Saturday, March 29, 2014


Some personal, some gathered from leaders we've met here, some collected from group reflection, some serious, some silly. I just never want to forget any of this.

--Teamwork and collaboration are valuable to process of creating change.
-- Leave with a plan, but don't be surprised or upset when EVERYTHING changes
--It's possible to actually work (as opposed to volunteer) in the world of social justice! And make money!
--Meet the need that's right outside your door.
--Harm reduction is more effective than moral righteousness. No judgement in service.
--I am not meant to wear jeans/have nice things (only halfway kidding)
-- We are all connected to each other, and the earth is connected to us.
--Take your time. If you need to take a breather, do so.
--Focusing on scarcities only goes so far. You have to also focus on the abundance all around you.
--Turtles are capable of some rather interesting sounds.
--You can't expect yourself to be perfect. Cut yourself some slack.
--A positive outlook will define your experience.
--If there is a need that you are able to fill, why wouldn't you?
--A little bit can go a long way. Don't underestimate.
--Don't drink "soda plum" unless you want to drink the ocean.
--It's so important to look where it is that you don't want to look, or have been conditioned not to.
--Sometimes, we all deserve a breath of fresh air.
--It's dangerous to make assumptions.
--Snails are fabulous racers.
--Compost may be smelly and made of you-know-what, but it makes things grow.
--Don't take food for granted.
--The solution is almost always more simple than you think.
--It's possible to be a real, functioning human at 6 in the morning!
--You have to make the best choices for yourself. Don't worry about others' opinions. It will always be worth it.

Please excuse the disjointed nature. There is still so much to process. All of my love to all of the other people on this trip, and everyone who made it possible. It may never be possible to explain exactly what it's meant to me.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Last Day of Service: Project Open Hand (Steven Beardsley)

Today was our last day of service, and we ended it with a bang. This morning we went to Project Open Hand, which is a nonprofit organization that provides nutritious meals to people experiencing illnesses such as HIV/Aids. They have up to 100 staff members in addition to thousands of volunteers that help out on a daily basis. We were introduced to the organization by Sarah who talked about what Project Open Hand does while establishing a safe and supportive environment for volunteers. We also met the Programs Coordinator, Andy, who assigned tasks and supervised our work in the grocery store. Andy was also very supportive and very encouraging. He spent a lot of time learning our names in addition to smiling at each of us and treating each of us as individuals.

We worked at Project Open Hand from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, and we did a lot of work from doing crafts to stocking and reorganizing food. I worked primarily in the grocery store with Mackenzie restocking the milk and organizing the vegetables in the fridge. I also spent a lot of time working with Anne, Jen, Olivia, Taty, and Mandy reorganizing all of the crates of beans and wheat. It was a fun process, and we worked well together as a cohesive and efficient team. I really appreciated everyone's help, and I enjoyed working with people like Andy and Sarah who were very supportive and who understood that we were capable of making our own decisions when it came to getting tasks done. After volunteering at Project Open Hand, I realized that the organization provides very specific services to those who are sick and unable to go grocery shopping.

Though they fill a specific niche in the community, I think that they were also aware of other communities and creating a space where everyone can come and volunteer regardless of race, class, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and other identities. For instance, we had an incident where some of us were engaging in a conversation with a white man on issues surrounding racial profiling and incarceration. Our group members, Olivia and Taylor, tried to counter the man's argument that policemen are trained "to be bias" and that it's their job to arrest people who present or look "suspicious." Instead of listening and cultivating an open discourse, he frequently interrupted them and deflected their arguments as too "emotional." Though this was a difficult situation, I was thankful that Sarah took the time to debrief about what happened. She let everyone involved tell their side of the story while treating us and the issue very seriously.

