Youth experience poverty up close and personal

Aidan Ferguson

At 1:00 p.m. on Friday April 12th, twelve youth gathered at St. Simon’s Oakville for the annual 30-Hours for Poverty program. 

This program is meant to educate youth about poverty in the local community and make a difference by volunteering at organizations that help people living in poverty. 

I have been participating in this program for a few years now, and I always learn something new. 

Poverty 1 group IMG_4496
At Kerr Street Mission on Friday, the young people prepared and served a dinner to low income families from the Oakville community. Photos: Tamara Ferguson

On that Friday afternoon we talked about what poverty is, how people living in poverty have no specific look or cultural/religious background, and can come from all walks of life. 

We also read and discussed the passage Matthew 25: 34-46, which was our theme for the program. I believe this passage is saying Jesus is in everyone, and we must help others as we would for Jesus, and as he would for us. 

Shortly afterwards, we headed over to Kerr Street Mission to prepare and serve a dinner of sloppy Joes, salad, biscuits and ice cream to low income families from the Oakville community. 

Afterwards, we went back to St. Simon’s to reflect on the experience, play some card games and watch a movie. We slept on the floor of the church hall, in sleeping bags and on blow up mattresses.

The next morning we had a modest breakfast at the church before heading over to Safetynet Children & Youth Charities for the first time. Safetynet services families with clothing, diapers, furniture, household items, bicycles, tutoring, music lessons and much more. They rely on community donations to provide free items and services to financially disadvantaged families. 

Poverty 2 warehouse IMG_4510
On Saturday morning, the youth visited Safetynet Children & Youth Charities, which helps families with clothing, diapers, furniture, household items, bicycles, tutoring, music lessons and much more. Photos: Tamara Ferguson

After taking a tour, we cleaned, sorted and organized clothing, furniture and houseware donations for a few hours. It was great to find out about an organization that provides low income families with all kinds of needs and services — for free! 

After eating lunch back at St. Simon’s, we went to Oakville’s Fareshare Food Bank. Here we had a tour of the warehouse and put together snack bags for children in need, and sorted macaroni and cheese boxes according to date. 

After our return to the church, we participated in a service of reflection and the Eucharist, and talked about what we’d experienced, our thoughts, feelings and what we learned over the weekend. 

We then enjoyed dinner together and departed on Saturday at 6:00 p.m. 

This amazing weekend wouldn’t have been possible without our Youth Coordinator Robyn Michell, Rector Darcey Lazerte and the other adult volunteers. 

All in all, it was a great and impactful weekend, where I learned a lot more about poverty in Oakville, and the amazing community resources and volunteers who work tirelessly to help those in need. 

I can’t wait for next year’s program!

Poverty 3 Aidan FSixteen-year-old Aidan Ferguson is a member of St. Simon’s Oakville.