Taking a trip to a big city in which I have lived, twice, proved challenging when planning outings and tours for my kids first real big trip. As much as I love to travel, I despise organized tours. I much rather find off-the-beaten-path landmarks and guides or creative ways to see a new (or in this case familiar) city. No one wanted to do the running tour with me at 7:00 am (clearly they are lazy), so I opted for something different for all of us later that same day. My only error in this brilliant plan was doing them both within the same 8 hours as my feet paid the price greatly.
Those that know me well know that I would ditch my job at any given moment to do charity and volunteer work every day, all day, forever. I love deep conversations with those who have lived a life, many times I cannot comprehend, be it through homelessness, trafficking, addiction, disabilities, war, really anything that if fortunate enough I may not ever encounter. I have learned more in my life from those affected by the above than any college course taught me and it has given me a widened perspective on others society normally looks down upon. Hopefully, as I drag my kids along to those things I feel they are mature enough to understand, some of these conversations and experiences affect them similarly and shape them into better adults. At least, that is my hope.
I am unsure how I came across this organization, but upon random google keywords in the quest for an interesting way to see London as “tourists” and not “residents,” I came across “Unseen Tours” which is a Sock Mob Events. This video shows the amazing concept and volunteers who walk the streets of London truly connecting with the homeless in their city.
As an American, London has already struck me as not a very friendly place. Though the people are nice, everyone is to themselves and in their own headspace. God forbid you smile at someone and they look at you as if you’ve lost your mind. That is part of why I found it fascinating and a bit surprising that this concept is in London and did not pop up in one of our larger cities such as New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco where homeless has been a huge problem as of late. Our campaign this month discusses how sometimes it isn’t even what food or clothing items you are supplying for your local homeless, but rather how you connect with them that changes their lives. Locate organizations in your area that work to connect and rehabilitate the homeless in your city. What we learned from Pete at Unseen Tours in July is that these deeper connections are what changed those people who were with him on the streets of Brick Lane when he was homeless.
After spending a few hours with Pete what we recommend is to find a reputable organization in your area who are familiar with the ins and outs of the homeless enclaves in your area. If they only distribute or collect items, partner with them and create a group of like-minded volunteers who can hit the streets with these items that can connect, talk and befriend these individuals. These non-profits can lead you to the areas that are in need of services but are safe to stop and talk. They generally know the areas or groups of people that are desperately wanting to put their life back together and just need that bit of human compassion and a listening ear.
Our kids club counterparts in London we work hand-in-hand with, the Kindness Offensive, did a Sock Mob event on the streets of London recently. Take a look at the video to get an idea of what they did, how they were received, what they had to say in reflection of their time walking the streets of London, and how it changed them for the better.
Enjoy, connect, and let us know your successes!