Just as hope, ACAN youths did not stop on the first couple days of 2021; instead, they packed Bags of Hope with heart-warming essentials. Altogether, over 30 youth and parents spent 110 hours to prepare and deliver over 400 bags to the homeless camps all over the city. 

Emily Dickinson wrote this exact 160 years ago:

Hope is the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all. 

Items in each bag
Volunteers packing bags
Ready to go!

Hope is meant to be spread, so we asked some of our volunteers to share their experiences with us.

Joshua Wu (7th grade)

I wasn’t very involved with the process of making these bags so the only experience I can share is bringing the bags. Bringing the bags was very interesting. Every one of the homeless people wanted the bags and many expressed their gratitude. Some asked for the bags, and all thanked us. Though the bags didn’t contain any money or anything very important, they all were very grateful. Though to us, we would think all these things would be trivial in our everyday lives just the little things in the bag made them smile and thank us. I think it’s important that in the pandemic we appreciate those who were hit worst by it. We have a lot to be thankful for and this trip really showed it.

Joshua delivered bags in downtown Austin

Catherine Tu (9th grade)

Bags of Hope was a project dedicated to helping the homeless, even throughout Covid-19. The project taught us to plan ahead, be flexible, and cooperate with the community around us. Through this project we were able to plan and create weekly agendas, design posters for the bags, get others involved with the project, and send the Bags of Hope to the homeless. Bags of Hope not only spread interest among the Austin communities but also spread awareness of the situation the homeless are in. When delivering the bags, each person smiled and thanked me, showing how much joy even just a single Bag of Hope could give. 

Catherine walked to the homeless camp with her mom

Gloria Wu(9th grade)

Bags of Hope was meant as a way for us to deliver essential items to the homeless community. I was pretty involved throughout the whole process, from planning to buying items to packing and then distributing. As we were distributing bags, I was really surprised to see so many tents and felt very regretful that we couldn’t reach many of the homeless. Later on I learned that many homeless from other cities, like Houston and San Antonio, are moving to Austin because we are the only city in Texas where camping is allowed. Many of them are even given free bus passes to come here. With more and more homeless moving over, I hope we can expand the Bags of Hope project so we can continue providing needed supplies to those in need.

Gloria led the bag packing party in her garage

Mindy Young (10th grade)

We often take advantage of good deeds like this which others are so grateful for. To us, it might not seem like a lot, but for someone else, it might be the food that would provide them for the next day or two (even though it was mostly snacks… haha). Giving the homeless people “bags of hope,” although a small gesture, could brighten up not only their lives but ours too. I’ve always wanted to help the homeless, in some way or another, so this initiative was the perfect opportunity. We weren’t able to provide housing or an unlimited supply of food for the homeless people, but were able to give them “bags of hope” with a nice little message attached to each of them. After the bags of hope were filled with food, utensils, and love & hopefulness, a group of 11 of us delivered them to the homeless people living in all corners of Austin. 

It was a great experience knowing that we made people smile and that they were appreciative of what we were doing, but I would’ve loved to be able to sit down and hear about their stories, their lives, their challenges, their goals and aspirations, and all about the life that seems so far yet so close to us because truth is, I don’t understand, you don’t understand, and nobody except them knows what they’re going through. Unfortunately, because of the virus, there was limited contact and only a few exchanges of words. 

Someone once said to me homeless people don’t actually want to get off the streets and they don’t want to work. In fact, they just want to leech off the government and live off welfare and food stamps (?). While that may be true for one of two of them, that’s simply not true for the majority who are doing all that they can to get housing, a job, and on top of that, trying to create a better environment within their community. I hope in the future, we can provide the homeless people with more necessities and I hope we can have more volunteers join us, including those who view the homeless negatively because it may possibly change their perspective on things :). If we raise awareness about this issue so that people get a more authentic understanding of the homeless and the situation, we will be able to address and reduce the stigma attached to homeless people. This is not life-changing (maybe it is, who knows), but this simple act of kindness can go a long way. 

Mindy delivered bags in downtown Austin

Rachel Chen (11th grade)

I often like to bake for my friends and family, especially during the holidays, so I thought that it would be nice to bake for the homeless to bring some cheer. During these times, it has become extremely difficult for the homeless to safely acquire resources, because PPE has become scarce and resources have increased in prices. Even simple things like obtaining a warm meal have become more difficult. Home-baked goods bring this special warmth that can’t be found elsewhere, and having something sweet once in a while can really elevate the homeless’s mood. Knowing that there are people in our community caring for them, the homeless might have some new hope that this pandemic will be over soon, and that things will get better.

I wanted to do things for the homeless in some positive ways, and I chose to bake goods for them because baking is a skill and hobby that I really enjoy doing. I wanted to use this passion of mine to help others in need. Everyone is part of our community and we should look out for each other, especially during this hardship. Not only is the virus contagious, but sweetness and kindness are even more contagious and powerful. Together, we will have a “sweeter” future.

Rachel baked cookies for homeless

Our next delivery will be on Feb 13th. Want to help? There are a few things you could do:

  • Donating bags of hope (we will tell you how to purchase and pack bags)
  • Participating in the bag packing party (we will let you know when)
  • Delivering the bags (you will need to be an adult or approved by your parents)

To contact the project leader, Gloria Wu, please email gloriawu2014@gmail.com

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