Sunday we went to mass at the infamous Sacred Heart Parish, and it was great as always. Sacred Heart, in south Camden, is where Father Michael Doyle has been for the past 44 years and is a very dynamic parish. From the church many ministries have spun off, including a housing re-hab organization, food ministries, and environmental justice retreat center. In the afternoon we went to Pomona Hall, a Cooper family plantation house from 1726. The museum houses many historical pieces and eras of Camden’s history, including old Victrolas from its industrial past.
Monday saw another neighborhood and Interns passing out Hopeworks flyers, this time on the edge of East Camden where the divide between Camden City and the neighboring area was stark. Halfway down the block, the housing changed from row homes to single family dwellings with yards. In the evening, Interns relaxed by watching Finding Nemo, a much needed rest to prepare for the rest of the week.
Today we had the unique experience of helping out at the Hopeworks Golf Event at the Ace Club outside Philadelphia. Every year Hopeworks puts on a golf tournament as a fundraiser, and we were able to help out during the day. We split into two groups, one went to New Visions during the morning then went to the tournament in the afternoon, then switched. It was a stark contrast, being at a ritzy golf club, having just talked to the homeless and driven from one of the poorest cities in the country. Instead of chatting with the homeless, the interns were surrounded by wealthy people, many of whom have probably not experienced anything like Camden or poverty. In the evening we were invited to a Bible study in Collingswood, discussing the Gospel of Mark.
Bright and early Wednesday morning, the Interns were fortunate to visit the office of Ed Williams, the Director of Development and Planning for the City of Camden. They had a unique chance to sit down with a member of Camden government and hear his perspective as well as ask questions they had about Camden. Mr Williams has the experience of working in Camden as well as growing up here, so he is very knowledgeable about its history and issues. In the evening, we took a leisurely stroll across the Ben Franklin Bridge to enjoy the sunset and unwind after another full day of service.
The morning activities for today was not typical. Half the group made cookies and a card for our neighbor Doris. She is an older lady who has lived in the neighborhood for years, and her house is across from the community garden where Tim is doing his mural. On Sunday her older daughter was killed by her husband in their house in the Fairview neighborhood of Camden. It’s devastating news to hear. We’ve known Doris for about a year now, and she’s hurting. One of our themes has been compassion which means ‘to suffer with’. Though we don’t know Doris’ pain, we suffered with her by bringing a simple offering of cookies and a card. The other half of the group began work on the burned out house next to some neighborhood kids who work with us, Jose and his sister (whose name i can never spell). We almost finished cleaning out the porch of trash, which included mostly soda bottles, tires, many car parts, oh and a possum which scared Lisa quite a bit! Tomorrow we will board up the windows and doors (they have been open for years, a big safety hazard for the kids!) fill in the porch with fill dirt, and plant flowers.