I think that our work at Project Open Hand highlights the importance of creating an atmosphere that is conducive to an organization's mission. I understand that Project Open Hand engages a variety of people, and I am thankful that they are open to this engagement but also intolerant of people who create negative/harmful atmospheres. Many of the organizations that we've visited also maintain this attitude. In addition to treating people with respect, many of the organization leaders have taken the time to know us as individuals; they've been very supportive and they've provided us with the tools we need to best help the communities they serve. I'm very thankful to have the opportunity to work with established organizations in San Francisco. I'm hoping to work with organizations in the future that maintain these attitudes and do their work because their is a genuine need for it. I'm sad to be leaving San Francisco, but I'm also glad that I can bring back all that I've learned from the group, organization leaders, and from members of the larger community of San Francisco.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Hellooooooo! Today was Castro Day. Got a private tour of the LGBT Center and learned about some of the amazing things that they do there. About 9,000 people come through the building every month! We learned about an office that helps find LGBT welcoming employment for people. The building hosts events all of the time from Yoga to LGBT Competency Trainings to youth meetings to soirees. After our visit, we continued our flyering for SFWAR. Then we went to the GLBT History Museum and Harvey Milk's old camera shop which is now Human Rights Campaign store. There is so much history in the Castro, it was exciting getting to be there. Our next stop was at LYRIC, this amazing youth advocacy organization that helps LGBT youth with pretty much everything under the sun and then some. Getting to talk to some of the people at LYRIC was eyeopening to the challenges LGBT youth are experiencing here in San Francisco. It is a wonderful program run by dedicated and passionate individuals. So much learning and experiencing has taken place today! Laters gators. Jennifer

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It's already Wednesday?

We're over half way through this trip and so much has happened. I know we all say it, but it really is true.

The work at Free Farm today was no joke. Heavy lifting, shoveling compost, yanking weeds. We made a few snail friends, and I worked so hard I ripped my jeans! I loved it though, the tasks were so concrete and required a lot of teamwork. Many assembly lines were made. I think the principle behind those assembly lines is one of the things that's striking me most as I move through this trip. We have to work together if we ever want to see things change. Everyone can contribute something different and when all hands are on deck, things get done. As someone who is naturally independent, it's really beautiful to see the importance of collaboration. And we've seen it everywhere we've been. We divided the work and completed tasks as a team at Glide; we witnessed and helped with the work happening in the Women's Building, where a number of organizations dedicated to women's issues are housed and support each other. This group has bonded so much, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time so far with all of them. They are all such interesting people. I have a lot of feelings.

After Free Farm, we were rather cold and damp (boo cold weather), so we took time to shower and visit the nearby laundromat. Then tacos! We had a fun reflection tonight, in which we made skits/interpretive dances/performance art about the activities of our day. Let's just say it got really "creative," and leave it at that. I had some great belly laughs. The humor opened us up, though, and some very thoughtful things were said. Not only am I learning from the organizations we spend time with, but also the people that I'm here with. The lessons they've taught me, of commitment and compassion, are invaluable.

A group of us headed to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood after reflection. It was my second late-night adventure, after visiting the waterfront and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge last night. It's fun to navigate the city on our own and explore.

Overall, this is such a memorable and inspiring experience. It's hard to even put it in words.


Service Learning At Free Farm

Wow! I can't believe it's Wednesday already. Time does fly  by when you're having an adventure! Today, we went to the Free Farm and met the amazing man Tree. Tree runs the Free Farm in which he he gives his food away for free! Coming from someone who has a parent that gardens and sells veggies at our local Farmers' Market, I know how time consuming and tiring it can be to maintain a garden, therefore, I find it amazing and inspiring that he has the patience and mentality to keep this garden clean and full of produce to feed people he may not even know free of charge. After a day of service at Free Farm in the rain and sun I am content knowing that our work will have a long-term effect. 
- Emily Yang

Free Farm

March 26, 2014

Bliss Seeds

You are the growth of a seed
From your mother's womb 
Don't let no one out of your lead
Like spring flowers bloom

Reach high with the branches on the tree
Give humanities with dignity
Carry the realities with me
Forget the past and let's not be enemy

