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The NewSLU

Two Clubs, One Mission: Bringing Food and Connection to People Without Homes

A volunteer for Labre at SLU Missouri continues her work with Madrid’s Bocatalk
Anna Godlewski speaks to people without homes with Labre at SLU Missouri. (Photo courtesy of Anna Godlewski)

One of SLU Madrid’s oldest clubs, BocaTalk, bares a striking similarity to an initiative on the Missouri campus, known as Labre. In both clubs, SLU students help local homeless populations by bringing not only a meal and other supplies, but a conversation and some often-deprived dignity.

“The whole point is to build connections, and there are other people that bring meals to these people, but not all of them sit down and have a conversation,” said Anna Godlewski, a Labre volunteer at SLU Missouri who has volunteered with BocaTalk while studying this fall in Madrid. “A big part of being a human being is building connections through communicating, which as communication majors is very obvious to us.”

For Godlewski, Labre has been a way to gain insight into the character and personality of some of society’s most overlooked members.

“A lot of people talk about faith, like, immediately, just unprompted,” said Godlewski. “A lot of people are just really eager to share their life stories because maybe they haven’t found a chance in a while, or they’ve had a lot of things happen, and they’ve been put in lots of bad situations.”

At Labre,  groups of as many as 50 students meet up and distribute hot meals and other supplies to the homeless in several areas of St. Louis, Godlewski said.

“There’s one lady that stayed down on the riverfront named Dawn, but everyone calls her Momma D,” she recalled. “She’s in her 50s, and she’s a total mother figure for all the people down there, and she’s so sweet. She has so many health issues, and usually isn’t doing too well herself, but she’s always the very last person to eat, she makes sure everyone else eats before her, and she even offers to us, the people that are bringing the food, if we want a plate before she gets one.”

Godlewski had volunteered for several semesters with Labre in St. Louis before studying abroad in Madrid. She said she has appreciated being a part of BocaTalk during her semester abroad. She has noticed some differences, though.  “At Labra in St. Louis they really focus on not all clumping up around one person and focusing more on trying to have one on one conversations so it doesn’t feel like we’re  bombarding someone, but it’s harder here because a lot of the students don’t speak fluent Spanish, so you need to have one person that can communicate to everyone else,” she said. “But I feel like I wouldn’t even notice that if I hadn’t done Labra befor. I just miss that aspect, getting to actually sit down with someone instead of moving from person to person.”

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