“In a world where young people are taught to think more and more about themselves (the ‘selfie’ generation), HOPE Youth Corps is refreshingly counter-culture. It is a program that enables young people to escape the comfort of their day-to-day routine and dedicate a couple of weeks to serving the poor and the less privileged. I had the opportunity to take part in the HYC in La Paz, Bolivia where a group of us served in the local orphanages, schools, a hospital, an institution with kids with special needs and homeless on the streets in the city’s center.
One of the moments that left the biggest impression on me occurred when we were visiting an institution for orphans with mental and physical disabilities – many of whom were abandoned by their families because of these disabilities. It was here I met Vanessa, a girl similar in age to me. I did not know her exact condition but every so often she would throw her head back violently or try to punch herself, and I remember wiping dried blood from her face. One of these fits lasted longer than usual and I felt utterly helpless as I tried to prevent her from harming herself. All I could do was hug her arms, look her in the eyes and say repeatedly, “Vanessa It’s ok, it’s ok”. In that moment suddenly it struck me that we were two girls who happened to be born into different situations. Life for each of us could have easily happened the other way round. Vanessa could have been the volunteer restraining my arms and reassuring me “Hannah It’s ok, it’s ok”. I felt a wave of emotion come and was to reminded of the scripture that says “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive “(1 Corinthians 4: 7).
I feel humbled by my experience in Bolivia and grateful for the lessons God allowed me to learn there. Since returning to London I have been in contact with a residential home for adults with disabilities in my area and I’m excited about becoming a volunteer there. I am well aware that my journey to understanding what it means to have compassion and to serve like Jesus did is only just beginning. In the meantime, I will continue to be a huge advocate for HOPE Youth Corps; it’s only a short experience away from home but it has the potential to drastically change who you are as a person, if you will let it. ” -Hannah DeSouza, London England