You are the growth of a seed
From your mother's womb 
Don't let no one out of your lead
Like spring flowers bloom


Today on our San Francisco Catalyst trip we went to a wonderful and delightful service at Free Farm. In my mind I thought continuously about a big acre of land filled with all sort of healthy vegetables, fruits, and fresh organic food. However, when we arrived to Free Farm it was actually a backyard garden filled with colors and fresh vegetables. The scene was colored with green and beautiful flowers lingering along side. Also just seeing the bamboo struck the moments of my grandmother and I going into the deep forest cutting down young bamboos to cook sweet bamboo rice stick.

Learning from Tree and his project of providing nutritious, healthy tips, and free food for the community bring in the connection of his passion and desire to give to those who cannot afford healthy food at a local store, and also his explanation about how food should be free because the discovery of the Earth, fruits, vegetables, and soil was given to us free as human beings.

Tree is actually not a tree, but he is the director of Free Farm. He has been providing service in his community ever since the early  1970's, but his project did not start until the year of 2008. Tree and his friends have also provided shelter for those who needs a place to stay and sleep. Tree's new project is to begin and expand more of his Free Farm in San Francisco.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


What a trip this has been so far! 

There are so many things to talk about it is hard to pin point only a couple of things to share!

Nina & Greta
On Sunday night we had two amazing visitors come to the hostel, Nina and her partner Greta, who shared their experiences as trans women in San Francisco. We all learned so much from them! One thing that Nina shared with us is something called the "Gay panic defense" which is a legal defense for perpetrators of assault against an individual identifying as a member in the LGBTQIA community. One may claim "temporary insanity" because of a so called condition called the "homosexual panic" or "trans panic" which caused one to act violently towards another. It is up to the judge, who are often conservative, white, male, and older, to decide if such a claim is valid. Yes. This exists. 

One question that was asked was how someone who identifies as cis-gender (identifying with the sex given at birth) can be an ally to someone who identifies as transgender. Greta and Nina both spoke about the importance of recognizing someone's experience and identity as valid is a big first step!

On Monday and today we worked at GLIDE. Overall, GLIDE was an amazing experience. It was fast paced work, but we all fed so many people! On Monday, we had our orientation with the organization; we learned about GLIDE's ideology of never turning away someone who comes to their door. No one has to prove they are hungry, everyone gets a meal. After learning this on the first day of work there, the second day was an even more impactful experience because we were apart of something that was doing so much good for the community. 

We also went to the Women's Building yesterday and today. However, on Monday we worked with SFWAR and today we worked with the Resource Center. While we fliered yesterday, today we helped decorate for their open house as well as serve all the guests who came through the doors! It was a very busy time and a very intense task for the introverts of the trip.

We ended the day with a reflection that allowed us to write in our journals. 

More Soon, 

Day Two of Service!

Hello! Olivia, Mandy, Mackenzie, and Katie are your writers today. It’s Tuesday, our second day of service. Five words to describe our experiences so far include exhausting, fun, rewarding, ouch, and FRANTASTIC.

Today was our second and last day with Glide and the Women’s Building. Some observations we had today included the distinct divide between the districts, all of the amazing street art, interacting with patrons at Glide, and all of the multi-lingual conversations we had and witnessed at the Women’s Building open house event. On our ventures to and from Glide and the Women’s Building and in all of the neighborhoods, we’ve had the gift of seeing some of the most beautiful street art. The outside of the Women’s Building is one giant mural of women from different cultures, ages, and all other kinds of appearances.
  On our way from Glide, there was a mural constructed by CityArt on one of the many tall buildings in our neighborhood of Little Saigon. Among all the murals are a variety of graffiti tags and spray painted pieces on the sides of walls. For a culturally colorful city, the art is an added bonus! 

