Hope and mercy come in all different shapes and sizes. For Arianna Barajas, it comes in a green bag filled with all the essentials to support people living on the streets.
Since July, the senior has spent her weekends under the Potrero Hill footbridge, which spans Highway 101, providing the homeless with much-needed supplies to survive. It’s not a place you would typically finds a teenager, however it became the center of Arianna’s Senior Culminating Service Project. Every senior is required to complete a community service project they plan and implement in partnership with a local non-profit.
“When I was younger, my grandpa always taught me to help others and be thankful for what you have,” Arianna said. “I grew up learning to always help others and this seemed like the right thing to do because it would serve the poorest of the poor.”
It started when Arianna decided to team-up with the Missionaries of Charity in San Francisco, which brings to life the mission of its founder Mother Teresa by providing support for the poorest of the poor.
Once she discovered there was a need, Arianna got to work creating solutions. Her project sponsor, Mrs. Laura Flaviani, Mercy’s music director and a parishioner at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, invited Arianna to ask her parish for support with collecting needed supplies.
She had a long list of items - which included wet wipes, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soft foods, water bottles, hats, gloves, and much more. In true Mercy spirit, Arianna put her pen to work advocating for donations. She hoped to fill 150 supply packages, however the response was “beyond what I imaged” when she collected supplies for 285 packages and raised $912. The money was used to purchase more supplies.
“I packaged the stuff in my garage and gave everything to the Missionaries of Charity while they served meals under the Potrero bridge,” Arianna said. “It made me feel happy for these people because I didn’t solve homelessness but it made me feel good that maybe they can feel happy for one night and know they are loved.”
Arianna didn’t stop there. She also sewed scarves at home and passed them out to people in need, including at the Queen of Peace shelter which supports pregnant women and children and is operated by the Missionaries of Charity.
“I received a lot of hugs and there was this one lady who kind of got emotional and just kept hugging me but everyone said they were grateful and that it was exactly what they needed,” Arianna said. “It showed me that a little bit of Mercy goes a long way.”
Arianna isn’t sure where she wants to attend college, but she hopes to “study nonprofits or social work - something that allows me to help people in need.”
“This experience made me realize my own privileges as a young woman and having an education and family with a house it just made me realize that sometimes I can take it for granted,” she said. “It’s very important to me that I be of service to the people who are the poorest of the poor.”