One year ago this month, I began assisting through my church with an outreach program to disadvantaged kids in east Austin called Project Intercept. As a major football fan myself, I can relate to the concept of an interception, believe me. Project Intercept seeks to break the cycle of poverty by providing kids with positive adult role models and an environment of acceptance and support. The kids that I work with live in the Coronado Hills goverment housing project. I wrote a little about my experiences in a previous blog here:
Once a month, I help out by picking up a group of school-age kids (age 6-12) and transporting them to an afternoon of games, songs, and Bible study. Today we had our gathering, so I headed out at around 10AM to get started. I must admit that when the day rolls around each month, I typically feel a little anxious, like maybe things won't go well, or the kids won't show up. Instead, I am ALWAYS pleasantly surprised when I arrive. These kids RUN to my van to start their day. I have the "cool car" according to what they have told me, probably because I have a TV and they can watch movies or videos.
Today, it was a relatively small group (four kids), but we have had as many as nine during an outing. I was highly encouraged by one of the kids, Joe, who has been attending regularly. He has always been the oldest to attend (he is 14 or 15), but we certainly weren't ever going to turn him away. My friend Russ, who got me involved in the first place, discussed with me the possiblity that Joe could be one of the group leaders/assistants, which are all from about 16-20 years old. I hadn't given it much thought, since Joe seemed disinterested in participating in the songs and games UNTIL TODAY. I guess he must be thinking the same thing as Russ, because he was actually very involved, and he even helped the little kids to join in, and volunteered to help out on stage during one of the songs. I felt like a proud parent!
After the games, songs, group discussions, prayer, etc. we all get rewarded with some Mr. Gatti's Pizza. The organizers seem to have this down to an art form with regard to how much to order. We had none left today, and everyone was full.
Overall, these kids depend on me to step out of my comfort zone a little bit each month. I don't want to let them down. It also helps me to put my life and "needs" in perspective. How many of my needs are really just "wants"? These children live in extreme poverty, and several of their parents have a history of drug abuse. It just makes my worries seem so petty in comparison.
Project Intercept is overseen by Mission:Possible, which is a Christian organization focused on serving urban communities and helping and empowering individuals through various spiritual, social, and economic programs. They are fully supported by donations from the public.