by Rebecca Smoot
This past week, Hi’s Eye staffer Zoё Rader went on a weeklong trip to Africa where she helped distribute filters to purify contaminated water. After hearing about her stories and seeing her pictures on Instagram, I felt inspired but also helpless.
I wanted to be able to help on such a grand scale like Zoё did, but a trip to Africa is a little unrealistic for me. As I got to thinking, I realized that I don’t need to cross oceans to make a difference.
I thought of Agape, a soup kitchen I go to every Wednesday in Elizabeth, run through the Presbyterian Church of Westfield. It is styled like a restaurant, where the volunteers are in charge of the kitchen and the dining room. Most of the guests are homeless, so Agape gives them a warm place to sit down for a home-cooked meal. On certain weeks we serve up to 300 guests. It creates a space for the volunteers, mostly middle and high school students, to connect with people they normally wouldn’t get the chance to interact with.
Over the four years that I have been going to Agape, I have become close with two little girls named Abony and Savannah. They are 11 and 2, respectively, and move from apartment to apartment with their mom. These girls get so much joy from the company of the volunteers, and they run in every Wednesday afternoon with smiles on their faces. Abony gushes about the whipped cream on the cake while Savannah giggles with the middle school volunteers who are playing peek-a-boo with her.
It wasn’t until I thought of Abony and Savannah that I realized our ability to make a difference starts at home. These girls have better lives every week because they get a warm meal, and it only takes a 30-minute trip to Elizabeth. There are so many people in this country who need our help. It is important to look within our own community to see who we can help, in all the ways we can.
I encourage everyone who feels inspired by Zoё’s stories to go out and find their own way of fostering change, whether it’s at Agape, or in Africa.