For the past three years I’ve spent a week out of each summer at Fortress YDC. Although advertised as a mission trip, now that I look back on it I see it as more of a learning trip; the workers there were the ones with the real mission. Helping underprivileged kids through school, giving them what might be their only meals for the day, reaching out to the community, and educating groups such as ourselves about the aforementioned people only top the list of what they do daily. Our group, which consisted of incoming seventh through ninth grade girls, helps out in the pre-K through first grade section of Fortress from 9 to 2. During this time, we either took our “littles” on a field trip to the Children’s Museum or the Ft. Worth Zoo, or spent the day doing what they normally do; playing, singing, reading, crafts, etc. Then, once they left, we began our busy afternoon of Urban Experience.
We were all divided into three groups, each having the same tasks to complete on different days. One of these was the prayer drive, the purpose of which is to learn the history of the area. The places we stopped included Evans Square, the library, the park overlooking our littles’ neighborhoods, and, until recently, Delesssa’s bakery. As we learned about these places and the economic status of these streets, we also prayed for what they are now and what we hope they will become.
Another activity we did this last year was hand out water to the homeless people in the streets. This taught us about the conditions these people have to live in and how generous people are when they have next to nothing. I’ve seen and heard of stories where people grab extra water for friends, make sure we have enough to take to the homeless shelter before taking some themselves, and refuse to take a water bottle until they see that a woman with her two children get some. These stories and many more teach a valuable lesson that I hope we all took to heart.
Also, this last year we cooked a meal on a limited budget. The group responsible for cooking each night received $33.33 to cook for about 35 people. This activity included riding public transportation in the form of a bus, which many of us had never done before. After buying what we needed at the grocery store, we took the bus to a stop over a mile away from Fortress and walked the rest of the way back, heavy bags of food and all. This experience was an eye-opener as to what many parents must go through to get food on the table.
Each night after dinner we did something different, such as taking a trip to Walmart or a popsicle store, playing games with the other youth group helping at Fortress, and participating in Pay It Forward. This year’s P-I-F included giving money at Laundromats, buying toys and books for hospitals, and buying men’s underwear for the homeless shelter.
I’m really glad I’ve been able to go to Fortress for the past three years, and wouldn’t give up my experiences there for anything in the world. I hope that its influence will expand and many more will be touched by its numerous services and messages in the years to come.