January in Camden

Vittorio Haley

Vittorio Haley

Bernardo Stival, Staff Writer

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  1. Earlier this year in late January, twenty Delbarton students set off on a weekend retreat to Camden. This retreat, which the Diversity Among Peers club hosts twice a year, took place over three nights at the Romero Center in Camden. In Camden, these students took part in the Urban Challenge, where they volunteered at several service sites around Camden for the day. Brendan McEnroe, one of the juniors who attended the retreat, commented that it gave him “a new appreciation for even the little things.”

One of the highlights of the Urban Challenge is that you have to prepare your meals for one day. This activity involves groups of three or four people having to actually buy their food for that day with only $3 per person. The challenge doesn’t end there, as each group is given a different scenario which impacts the food you can have throughout the day. These scenarios range from diabetes, where you have to be cautious about the amount of sugar in the food you purchase, to even homelessness, where you’re allowed no utilities or utensils, only water. My group, for example, had hypertension. This meant that we could only eat foods with less than 5% sodium. With only 15 minutes to shop, our group came out with $12 worth of bananas and plain oatmeal. Our breakfast consisted of microwaved oatmeal with bananas, our lunch was just bananas, and our dinner was more oatmeal and bananas. This simulation serves as a window into one of Camden’s many problems, which is the lack of variety in food, especially for those with eating restrictions.

The Urban Challenge does not end at the dinner table. The first day, every Delbarton student who attended worked from nine-to-five at these service sites. My group volunteered at New Visions, a day center for the homeless of Camden. There, we set up breakfast and lunch for over seventy people and organized the clothing donations in only four hours. Afterwards, we joined another group at Cathedral Kitchen, where we unpacked a truck full of fresh ingredients that the people of Camden lack. Afterwards, we prepared the tables for a dinner that would serve over two hundred people. The next day, we spent our morning interacting with the residents at Abigail House, a rehabilitation facility and nursing home for people with physical and mental disorders. As Mr. Tabor put it, the retreat is “the Ministry of Presence. You’re not helping these people because you’re better than them or because you feel bad. You’re helping because you are living with them.”

As someone who participated three times in this retreat, I can safely say that it is one of the best experiences I have had at Delbarton. Not only is it an easy way to help those in need, it is also an amazing way to bond with other people. For those interested in participating in the retreat, there is another date available this year in April. Contact Mr. Negrin or Ms. Gomez for the permission slips.

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