This past week, we led a group of six teens to Chicago to work with the Br. David Darst Center for Justice and Peace. I wanted to offer a little bit more info about the organization, and then provide a foundation to tell you about the trip.

So the Br. David Darst Center for Justice and Peace is a social justice education center located on the Bridgeport neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. (side note: GASP! The south side? I thought you were told to stay away from the south side?! The area we stayed in on the northern part of the south side was very safe, and we walked around every day. During the whole trip, we never once feared for our safety).

The Darst Center was founded in 2002 by the De LaSalle Christian Brothers, for the purpose of providing opportunities for young people to more clearly see the faces pushed to the margins of our society.

Last year we had the blessing of bringing three teens to experience many different service sites throughout the week. Each day has a specific theme: this year our themes were hunger and homelessness, education, the criminal justice system and also sustainability. For each day’s theme, we take part in service activities to learn more about the social issue and how we can influence it for the better. Two of my favorite sites are the men’s homeless shelter we visit, and a halfway house for former prison inmates who are transitioning into society.

The homeless shelter is on the north side of Chicago (in a very affluent area) and you would never guess there was a homeless shelter. The man who oversees this shelter has a militaristic organizational system, but also balances it by making it a safe and joyful environment for everyone involved. I will have more info on Vince and his homeless shelter next week!

St. Leonard’s, the halfway house for former inmates, is nestled right next to the United Center, where the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks play. Another great facility assisted by nuns who run the facility. They even have an old wired pay phone, because a lot of the men don’t know how to use technology and cell phones (smart thinking on their end!)

I can’t wait to start sharing stories with you from the trip! I will start sharing next week. Soak up summer while the weather is still warm.