While studying abroad in East Africa, Divinity Barkley, was moved to take action by the large number of youth who had resorted to petty crimes rather than continuing their education. At the young age of 23, Divinity started Amagezi Gemaanyi (Knowledge is Power) Guesthouse as a community learning center in Libya, providing outreach and education services to more than 800 youth living in urban poverty.
In 2005, when Ashlee Smith was only six, her family’s house caught on fire; they lost everything. She wanted to help other kids like her cope with this kind of extreme loss, so Ashlee started “Ashlee’s Toy Closet”. To date, Ashlee has distributed over 100,000 toys to children who have been affected by natural disasters and she is only 11 years old. It has been said that this generation is one that does something; they are the ones putting their hands to the plow and taking actions to impact just one. Whether you are 6 or 96, you can be a person who puts feet to their faith.
Locally, Michael Portugal, a 20 year old, is making a difference by reaching out on a personal level to Broward County’s homeless. He works on staff at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale’s Skatepark Life, Ramp 48+, pouring himself into local youth. But, on his time off, you will find him meeting local homeless where they are at. He will bring them lunch, help them do laundry, bring them to church or just sit and be a friend. Michael is doing what he knows God has called him to do in Deuteronomy 15:7-8: “If there is a poor man, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.”
You may pass the same person several times a week; they may sit on the same bench, beg on the same street corner, etc. But, have you even taken the time to consider their story?
Michael’s passion is to put a face to homelessness in South Florida. He wants to share their names, their lives, and their stories so that people might be motivated to make a difference in Christ’s name. With his gift of photography and love of Christ, Michael has put together a collection of images of today’s homeless with their stories so that others might feel a tug to make an impact. In Broward County, over 4,000 men, women, and children find themselves homeless. With over 150 families on a waiting list for already overcrowded shelters, the time has come for the Christian community to respond to this crisis, We need to be building a tangible hope for those in need. Being homeless is not the only problem facing families without permanent places to live. About one third of the families who are homeless also report that they lack enough food at least once each month. Homeless children do worse academically than other children and they have much higher school absentee rates. Homeless individuals also do not usually have adequate medical care, and they are often admitted into a hospital as victims of violent crime. Michael is one of the many young people with a heart to make a difference in homelessness in Broward. LoveBags, started in 2007 by a handful of South Florida young adults, is now a movement of small groups happening all around the U.S. to make a small stride in ending homelessness.
Groups gather to simply fill up gallon-sized zip-loc bags with items that can show the love of Christ to those faced with a life on the street. Anyone can do it; making a LoveBag is simple! Just take a zip-loc bag, add a water bottle, crackers, fruit cup, socks, a tuna fish pack, granola bar and a note to say you care and that Jesus loves them! It’s a small thing you can do as an individual or family to be His hands & feet. Local churches are also joining together to make an impact on an even larger scale. By joining together as God’s body, we can begin to make a difference.