Tag Archives: Tiffany Teng

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.

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.

Steps to Self-Fulfillment: Beyond the TEACH Program

By Tiffany Teng


“The smile on her face was so worth it, I’d do it every day if I could,” Ryan described the moment he told his mother he passed the GED. After years of living on the streets, coping with his heroin drug addiction, raising his son (now 13 years old) and landing back in jail every couple of years, he is eager, yet terrified, to move on with his life. Ryan R. is a 36 year-old client at the Rescue Mission’s TEACH Program, an educational program run by Ida Malloy.

During his interview, Ryan detailed some of misconceptions about homelessness and praised programs such as TEACH. Not only is passing the GED a motivating factor to move forward, but “people like Miss Ida are the ones who motivate you, they let you know that you’re worth it whether you realize it or not…no matter how pissed off you get.”

At the Rescue Mission, he was finally motivated to make his mother (who was diagnosed with breast cancer) and son proud and by receiving an education. Currently finishing the methadone treatment, Ryan sees such programs as opportunities, but certainly no cakewalk; “you’ve got to do the footwork, no one’s gonna do it for you.”

Throughout the years, Ryan was most bothered by the stereotype that all drug addicts are awful, violent people. He points out that before he became homeless in November, he and his son used to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for those on the streets. Ryan emphasized, “Homelessness doesn’t care whether you’re white, black, gay, or straight…”


So, what is the solution?

Successful drug treatment programs, re-entry programs and increasing the availability of housing after prison. Decreasing incarceration of drug abusers, and most of all, making people aware. Shedding light on the people living under the bridge. Having everything taken from you. “You gotta have nothing in order to know how you’ll make out.”

Ryan is a prime example of a man who came from a good, tight-knit family who fell into the wrong crowd out of sheer curiosity. He will be the first one to admit, “I did this to myself. Now I’ve got health problems, physically and mentally.”

Education, above all, is crucial to eliminating homelessness. At the very least, educating others about the issue of homelessness unearths the real problems that remain undetected and unaddressed.

Soon Ryan hopes to detox from methadone, move on with his life, and get an education.

“A place without homelessness, no drugs.”

The Rescue Mission of Trenton’s TEACH Program is a comprehensive adult education program that offers GED preparation, along with basic life skills and technical training. It strives to create employment and life-changing opportunities through its job placement program for residents. The TEACH Program relies on volunteers for tutoring and special classes. Questions can be directed to IdaM@rmtrenton.org.