A Powerful Experience Volunteering at Project Home
Jean A. King
Edited by Kristin Vanevenhoven, Communications Specialist
Q&A with Jean A. King, Project Home Volunteer and Program Evaluator
Q: Explain the history of your involvement with Project Home.
A: Our family has been volunteering at Project Home for quite a while. We started volunteering during the overnight shift, which is from 8 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., where you stay overnight with the shelter guests. In the morning, you get up very early to make breakfast and make sure the guests get on their way back to the day shelter. Sleeping in a bed other than your own really reminds you that not everyone has that privilege and that these guests are sleeping like this every night.
Q: Do you currently volunteer for the overnight shift?
A: As of late, we have been volunteering for the evening shift, which is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. It is a different experience than overnight because you get more of a chance to interact with the guests and play with the children.
Q: What is the relationship like between your host site, Mount Zion Temple, and Project Home?
A: Mount Zion Temple is over 150 years old and we have been doing social justice work for a very long time. We are proud to be part of Project Home. We believe in the Jewish commitment “Tikkun olam,” which means, “repairing the world” and signifies our commitment to social action. Project Home brings this commitment to a very personal level because everyone can take part in this activity and work face to face with people in our community who need shelter.
Q: What is the difference between contributing money vs. volunteering at Project Home?
A: All of us give money, and we know that is important to do, but the opportunity to volunteer at Project Home is exceptional because you get to meet people. I think experiential learning is incredibly powerful. So rather than reading about shelters for families who are homeless, you are hosting one and doing everything in your power to make it a positive experience for the families. And seeing the young kids, just like my kids were, except that these kids don’t have a home. It makes me incredibly sad to think, what kind of a country do we live in where that is the case?
Q: What do you think people are most surprised about when volunteering at Project Home?
A: Well, having a job does not necessarily mean you can afford a home. Seeing someone who has arrived late to shelter because they have just finished a shift is shocking. It is shocking to think about this person working all day, sleeping at this shelter, getting up early to go to another shelter, and then going to work again. And then think about the kids going to school. What do they tell their friends? How do they explain that they don’t have a home?
Q: How do you feel interacting with guests at Project Home?
A: Project Home is built on the belief that people are people and that everyone deserves a home and a fair shot at life. Project Home gives people like me the opportunity to interact with people who have very different lives. While interacting with the guests, I often struggle with the notion of privilege. If I had been born into a different situation, I could easily be a guest at Project Home.
Q: Tell me about Project Home’s program evaluation.
A: Program evaluation is done to help programs be better at what they do. This evaluation is primarily being done by a group of volunteers. We will be evaluating the experiences of the guest and volunteers. We know that the voices of program participants are often not heard, so giving them the opportunity to contribute is really important. Project Home is eager to be participating in this process and we look forward to sharing our results with them.
To learn more about Project Home, please contact:
Director, Project Home