Project Affinity: A reflection on community service

Project Affinity is a service-based organization that assists those in need, in and around the D.C, Maryland, and Virginia areas. At least once a month, I, along with a group of others, prepared, cooked, and distributed boxes of food and drinks to local shelters and individuals found nearby. In the fall, Project Affinity holds an annual Winter Clothing Drive, collecting donations of coats, hats, gloves, and even socks throughout the season. Then, in mid-December, the group heads to the nation’s capital, home to more than 11,000 homeless citizens, to distribute the contributions.

It was truly a life-changing experience seeing how these people, no different than you and I, manage to live in these conditions day in and day out. Walking through the submerged sidewalks with trash bags bursting with clothes slung over our shoulders, we noticed people sheltered with cardboard boxes, and even under stairs in attempt to escape from the storm that had passed earlier that morning. We approached as many people as we could, asking what they needed for winter and they would answer, as their faces beamed with appreciation. Many were surprised by this act of humanity that was nonexistent before this moment. There were countless “thank yous” and “God bless your souls” that warmed the hearts of everyone who was there.

What caught our attention the most, is when we approached a group of women. We asked if they needed anything for winter; sweaters, gloves, etc., but they insisted that there were plenty of others that needed it more than them, albeit it was evident they were in a state of help as well.

This encounter revealed a repetitive action as we continued down our route throughout various localities in the city. We approached a man sitting by a set of stairs, with only a light jacket to keep warm. We offered him a winter coat, as well as gloves and an extra hat, but all he requested was a pair of socks. We assured him that we had more than plenty of clothes to hand out, but socks were his only request. By the end of the day, our eyes started to fill, and our hearts melted seeing the harsh conditions brought before us.

It truly revealed their sense of humbleness, gratitude and solicitousness. It shows that we, who have everything from clothes, to iPhones, complain that we have nothing, but we have just witnessed that those who have nothing, not even a winter coat or socks, are content that they have everything. Everyone we met thanked us a thousand times over, prayed that God bless us and our families and to protect us from harm and keep us away from the state they were in. Although it was raining, and the sky was gloomy, it felt like the sun was warming our hearts, feeling a sense of accomplishment for making someone’s day, as they made ours. It opened our eyes to be thankful for what we have and not take anything for granted. This experience has given me a new perspective on giving back to the community, not only to benefit those who need assistance, but also to benefit our inner self.