Local students distributed sleeping bags and care packages to help the homeless last fall

Southern California IAY’s team
Southern California IAY’s team (l-r): Emma Shen, Kate Lee, Emily Shen, