Christmas in the City

Victor - Palatine, Illinois
Entered on May 19, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
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After we climbed the stairs to the top floor of the run-down building, we entered their apartment. Right when we walked in, I saw a boy crying. When my cousin and I asked him what had happened, he told us his friend had been shot by a stray bullet in a gang related shooting across the street from their junior high. He was 14 years old.

This past winter was the fourth year I participated in the Puerto Rican Bar Association’s Christmas Adopt-A-Family program. My cousin is a member of the Puerto Rican Bar Association and this is how I have been able to help out all these years. What the program does in the winter time is bring Christmas gifts, food, and clothing to needy Hispanic families in Chicago who can’t afford these things. The experiences I have had due to my involvement in this program have been the most deep, moving experiences I have ever had.

I am 18 years old and live in an upper/middle class neighborhood in the NW suburbs of Chicago. I feel that of the reasons that these experiences move me so much is that I never see the things I see in the program where I grew up. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like if one of my friends was shot near my school, and the way his mom nonchalantly described the situations showed me that this kind of this was a quite often occurrence. The completely different lifestyle that those families live opens my eyes more than anything. When we bring the gifts to the families, you can always see the relief on the parent’s faces, and the excitement on the children’s. It is an experience that can never be replicated.

The experiences I have had doing my volunteer work have been amazing. I have learned so much about myself and never take anything for granted. I know how lucky I am to have what I have and I always try to help others around me. This volunteer work has influenced me to go on to other volunteer worked, and throughout high school I have collected hundreds of hours. I love what I do and encourage everyone to help out the community in some way.