The last two mornings we have gotten up and been on our way to GLIDE by 6:45. Walking to GLIDE means that we have to pass through the Tenderloin’s Skid Row. The closer you get, the more trash there is strewn across the ground. Then come the people on the streets. Some are still in their sleeping bags, or other makeshift beds, but many are already up and about. This is not the San Francisco that you see in travel brochures.
            However, if you go a few streets over to another district, the cool little high-end specialty stores start becoming the norm. Instead of the poverty, you can clearly the wealth that has come with the booming high-end businesses.  The difference between poverty and wealth is literally a couple blocks. Income inequality is a huge problem through out the U.S. (and the world), and in San Fran, the divide is very visible.  

We did service work both days at the Women’s Center. First day was flyering for the organization called Women Against Rape (WAR). We went all over a part of the city for at least 3 hours. Today, we helped with the resource center in setting up and advertising the open house that took place today for anyone who were interested in touring the building or attending the event and there was FREE food available for visitors. During this volunteering experience, some of my group members’ notice the interchangeable ways that bilingual speaker does. For example, many of the visitors who came to the event today were Spanish speakers. There was a mix of two languages during a dialogue, such as using Spanish words interchangeably with English. This became fascinating and interesting for us to observe as we serve the community and yet trying to engage in conversation with them, simply as asking them whether they want fruits or drinks. 


Serving at Glide was incredible (again) mostly because for the first day, my group had a staff member helping us serve an entire room of people food and beverages, but today we were on our own. We certainly rose to the challenge and fed over 200 people breakfast! Something that really stuck with me was being able to have little conversations with the people who came to us for food, people who we have been conditioned to not speak to or even make eye contact with when we cross the street. We could tell how much it meant to them to have someone take an interest and give a smile.

After lunch, we headed back to the Women’s Building to help them prepare for an open house event. Even though it rained, we still had a lot of fun gathering supplies, decorating, and creating games. It was so clear to us all how important the Women’s Building is to the community in the Mission and to all of SF. It is a safe place for so many.

We had a great spaghetti dinner tonight, and now it’s time to write and reflect. More soon!


Monday, March 24, 2014

The End Of The First Day Of Service

At the end of our first day we are all exhausted to say the list. There are tons of emotions and decompressing of all that we have soaked in after our first day of service. Today has been fast paced and we have learned plenty in such a short amount of time in San Francisco. We all gathered at the our amazing hostel and put our feet up after all the walking we had done. Conversations about our day sprouted up to decompress about what we had experienced throughout the day as we waited for dinner to be done (bomb pizza by the way, be jealous). 

After our long day, we all did not travel much. Even those that did go out to explore did not go much further than from the Tenderloin district, where our hostel is located. Some of our group did go to grab treats from a local Japanese market before we all gathered around the table for reflection. 

Our reflection was picking from a list of famous quotes to represent what we had experienced throughout the day. The quotes were taken from speakers such as Janet Mock, Harvey Milk, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Elie Wiesel, and Margaret Mead. The quotes touched on topics such as telling stories, developing safe/supportive environments, and fighting injustices. We all developed personal connections to each of the quotes that spurred on conversations in small groups.

The quotes encouraged us to process our busy day. Many of us mentioned the emotional impact that servicing the community around us has had. There is so much work to be done but we know that we are part of a bigger picture and what we are doing makes a difference. We talked about the intent of our work and acknowledging our place in being on this trip. The community of San Francisco is changing each of us individually through each experience we have. 

Throughout our first day we have seen two amazing organizations fighting to impact the injustices in San Francisco.  Each organization showed us success in making change in addressing numerous needs in the community. Both organizations gave us an insight on what can be started from the passion and motivation to impact those around us. 

Our small group can do amazing things starting with our trip and bringing it back home to make big changes. We are just beginning to learn how to be a support system for each other and that will only grow throughout our trip.  I'm so lucky to be surrounded by such amazing people in a beautiful city. 

More soon! 


