Everyone boasts about the beautiful campus at Western University. In fact, I partially had picked the school because of how much the buildings looked like fairy tale castles with their stone towers and stained glass windows. But it wasn’t until I ventured off campus for the first time that I first saw just how many people in the city were sleeping on the streets. It would be a pile of comforters under the shade of a store awning, a woman pushing a grocery cart full of her worldly belongings, or a man with a toothy smile outside the grocery store asking for change. I felt bad, with my monthly budget for groceries and train tickets home, that I couldn’t really afford to give five dollars to each person I encountered.
I learned that many of the people living on the streets in London were mentally ill elderly. They perhaps couldn’t access all of the services that we had in the city such as housing and access to medication. It is well known that adherence to mental illness drugs can be very challenging without a caregiver to support the process. Many of these people shun the very communities who would support them for example, there is a man who shouts profanities at people passing by the Church each day. If he were ever to become violent, he would be banned from the Church’s free meal service. I felt disheartened because there was no way that I could “cure” mental illness to solve the underlying problem many of these people face.
Thanks to some advice from my mom, I focused on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t do. I learned that every day in London, there is a free meal service offered somewhere in the city. Every Saturday, St. John’s Church offers free dinner to anyone who is hungry and would like to eat. All they usually need are volunteers! I was excited to help in any way that I could and last Saturday I helped to make and serve meals to the homeless in London. We fed close to 200 people and also gave them food to take home. I also got to meet the team; many of them had been volunteering with the hospitality meal service at the church for twenty years! It made me so happy that the community was so active in supporting its most vulnerable population.
There are many problems in the world that seem much bigger than us. This can overwhelm us into not doing anything at all. What can one meal do for someone who isn’t really able to get a meal every day? What can one less plastic bag do for the environment? What can buying one less piece of fast fashion do for the wastefulness of the fashion industry? This theme is a vein that runs through every important issue we can think of. I believe that small actions add up and do make a difference in the grand scheme of things. At the very least, they acquaint us more intimately with the problem and may give us ideas to solve the problem in a more significant way in the future. This is why I love the Beauty with a Purpose component of Miss World and hope to continue to help my community in any way that I can.