By Angelina Maniti and Rose Lopez, 2019 San Diego Staff Alumni
In early March, a group of 10 students and staff from University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA traveled to San Diego to participate in an Alternative Break. San Diego staff alumni Angelina Maniti and Rose Lopez led volunteers through two projects with our community partners – interior painting with the Imperial Beach Neighborhood Center and harvesting fruit with Harvest CROPS (Community Residents Offering Produce Seasonally). This was our final in-person volunteer experience of the year and we are so thankful they were able to join us.
Volunteers worked with several long-time SSP community partners, including Pastor John Griffin-Atil, Dan Damato (Executive Director of Streets of Hope), Sergio Padilla (Executive Director of Harvest CROPS), and Pastor John Fanestil (Executive Director of Via International).
Working with non-profit organizations like Harvest CROPS and Streets of Hope allowed volunteers to experience various ways of serving the community and allowed them to explore different parts of San Diego. These collaborative experiences have been highlights of summer programs and it’s wonderful to be able to work with our partners during year-round programs as well.
“Working with non-profit organizations like Harvest CROPS and Streets of Hope allowed volunteers to experience various ways of serving the community and allowed them to explore different parts of San Diego”
Angelina and Rose, who both served on staff in San Diego in 2019, were able to reconnect with community partners, including Pastor John and others at the Imperial Beach Neighborhood Center, while preparing for the group. Year-round service with our community partners helps us stay connected with local leaders and gives staff insight into how we can further our partnerships, both on an ongoing basis and as part of future programs.
During dinner shortly after arrival, volunteers and staff members got to know each other, and Angelina went over the schedule and answered questions about the plan for the upcoming days. Afterwards, staff shared more about Sierra Service Project and its mission so volunteers could understand our presence in the community and have a deeper connection with the projects they would be working on.
Our first full day together! The volunteers came from a variety of religious and non-religious backgrounds, including several Muslim students, and they opted to attend Border Church in the afternoon. Border Church, or El Faro, is a bi-national service held every week in Friendship Park, allowing community members from Mexico and the US to worship together from both sides of the border fence. SSP staff attended worship at the Neighborhood Center, offered by Pastor John Griffin-Atil, then made their way to join the volunteer group for a second service.
Pastor Seth David Clark conducted worship at the Tijuana Estuary. Pastor Seth led attendees on a trail that would reveal a vista of Mexico and the border. It was quite the view! The Border Church service was held on the Mexican side of the border, but volunteers were able to use their phones to watch the broadcast live on Facebook.
After the service, Pastor Seth took the time to talk with SSP volunteers and answered questions. After Border Church, Pastor John Griffin-Atil joined Sunday dinner to sit down and talk with volunteers. He shared about the Imperial Beach Neighborhood Center’s work with the community, their mission, and their hopes for the future.
Our first workday! We decided it would be best to split up the volunteers into 2 groups of 5 people. Laura Steed was in charge of the IBNC project, and Laura Whiteley was in charge of fruit-picking volunteer work with Harvest CROPS.
Partnering with Harvest CROPS was a great experience for the 5 volunteers and gave them a great window into an organization doing impactful work on the ground in the community. After dinner, the group had an opportunity to work with Streets of Hope, a non-profit organization that offers services like food and haircuts to unsheltered folks in San Diego. Volunteers gathered at the Smart & Final parking lot, where they worked on creating food bags that would be passed out to people living on the streets.
SSP volunteers were led by Dan, Executive Director of Streets of Hope, while passing out food bags. After all the food was passed out, volunteers closed in prayer. Back at the IBNC, SSP volunteers and staff had an hour of discussion on the day. Each person shared how the experience impacted them and what they learned. This led to reflective conversations on how they could implement similar programs in their own communities.
The final workday! There was rain, but true to the SSP spirit, it did not stop them. Both groups stayed to work at the IBNC and were able to do some interior painting. The teams were efficient and excited to serve our community partners who had supported them during their time in San Diego. Pastor John was able to direct the group toward additional indoor work that was needed, such as cleaning and retouching the walls in the basement. Time went by quite fast that day and before we knew it, the painting was done!
We are so thankful to have been able to serve with our friends in San Diego, as one of our final in-person service experiences in 2020 before shifting operations online. We deeply miss being present in-person, but are so excited to explore new opportunities to serve with this community!
Editor’s Note: Interested in continuing to support our community partners? Check out our first quarterly town hall for updates on SSP’s online programming and follow our social media pages (Instagram/Facebook) to stay connected.