First Day of Service: San Francisco Women Against Rape (Taylor Seaberg)

For the first day of service we went to Glide for a breakfast and lunch shift involving a mix of sausage, grits, burgers, mac n' cheese, an engaging and interestingly set community of people in Tenderloin. Later we moved into the Mission district to begin our work with an organization called San Francisco Women Against Rape.

This organization acts as a helpful assistance and  hotline resource for women who have experienced sexual assault/abuse. They also schedule presentations and community events that advocate and promotes visibility to those who have been survivors of sexual violence. The organization also provides services to women including group counseling and they also help to decide what those survivors feel is in their best interest for stepping forward in legal action (if they choose to).

For our particular service that we did on Monday we put up flyers all around the Mission district on corner shops, in various places of establishment, and also as handouts to individuals in the area. We were directed toward specific places of popularity or traffic would run through so they would gain more notice.

We worked around the district for about 2 hours. Specifically I worked with another catalyst member named Jean and we went to 24th Street to present the flyers. 24th Street had Latin American restaurants, coffee shops, and product stores. Shopkeepers were often more than willing to have someone hang up a flyer in the front of their window or to give out to patrons who entered their facilities. I carried on a few conversations in Spanish with the costumers and one man from a corporate business had a meeting with fifty clients that he would advertise. Also we had fun talking to people, passing on the good word, getting to know the helpful staff worker at San Francisco Women Against Rape. And also we ran into lucha libre masks....yes.

First Day of Service: Glide (Steven Beardsley)

Today was our first day of service. We woke up at 7:00 am and went to Glide, which is a nonprofit organization that was three blocks away. They provide a variety of services to people in the Tenderloin district including: HIV testing, permanent housing (a new and exciting program for Glide), food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), etc. They also provide 2,200 meals a day and have 96 or so volunteers a day.

It was a really fast-paced but exciting experience. Half of our group worked in prep cutting vegetables and the other half got to work in the kitchen and the Coffee House in back. I worked in the kitchen with Taty, Mackenzie, Emily, Olivia, and Taylor. We were directed by Josh who was part of the staff and direction for the shift. We loaded up trays of food into large brown tray storage units that managed to fit up to 180 trays. Even though we loaded up a lot of food ahead of time, we still had to run back and forth to the kitchen to get more trays. There was always something to do, and it was great interacting with the people who came in.

I think that the experience was both challenging yet extremely rewarding. After reflecting at night, I realized that some people felt self-motivated. A lot of people mentioned doing the work for the community as opposed to putting it on a resume or getting credit. I think that this also emphasizes Glide's Mission since their Volunteer Coordinator, Eden, talked to us about how Glide works to create a safe and supportive space for people in the Tenderloin District. Glide really works to provide services to people regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and other intersecting identities. Eden mentioned Maslow's Hierarchy of needs where the basic needs, food and shelter, form the very bottom. She really pointed out how Glide provides these needs to people experiencing homelessness and people on the cusp of homelessness. They help a variety of people struggling to meet their basic needs so that they can eventually achieve self-actualization without expecting any recognition or monetary gain.

Glide's mission and doing service at Glide points toward the importance of treating everyone with respect. Glide doesn't question people who come in for food or to use their services. They simply provide the services and do their best to help the people who need it. They build trust along with creating a safe environment where people can come together and enjoy each other's company. I believe that Glide's mission is important because sometimes a lot of people who experience homelessness/struggle to meet their needs do not have the support of friends and families. Glide fills in this support, which I think is an important attribute for any organization that promotes social change.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hello from San Francisco!

