By LIBBY GIBSON, Ranger Reporter:
This fall semester, some of my coursework turned away from textbooks and focused on touching hearts. I was required to complete a service-learning project for my psychology class. I had no idea the impact this experience would have.
I volunteered with Amarillo Helping Hearts, an organization founded by AC social work major Chaharra Gilma and her friend Lisa Colon in 2013. Gilma and Colon began this organization by serving beans to the homeless community in Ellwood Park. Through word of mouth and reaching out to various businesses, their organization has grown vastly.
“The homeless community is always incredibly grateful for our services,” Gilma said. “Our end goal is to provide them with apartment housing, set them up with credit cards, give them a safe space to rehabilitate from substance abuse, and get them back on their feet.”
Serving in the community influenced my perceptions about the homeless significantly.
Previously my idea of homeless individuals was that they were lazy and unwilling to work and be productive members of society.
After serving with Amarillo Helping Hearts, my perspective shifted to one of understanding. I now see the homeless community as people who quickly found themselves in unfortunate circumstances and have the desire to change.
I spoke with a man named Rick who had been homeless for about three months due to losing his business and going through a destructive divorce. Rick stressed how he was working to find a way to move into an apartment and get off the streets.
His story made me realize the homeless community is often just made of people who found themselves in unfortunate situations and are down on their luck. Rick was a successful married man with his own business, who suddenly found himself with nothing.
His situation made me realize that normal, successful people can have ill-fated circumstances in life that lead them to a reality they never pictured.
I will continue to volunteer with Amarillo Helping Hearts. The experience of providing the homeless community with food has impacted me greatly.
It was a humbling experience seeing those who have so little continue to remain positive.
I find it easy to get bogged down in my own problems, but seeing individuals who have nothing to their names keep a positive attitude is truly inspiring and enlightening.
What started as a simple class assignment ended up teaching me lessons I will never forget.