By:  Kiernan Dunham

One important lesson l have learned this trip is that stories create a community. Being in East Los Angeles has taught me that the classic Walt Disney quote “If you can dream it you can do it.” That was what Farther Greg did to help change the gangs situation. The story of one man working at Homeboy Industries was saying his pops “father G” saved him after his 4th time in juvenile hall. He realized that he was done with juvenile detention and walked into father G office and told home he needed a job. It changed his life and has been working their for nine years.

On Thursday afternoon we talked with Ana who is a leader in the community for peace among the gang members. Because of her and her fight for peace she has help take down the community of Boyle Heights. With that she rebuilt the homes for people to live in. She helped organize the need to streetlights, speed bumps, and safety in the community.

My favorite story is the one of my host family. She told us she prays to God every night that my children never fight and go through a time where they never talk. She shared with us her story of being from El Salvador. After her husband passed over 30 years ago. She was left to raise 5 children on her own. She moved to Los Angeles and her need to helping her family and providing began. Family has always been the most important for me growing up. They are who you have and the people who can never leave you.

These stories have impacted the community around them. This community is like a family to these people. I was working with a teacher at Dolores Mission and I asked the teacher “What’s one thing you love about working at Dolores Mission.” He said “it’s the community, the place where everyone belongs.” Which to me hit me close to home. Growing up my Grammar school was very community based that became my family. We would bind together, which is what he told me they did in the school. When a family member died they would help, when a family member was in trouble they would be there. The teacher was quick with his response.

Los Angeles has the saying the “city of angels” but to me they have a new name the “city of stories”. In particular the people that make up East Los Angeles with the stories that have made a city that was broken, torn apart by gangs, and and peace wasn’t present. The people and their stories have made this a place to welcome all. Something I learned the first day at 9 o’clock mass at Dolores Mission. God doesn’t turn away people. All are welcome. All are welcome in East Los Angeles. Thank you Los Angeles for changing my life. Gracias Los Angeles por cambiar mi vida.