Today six of us went to Francis House which is a safe haven for those suffered or affected by HIV or aids.  It snowed last night and was raining this morning, so when we got there Sue (the woman running the house) said no one was there yet and we should just wait and talk. We didn’t have to wait long before a few men and women entered the building and began talking to each other and us.

We started with small talk, but soon enough a man infected with HIV began talking to Ariel, Annie, and me about his views on life and death; he told us stories about his multiple outer body experiences that made all of us think about religion, faith, and family. While we were talking, Janet and Liz were assembling a remembrance tree that was donated to the center. The tree had golden leaves dedicated to people who had died from infection and Sue plans on hanging the tree in the house once it is completed. We ate a delicious pasta lunch with everyone, helped unload donations from a truck, and make valentines for the rest of our stay at Francis House.

At night we started our Welfare diet. Our group was split up into 3 groups (two groups of 4 and one group of 3) and we were given $0.68 per person per meal to live on for tomorrow. To make things more complicated and realistic, one group of four had to live without utilities because they could not pay their bills. The other group of four had to live on Welfare for only three people because the forth was considered an undocumented person. My family is without utilities and when we all went to the grocery store, the only things we could afford were a load of bread, the smallest jar of peanut butter available, four bananas, 1 pound of grapes, and a box of cereal for the entire day.

Being in Camden, NJ has completely opened my eyes to a world I never knew. While I cannot say I fully understand the difficulty of being a mother and raising a family on welfare, I can say that I don’t know how it can be done. I was stumped and disappointed while food shopping tonight. Today made me think a lot about family, faith, and the many hardships I have been blessed never to come across.