who started eating right away. Team 2 (Nancy and myself) were buying popsicles from an older man who sells candy on Reforma Av. to supplement his income. We then headed towards Team 1 and also bought six lunch kits. We handed three lunches  teenagers who didn’t get a lunch from Dania and Fernando’s team.

Our team then met a blind teenager. We asked her if she needed help. She asked us to describe to her what we saw around us. Then she asked to be escorted to the bus station, which we did. She had eaten already but gladly took a sandwich and a drink from us.

We then spotted an older lady who looked around 90 years old. Her skin was dark like she’d spent most of her daytime out in the sun. By her plain checkered blue dress she looked like she lived most of her youth in a rural part of Mexico. She’d just come out of the public toilets and before Nancy finished her sentence offering a lunch, she quickly grabbed it and gently smiled at us without saying a word and kept going.

We also ran into an older man crossing the street. He was limping from his right leg. His shoes with no socks or shoelaces looked liked they’d been used for decades. We talked to him and said he was heading to his house about five kilometers away. He told us most of his income comes from begging on the streets and the rest comes from his government pension of around 1,000 pesos (less 60 dollars per month). Team 3 (César and Miriam) decided to feed street dogs. They bought dog food with their money and walked around looking for dogs, but only found one.

They gave him a small pouch of wet food that disappeared right away. With 80 pesos left we headed to Pixza, a restaurant that donates every sixth slice of pizza it sells to teenagers who are living on the streets. The manager told us they don’t receive cash donations but they encourage people to treat themselves to a pizza knowing eventually one will be donated to someone who can’t buy one. Their program ensures teenagers do some form of community work and get job training in order to receive the support from the restaurant. All the waiters employed at Pixza are former street youth. 

What we learned from this exercise: It was a very touching experience for many of us. We had a chance to speak to people we normally ignore on the streets. Just asking if they need anything, or offering help opens up a conversation we wouldn’t have had otherwise. While the lives of those 16 people probably didn’t change from our quick exercise, it encouraged us to not be fearful and approach others who might need help.

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