Falling In Love With FTH: A California Girl’s Story
STN’s Feeding the Hungry (FTH) program is 16 years in the running and one of the biggest food distribution productions in Hawaii. FTH has been featured on several news channels and in multiple news publications. Throughout FTH’s two main locations for food distribution, we distribute 30-40,000 pounds of food donated by the Hawaii Food Bank and Aloha Harvest to over 2,100 individuals in need. Regardless of how the numbers continue to grow, it’s the personal stories and individual experiences that keep us loving this life of service.
Rachael Andersen came to STN from Southern California specifically to work with Feeding the Hungry.
Rachael and STN go way back: Tom and Cindy Bauer, the founders of STN, were leaders at YWAM (Youth With A Mission) during her mother’s time there. Rachael followed in her mother’s steps and came to Oahu to work with YWAM. Through an unexpected turn of events, Rachael was unable to join her YWAM team on an international trip, and instead, chose to work with STN during that time. It was then that Rachael experienced and fell in love with FTH. “I was doing so much more than passing out food; I was building relationships,” Rachael explains “I got to know people’s names and their stories and see them on a regular basis.”
Through the closing of doors in one area, a world of opportunity opened up in another. “ I came to STN thinking it would just be a short term thing, but now I’m full-time staff with FTH and I love it!” Rachael says. “I love being busy. I get to see everything, interact with the people we are serving and all the volunteers. It’s so fast-paced and there are so many people to see.” Rachael and the other FTH staff and volunteers work 10-11 hours on distribution days and interact with almost 700 people. “It’s so exhausting, but so rewarding. I look forward to it every week.”
FTH’s food distribution program goes to Kalihi every week, alternates weeks in Waikiki and Wahiawa and goes once a month to Waianae. “It’s so satisfying to begin a day with 24,000 lbs of food and see it disappear throughout the day as it goes to families in need”. Seeing the people she interacts with throughout the week is one of the highlights of her job.
Rachael’s love of serving others began long before her arrival at STN. The high school she went to in Murrieta, CA had a small food distribution on Wednesday nights which she regularly served at. Once a month, she would also go to downtown San Diego and participate in a distribution whose primary participants consisted of Hispanic immigrants.
“It’s always been about building relationships. Growing up, I never wanted to be a missionary, but I’ve always loved helping people.” Rachael attributes her passion for service to her family upbringing. “I come from a good family and stable household, but both of my parents were raised by single mothers and lived off of food stamps. They taught me not to take things for granted.” Instilled with the value of being thankful, Rachael views her parents as the inspiration for her love for volunteering and serving others less fortunate than her.
Rachael first volunteered with FTH three years ago and has now been working with FTH as full-time staff almost every week for the past eight months. “The physical and mental demands are pretty tough,” she said. “It takes a hundred percent of my brain capacity a hundred percent of the time. Even on lunch breaks people are wanting to talk to you and ask questions or just hang out. You’re on your feet and socially ‘on’ the whole time; trying to be friendly and professional simultaneously.”
Despite the wear and tear on her body and mind, the rejuvenation in her heart keeps Rachael constantly looking forward to food distribution days. “Having the mindset that it’s enjoyable to serve people and that you can be ‘silly’ and let loose, in a sense, allows volunteers to have fun. It makes it less of a chore to serve,” she said. The relational aspects of FTH help to foster this kind of fun and familiar environment. “It’s like when you go to church or your old neighborhood and you get to see a whole bunch of people that you know and say hello to all of them. It’s like a family reunion every week”.
FTH has grown a lot since Rachael first volunteered with the program three years ago during her DTS. “It was pretty chaotic then, and now it’s really peaceful. That is a big change.” FTH has come a long way and is at a great place, but Rachael hopes that it continues to grow and develop even better coordinated orchestration. “I’d like to see FTH providing more services than just food-related needs,” she said. “Right now we have a lady bringing free cell phones for people and a man setting people up with medical aid.” Rachael’s passion for education also adds to her desire to see FTH grow. “There are people who want to learn; foreigners who need language classes, single mothers needing a career and people who haven’t finished high school,” she said. “Someday, I would like it to be that there is no more FTH because we aren’t needed anymore and people are taken care of.”
Farther down the line, Rachael hopes to become a teacher. She said, “Passionate teachers are way better than passive ones. So, having gotten to see so many different sides of life, I know I want to work with at-risk kids rather than middle-class or upper-class kids. Working with FTH is helping me to line those kinds of things up. Someday, I’d like to have my own food distribution in San Diego.”
If you, like Rachel, have a passion for seeing needs met, you can join FTH by volunteering, donating goods (i.e. finances, food, clothes or household items) or simply spreading the word about what is happening here.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Details concerning distribution times and locations can be found at: http://surfingthenations.com/fth/
Check out more photos from FTH on our Flickr!
Written By: Akela Newman