Nine students immersed themselves in downtown Cincinnati to empathize, understand and make positive changes involving poverty. Kate Allaire ‘20, Andrew Buchanan ‘18, Peyton Burrows ‘20, Natalie Davis ‘18, Lia-Sophie Keller ‘20, Zoe Mason ‘20, Erin McGraw ‘20, Hillary Vaughn ‘20 and Nicole VanVoorhis ‘18, along with chaperones Jim Brooks and Peg Regan ‘73, participated in this year’s Urban Plunge.
“This was my second time on Urban Plunge and I wanted to go back because I had such an amazing time the first time, and this time was no different,” said Buchanan.
“I decided to go on Urban Plunge to get a better understanding of how people in poverty have to live,” shared Vaughn. “I am grateful that I have always had the opportunity to attend a Catholic school and have had a comfortable life, but I do know that there are others who are not as fortunate as I am, and I was eager to learn more.”
As part of their service learning trip, the group spoke with people living in poverty and served at St. Vincent de Paul.
“My favorite part was the SNAP challenge when we walked to the nearest Kroger — which was 45 minute by foot — and we received $4-$5 and had to make a healthy and wholesome meal for our "family" of three or four,” said Keller. “It was a great experience to see what other people have to deal with every day and it shows how really ineffective the food stamps are.”
“My favorite part of the Urban Plunge was definitely my home visit,” McGraw reflected. “Throughout various parishes in the U.S., St. Vincent de Paul has a program where a group of people, known as the Vincentians, visit the living conditions of people who call in for help. On my home visit, I visited an apartment where a young mother and her two adorable toddlers lived. The experience was so eye-opening and helped me to get a better idea of what I can do to help the situation.”
VanVoorhis agreed, “My favorite part was meeting people experiencing poverty first hand, talking to them, hearing their story first-hand, and being able to help them.”
Those who went on the Urban Plunge said they had a different view of poverty after their experience.
“Before the Urban Plunge retreat, I believed all the stereotypes that people in poverty were ‘lazy’ and ‘not trying to make a better life’,” Vaughn said. “I learned that the reality is, they work extremely hard. The government does not make it easy for people to get out of poverty. Even agencies that would help the poor, are not always reliable and helpful.”
“I learned that if you see panhandlers and don't have any money on you, you should at least talk to them and say, ‘Hey I don't have any money on me right now, but have a nice day’,” VanVoorhis continued. “It takes away their humanity and dignity when people ignore them and pretend they are not there or worth saying hello to.”
McGraw added, “One major thing that surprised me about the retreat was the state of the children in poverty. While visiting and helping the children, I realized that kids will always be kids. Although they were living in such harsh conditions, they were still laughing and playing as all little kids do. Getting to be with these people was so humbling. I really got to better know how blessed we all actually are and how we were given these talents to help support our neighbors.”
When reflecting on the experience overall, Keller said, “This retreat helped me to look at my own life and realize how truly fortunate I am. I experienced and felt God's presence in these amazing people and their stories. I can't wait to go on Urban Plunge in future years!”
Buchanan added, “I highly encourage anyone thinking about it to go. Urban Plunge is an experience I believe everyone should go on because it gives you a new perspective about everything and the world around us, especially about our neighbors that are living in poverty or experiencing homelessness.”
Posted March 14, 2018