“There would be times where a week or two would pass by and we’d hardly eat anything,” the voice of David Diaz said, in a video projected to Manhattan College students and faculty Wednesday afternoon.
Diaz was among three homeless youths who shared their Covenant House rescue stories in the video.
Covenant House Inc., the worlds largest privately owned charity organization, provides food and shelter for thousands of children in 15 U.S. states, Washington D.C., Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
Guest speaker, Kevin Ryan, the President and CEO of Covenant House Inc., gave a speech depicting the gruesome conditions of homeless and exploited children throughout the Americas.
“The happiest times of my life were being on the NJ transit trains with my five brothers going to a Yankee game or going to see a play or going to see the Rockefeller Christmas tree,” Ryan said. “These were times of connections and love and family and it never occurred to me that on the other side of those trains there were kids either slightly older or slightly younger than me who had no family and who were living on their own.”
Two million children face homelessness in the United States every year. Since opening it’s doors 40 years ago the agency has helped over 1 million homeless and runaway children.
The shelters provide children with help parenting, education, job and life training, drug abuse treatment and legal services among a host of other support programs.
“I think whenever we have events like this where we’re inviting speakers and addressing different social justice issues, I hope that students will be inspired to think about ways that they can get involved whether it’s through advocacy or community service,” Kathleen Von Euw, Coordinator of Community Partnerships and Service, said.
“I think those are the experiences that help shape us and help us grow and help student figure out how they can integrate service to others into their careers and their lives.”
Students can get involved by visiting the New York Covenant House location on West 41st Street or start locally on campus by visiting the Campus Ministry and Social Action office in Miguel Hall 209 for inquiries.
“I wanted to thank the students and the university community for all the support that this special place has given to Covenant House over the years,” Ryan said. “I wanted to put an invitation out there for people to get involved in the lives of homeless kids in the city. There are 350 homeless teenagers a short drive from here and the young people on this campus can make a very big difference in their lives by showing up.”
Volunteering at the shelter can be as short as taking a day to serve meals, organize the clothing or paint rooms. Volunteers also have the option of participating in an ongoing role of mentoring or tutoring kids.
Career opportunities also exist within the agency which is how Ryan himself got involved as a lawyer.
The agency’s Faith Community is also a prominent component of the program. Faith volunteers can dedicate six months or a year working as resident advisors, youth advisors or case managers in the state or country of their choice. Volunteers with said credentials can also serve in the agency’s medical services, outreach or pastoral care programs.
“There is nowhere we’re not going,” Ryan said. “We’re going into jails, we’re going into alleys, we’re going in the underwood Motel under the boardwalk in Atlantic City, we’re going to the downtown East in Vancouver, we’re going to go in the Hollywood strip one of the last places where you can see kids bought and sold every single night, we’re going into the eastern market in Managua and we’re going into the tenements of Mexico City.”
Many students showed their interest and stopped by the information desk to pick up brochures and speak with Ryan.
“This presentation had a lasting impact on me and I definitely plan on getting involved immediately, in the ways that I can,” Manhattan College senior, Nimra Shabbir, said after speaking with Ryan. “It’s very beneficial for students, when guest speakers who work within certain fields come in to share their experiences; students get connected to resources that they might not otherwise have heard of.”
“The most important thing is deciding to show up, deciding to get in the mix because once people decide what they want to do, figuring out how to do it is so much easier,” Ryan said.