Name: Marielle Franco
From: torrington, CT
School: Quinnipiac University
If a homeless person approached you, what would you do? Would you walk away? Would you ignore them with an uncomfortable look on your face? Or would you make conversation, knowing that it would most certainly make their
When I was thirteen I began volunteering at my church’s soup kitchen, “Loaves and Fishes”. Every Tuesday after school I’d go and help set up and cook at around three o’clock, and I’d stay until every mouth was fed. This went on until I went away to college this fall. At first, my mother was a little skeptical about me spending five hours with the homeless from my city, some of which suffer from alcoholism, substance abuse, or mental illness. But, even at thirteen I wanted to help because I noticed there was a problem in my city of Torrington. For a small city, there is an unusually large homeless problem. My responsibilities included preparing the simpler dished such as side salads, dinner rolls, and deserts. Once the people came
in, all the volunteers would serve them in an assembly line style. After everyone had received food, I would often sit and talk with the homeless people while they ate. Some were families, some were completely alone.
The biggest challenge I ever had was realizing that there were some situations I couldn’t personally fix completely. For example, one man came every day on his bike, even when it was freezing and snowing. I began striking up conversation with him, asking about his life. He told me that he had served in Vietnam, and that when he came back he felt like there was
no longer a place for him in society. After falling victim to substance abuse, his wife and family abandoned him. I thought that there must be something I could do. How could a veteran be living this way, cold and alone on the streets? So, I asked him if there was anything that he felt would help him. He said all he wanted was a coat. Someone had stolen his at the shelter, and he couldn’t afford a new one. Buying that man a coat was the most satisfaction I’ve ever felt as a volunteer, or as a human in general.
People are very quick to judge. They dismiss the homeless as criminals and drug addicts. But no one chooses that life. What I learned as a volunteer is that it’s necessary to put yourself in other people’s shoes before you judge them. Imagine facing the choices of either stealing or starving. If more people just tried to consider this before writing off the less
fortunate as an irritant, society could be so much different. I see my volunteer work as “forward looking” because it influenced my future career path. I’m currently enrolled in the Legal Studies program at Quinnipiac University, and I would like to eventually work as a public defender. Many people are not fortunate enough to be able to afford their own attorney, and it’s only fair that everyone be given the same quality legal defense.
I would like to think that yes, my volunteer work made a lasting difference. So many of the people I spoke to at the soup kitchen said it had been ages since someone treated them like everyone else. If that doesn’t make a difference, then I don’t know what would. In the long term, my volunteer work inspired my career path which I intend on using to help people who are stuck in unbelievably unfair situations, such as my friend the Vietnam veteran.