Going on the mission trip to LA was an eye-opening experience for me. It all began with me facing my fear of flying, seeing areas in LA that are not portrayed in the media to learning the importance of community, and how all of it helped in resolving different social justice issues prominent in that area.

Let’s just say, I need to get used to travelling by air. This was my first time in an airplane after four years. It was scary at first, but I got more comfortable when we landed. That was my first eye-opening experience. I was excited to be in LA because of what the city has been portrayed as in the media. LA is the home of the celebrities therefore I wasn’t expecting a high rate of homeless in LA. On our way to the Union Rescue Mission to serve dinner to the homeless, it was sad to see areas filled with trash, homeless people, including children, and their tents. The whole place reeked with poverty and homelessness. I thought I was familiar with poverty and homelessness, but I have not seen anything like this before. Driving through and seeing things like that, I began to thank God for the things that I have, and I wondered if I was still in LA. I checked the location on my phone just to verify. I asked myself, why isn’t this shown in the media and yet they portray the city of Chicago as a dangerous place to live in–filled with dirt, poverty, homelessness, and high crime rates. Serving them was great, and it was a humbling experience.

Lastly, I understood the significance of community by hearing people’s stories. We visited the Homeboy Industries and Homegirl Cafe and it was nice to see what Father Greg Boyle has done and continues to do to change the lives of individuals who have been incarcerated because of their involvement in gang activities. This organization continues to transform their lives by providing job opportunities, education, tattoo removal, and it helps them with their case or probation. This organization is a product of concerned mothers in the community as they strive to reduce gang violence in the Boyle Heights community. I wish I would have gotten the opportunity to read the book Tattoos of the Heart before going on the trip to enhance my understanding about their mission. After touring Homeboy Industries, hearing the stories and interacting with some of the beneficiaries of the program, I am thrilled to read the book. It was a bummer that I did not get to see Father Greg in person. The creation of this organization is one of many other ways that the community has helped to reduce the gang violence and activities in the Boyle Heights community. They have a mission school called Dolores Mission school to educate the children, an after school program for the kids, Dolores church which serves as a safe place for the people, Anti-Recidivism Coalition program that works with Homeboy Industries and many more.

Overall, the trip was educational, and it brought the students who were on the trip together.  I enjoyed myself, and I now I can cross out going to LA from my bucket list. One question continues to linger in my heart… What can we do to help with social justice issues that we are exposed to?