I Knew A Little Girl So Long Ago

by Chelsea Lynne Sandmeyer


I knew a little girl so long ago. She was all of six and lived in a house nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

The windward slopes of the Appalachians had been her playground. Echoes of children’s voices answered her calls across the Roanoke Valley, for her little friends shared in her love of laughter and fun. She had everything a little girl could want: clothes, toys, books, and a room to call her own. Carefree and happy was that little girl so long ago.

How could everything so good, so wonderful, so happy, become so sad, so tragic, so quickly? What happened to this little girl so long ago?

The house…her house…no longer felt happy anymore. Gone was her father. Sad was her mother. Lonely was her house. Sad was her house. She lost her happy family. She lost her happy house. She had to give away nearly all of her toys and clothes and books. She said good-bye to her house. She said good-bye to her friends. This is how a girl of six thinks. I knew this little girl so long ago.

Where will I live and for how long? Will I ever see my old friends again? Why did I have to move so far away? How long will I sleep in my cousin’s house? Will Mommy always sleep on my cousin’s couch? Why must I move again? Why can’t I have my own room…or my toys…or my other things? Will Mommy sleep in my room from now on? Will I have to move once more? What happened to all of our furniture? Where is our couch…our cozy chair? What happened to all of our things? Where are they? These are the questions a girl of six asks. I knew this girl so long ago.

The little girl moved again and again and again. She had lived in four towns in two states, and she had been in three elementary, all within six months, all between kindergarten and first grade. Then she settled for a while, and she asked her mother about some things. Sadly, her mother could not bring back the toys and the books and the clothes…or the old friends, but her mother could give her back something she wanted the most, a room to call her own.

What happened to cause that little girl’s family such trauma? A know, but when the little girl grew older, she would come to understand these things. Such is the catastrophe of divorce. Such is the catastrophe of a single parent trying to find a new job in a new town. Such is the catastrophe of the parent losing a home while trying to find a temporary place to live…just for a little while…just until things get a little better.

When you lose your home, you are homeless. A little girl of six can not only tell you this, but a little girl of six can tell you how it feels.

How did she cope? What hope and comfort did she have? What could you say to this little girl of six?

This is what she would say. “Be thankful for family. Be thankful for friends. Be thankful if a kind stranger helps you. Someone out there can help you. Then someday, help someone else in return.”

I know this little girl so long ago. That little girl grew up to be me. Chelsea is currently a student at The College of New Jersey.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of The Wall Newspaper.

Homeless Vets

by Katie Kahn


One would think that when brave soldiers came back from Iraq, they would have a safe home to return to. However, studies show that a high percentage of these heroes are returning with mental problems, and showing up at homeless shelters around the nation.

Today, more than 10,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are homeless or in programs aimed at keeping them off the streets. This number has doubled since 2006. Also, these veterans are turning up in the streets much sooner after returning than even the Vietnam veterans did.

There are high rates of PTSD in these homeless vets, which can lead to substance abuse and difficulty reintegrating into families and work. The poor economy and the nature of the current wars also add to the vets’ difficulties in coming back home.

Today, there are many efforts to help get these heroes off the streets and back on their feet. There are more than 2,400 non-profit organizations across the country that now have homeless veteran programs. In New Jersey, 8.6% of the population is homeless veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Veterans Transitional Housing Program is working to medically evaluate, and rehabilitate veterans.

It is important to realize that a large percentage of the homeless are veterans. Common stereotypes about the homeless being lazy or unproductive citizens are simply untrue; especially when it comes to men and women who have served our country so heroically. Being conscious of the difficulties these citizens face in returning home is important to being an aware and active citizen.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of The Wall Newspaper.

From the Streets of Tanzania to Trenton

by Tiffany Teng

“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain


Last summer, my friend and I decided to travel to Arusha, Tanzania for six weeks to volunteer at two orphanages. We went through a program called International Volunteer Headquarters, and they placed us with Tanzania Volunteer Experience.

As a TCNJ student, this amazing experience was a severe jolt from my pristine suburban lifestyle. I met compelling Tanzanians and volunteers, passionate people who changed my perspective of homelessness, apart from my experiences with Trenton’s homeless shelters.

On a macroscopic level, homelessness is a rampant international issue. Although Trenton, New Jersey suffers immensely from homelessness, viewing the issue through a new set of eyes creates a different perspective.

In Tanzania, children are often orphaned or abandoned due to disease and poverty. At Sunrise of Life, street children are assisted with basic needs for survival: food, shelter, healthcare and education. The organization creates opportunities for children who have no opportunities available to them.

According to the World Bank, Tanzania’s adult population (15-49 years old) suffers from staggering conditions – the HIV prevalence rate is approximately 5.6%; thousands suffer from AIDS, and education past secondary school is a miracle.