Today we went grocery shopping and what an adventure that was! The plan: we ride the bus up the steep looming San Francisco hills as a group to the grocery store and then back with all of our wonderful food. Actual life: the bus arrives completely full, the second bus doesn't even stop for us because it is so full, so we start walking and as the slight incline becomes a strength training exercise a third capacity-reached bus passes by. What must come up must come down, so only half of our trip to the grocery store was an uphill battle. We passed by a church that looked like a museum, countless apartments and small businesses.        Shopping went well as we divided and conquered. On the way back we the buses were just as full as before, but this time we were prepared. Six of us forced our way onto the first bus. I have never been in a more crowed space in my entire life, and the experience drew my attention to the dependency the city has on public transportation. I am anxious to see what the buses will look like tomorrow when we take one to the Mission District.
We have done some general exploring of the neighborhood our Hostel is in, and got some Paples earlier this evening. We are much closer to Union Square than I thought we would be, and memories of my teenage years of shopping in Downtown San Fran started flooding back as I passed Powell.
We have gotten off to a fantastic start and I can't wait to see what exciting things come up during the week. We are getting ready for an early start tomorrow (we have to leave at 6:40 to get to our service location by 7:00!). I'm sure coffee will have nothing on our enthusiasm!

Bye bye for now!
Hi, Folks!

I'm so excited to be serving as the advisor for the Queer in the Communities Catalyst trip this spring! Between the students and me, we number a lucky 13 and are having a great start to our week in San Francisco.

After exiting the airport and setting foot outside last night, my first exclamation to everyone was, "We're OUTSIDE!  And it's not 20 below!"  Indeed, the weather here is in the 50s, and sunny...a t-shirt and jeans will suffice, which is glorious after our 150 days of below-freezing weather in Minnesota (and subsequent heavy coats, hats, mittens, scarves, long underwear, and whatever other layers) this winter.

The hostel where we're staying (a part of Hostelling International) is fantastic!  There are plenty of spaces for chilling and listening to music and guests are welcome to use the communal kitchen for any and every meal.  That said, the hostel seems to foster a great sense of community, and we're meeting people from all over the place.  I rode the old-fashioned elevator with some folks from Melbourne, Australia and made toast next to a guy visiting from Holland.

Despite some logistical snafus (a faulty BART card, learning to navigate public transit in a new city, working around the kitchen hours in the hostel, etc.), things are generally running quite smoothly.   Collectively, our group brought about 18 reusable grocery bags, and we used every single one on our excursion to the grocery store this afternoon.  We now have our food supplies for the week.  Trip leaders Jen and Ayja, among their various and sundry duties, put together a schedule for daily cooking, cleaning, and blogging.

Tomorrow is when we officially start the service portion of our trip, but even in a single day we've observed and reflected on a lot.  One example: to me, I've noticed homelessness looks different in San Francisco than it does in Minnesota.  Perhaps because of the more temperate climate, it is easier to notice homelessness here more so than at home.  I'm curious to learn more about the intersection of homelessness and the LGBTQ community this week, and our observations, service, reflections, and discussions certainly will give me a lot to think about.

More from others tomorrow!  Have a great day!



After months of planning and organizing our trip has finally come together! Our group made it into San Francisco last night at about 11:00pm (1:00am MN time).

Although the walk to the hostel was short we were able to get a sense of the community in which we are staying and serving with for this short time.

Since we got in so late last night we had a leisurely morning. Our only plans in the agenda was to grocery shop which was quite a haul considering we needed enough food for 13 of us for the entire week.

In San Francisco this task is even more of a challenge because the area in which we are staying is a food desert. This means that there is very limited access to groceries in our area.  

After about an hour walk we reached the grocery store. Staying in our budget was difficult as well because the cost of living is also high in San Fran.

We were successful however. We split our list into 4 sections and gathered what we needed in groups; getting to know each other better in the process. 

Later tonight we are privileged to have two visitors talk to us about the organization Transgender SF. 

More soon.

(L->R) Olivia, Mackenzie, Steven, Taylor




                                                                              Ayja and Taty

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Welcome to the San Francisco Catalyst trip!!

Welcome to the San Francisco Catalyst trip-

During the trip (March 22nd to March 29th) each day on the trip people will be posting things throughout the trip like; the experiences they are going through, working in a team setting, and things they can improve on and take back with them so they can reflect and apply it to their lives. Please stay tuned and and look out for the posts!