I believe it was Sunday. I received a call from Arish Sahani telling that if I wanted to help the homeless the best place to start was by the Penn Station at 34th St in Manhattan. He also proposed to go together and explore the situation.
Monday morning I could not wait to reach there. I had purchased a bansuri flute two days before and as soon as I spotted an homeless person I went close to him. As he asked me a quarter I proposed to play the flute for him. The result was amazing! From a double down position in which he miserably was, little by little he straighted up his back. I didn’t say a word of explanation. I stopped playing and I started to sing Baba Nam Kevalam with a strong and emphatic voice moving the hands up and down according to the tone of the notes. He brighted up and he started singing along first with a feeble voice and than with some body in it. Finally without saying a word he took talking along the sidewalk, reborn.
That is when I called Sahaniji telling that I was already at work on the designated spot. “Give me two hours”. Two hours later we were talking with Charmaine who is homeless after having a bad experience in the shelter system. She lives on the side walk in front of the main entrance of Penn Station together with her boyfriend and she is always engaged in helping and organizing. An amazing personality with previous experience in telemarketing. Originally from Guyana she guided us in the life of homeless people giving us the confidence to work for their welfare directly. She invited us to the food distribution happening around 10 pm every Monday and Wednesday in order to introduce us to the main organizers. That evening Raviji, Mamaduk and Wayne as PCNY inthestreets served fresh baked pizza and chocolate chips cookies to around 40 or 50 homeless in queue. I was one of them.
Matthew is young and homeless. He passes the night in front of the Old Navy store on 33rd St. He saw me playing the flute and he wanted to give a try. Why not? He did few sounds and then he went his way with his friend also homeless.
Kega is from Africa. Father from Nigeria and mother from Kenya. She speaks Swahili and she is a natural actress. Full of joy she goes around with her electric guitar. We sang and drummed together for a good hour or so and then she indicated me the best place to get cooked food until 12.30 pm .
The Church of the Holy Apostles on 9th Avenue corner with 28th Street serves fantastic meals all week. There were at least 100 people in the church which is transformed in a gorgeous dining hall with round tables and live piano music. Everybody is so friendly and at the tables there is a light atmosphere inviting for conversation. It is heart warming to witness that homeless people are served and treated with utmost respect and quality. But their needs are more than food.
With Sahaniji we want to help them not only in their basic needs but also providing them with opportunities for education and training from Yoga and meditation to art and music including film making. As I went for the second day to meet my new friends I asked Charmaine about making a movie. She immediately replied that she had it already in mind and she would agree to record her life story. Ideas are becoming reality very fast. With Sahaniji we are talking about a website where to channel all the ideas that started with Active and Productive Homeless and are now evolving in something even more creative and engaging. What about “Stars under the stars – Promoting the Talents of the Homeless people”. Check it out soon at http://stars.ampsnews.org