The homeless conversation changes when it’s about kids – plain and simple.
A while back, I had the pleasure of meeting entrepreneur and author Christopher Kai, who created “Mondays at the Mission” over 4 years ago, and on Monday, November 9th, I had the privilege of speaking at Mondays at the Mission for the second time.
Christopher gave us a short tour of the shelter before class started. Mondays at the Mission is the only homeless youth program of its kind at Union Rescue Mission, the largest private shelter in the U.S. The weekly career and life skills classes have helped hundreds of homeless students stay in school, find jobs, and attend college. He works incredibly hard to uplift and instill value in the lives of the countless young people who go in and out of these doors.
I was invited to come back and wanted to do something more creative with the kids this time. At SGN, we get to play games and make them all day – I’m lucky to be able to say that every day at work feels like play. It’s easy to say that in my position but I really believe it. I also believe that school and after school activities gives you a chance to explore what you are passionate about; whether it be football, art, or video games…when it feels like play instead of work, that’s when you become successful.
So enough with the “pep talk…” it was time to play some games! At SGN we do something between each of our studios called Game Jam session. Even the most creative people get a block sometimes and it’s a great opportunity for a diverse set of game developers to come together and prototype experimental ideas into playable games. Why not play a live action “game jam” to show the kids how it’s really done? We split up into three groups with me being the guest judge on best game. The kids were shown items from the mystery table, which included marshmallows, cards, dice, yarn, silly putty, and other random items. They had 15 minutes to come up with a new game to play using only two of the items from the table, then “pitch” me their new game idea. These kids were great – their enthusiasm to play and learn games was overwhelming.
It puts everything into perspective when you work all day in your office, then drive down to Skid Row, ground zero of our homeless epidemic. Kids are kids, wherever you are and we could stand to learn a lot from their resilience and optimism, even when their surroundings tell them otherwise. I have so much respect for everyone at Union Rescue Mission and Mondays at the Mission. Thank you for letting us be a part of such an incredible program with devoted volunteers!
If anyone is interested in volunteering, please visit their Facebook page or email Christopher Kai directly at Chris@christopherkai.com