At Sunrise of Life, volunteers maintain a dormitory, food, and a means of education through international sponsors and local donations. These street teenagers that the organization serves have scoured the streets of Arusha, begging tourists for spare change. They found food in disease-infected dumpsters and slept under the verandas in front of shops, one child’s feet another child’s pillow for the night.

Aaron is just one exceptional teenager whose life has been changed by Sunrise of Life. Throughout the years, their continuous aid has supplied him with the educational tools of English literacy. Through this, they have filled Aaron with an overwhelming desire for expression, allowing him to create powerful and inspirational poetry. Without Sunrise of Life, he might still be on the streets, with neither a home nor a future.

Although the organization’s management has overcome a wealth of challenges and corruption, the kind hearts of dedicated volunteers have maintained its roots and streamlined its goals to consistently support the children. Without perseverance to fight corruption with genuine compassion and fueled passion, these children would encounter disease and possible death. (Learn more about Sunrise of Life at http://www.sunriseoflife.com and read their blog at http://tanzaniaupdate.blogspot.com).

Focusing on local issues is critical in order to comprehend the magnitude of homelessness and its various stereotypes. However, suffering is prevalent throughout the globe. Tanzania’s Sunrise of Life is one example out of millions.

Enacting positive change is a step-by-step process that starts with a few passionate souls. There are a multitude of pertinent cases in which lives were saved because of a simple, generous act.

Challenge yourself. Think larger than yourself, your town, and your country. The reward of a “thank you” or eternal gratitude is worth more than a million designer jeans. Asante sana (Swahili thank you).


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of The Wall Newspaper.

Emergency Food Services

by Chad Berman


There are countless efforts being made in the Trenton area with regards to emergency food shelters. A site that I am particularly knowledgeable about and proud of is the East Trenton Center Food Pantry at Habitat for Humanity. The pantry is run by the fantastic Liz Leonard and serves the local Trenton community.

The pantry collects and allocates food to needy families in the area, receiving donations from individuals, retailers, churches, and schools. The staff and volunteers utilize a very intricate system that determines who gets what kind of food and how much they get based upon the amount of identification the patrons give. The more identification given, the more food one receives, which is a method used to weed out those seeking handouts.

Liz is very passionate about the pantry, a fact that I have noticed through my time working with her. She is always looking for volunteers and appreciates it even when someone simply expresses interest in helping the pantry.

The pantry is funded by the Bonner Foundation and the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank and has become a staple in the community. I have seen countless patrons come through the center and receive much needed donations of such foods as canned goods and fruits and vegetables.

The East Trenton Center Food Pantry has been instrumental in distributing food to needy members of the community, especially throughout Hurricane Irene and its aftermath. Trenton was severely affected by Irene and the food pantry was a phenomenal success in preventing hunger during the desperate conditions that citizens of Trenton had to endure. The food pantry was really the only means of getting food for most residents, as the lackluster effort by the local and federal governments did little to help.

The pantry is open Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 10am to 1pm, and is closed the first week of every month. Donations are always welcome and greatly appreciated.

The Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton is yet another invaluable resource to the community of Trenton. The ministry takes in donations of groceries from various organizations and clubs and distributes them to lower income families and individuals. The Crisis Ministry even makes home deliveries to patrons, which is an enormous resource for those that have no way of getting to the ministry, whether due to the lack of transportation or being physically unable to make the trip. The Ministry, as well as the Habitat for Humanity Food Pantry have become staples in the community of Trenton and continue to provide emergency food to those that desperately need it.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of The Wall Newspaper.

Artist’s Spotlight

by Tiffany Teng


Every Tuesday, Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) hosts A-Team meetings, led by Susan Darley. The artists who hail from Trenton come to paint, draw, and create art in a relaxed yet energized atmosphere. With the A-Team, Susan states, “Art comes first.”

A-Team artists are passionate about the art of expression. One artist has been coming to A-Team gatherings for years. Frankie Mack makes abstract pieces that incorporate colorful paints to unearth revolving images of faces, homes, stripes and shapes. He is inspired by music – he describes the experience as, “I can get what I want,” and not “I take what I can get.” A number of Mack’s pieces have been sold, another way the A-Team and TASK collaborate to help these patrons.

Another artist’s name is Brooke Beatty. She makes dolls and model houses, paints, draws, writes poetry and sings Vast I Am, a musical group at TASK. Art has been a constant in her life, ever since her own talented mother taught her to sew and utilize patterns to piece together beautiful quilts.

Art has personality. And because the A-Team does not promote a competitive atmosphere, the authentic creations are made with joy and derive from pure inner vision. Each artist is self-taught, and none of the artists wish to deceive or copy from another. After years of despair, suffering and pain, their voices beg to be heard and their hearts soar with the expressionism art provides for them.

Forgetting the past takes heaps of courage and they are unafraid to be dependent on one another for support. Without this empowering community that meets two hours a week, the artists would not release their emotions and frustration in creation.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of The Wall Newspaper.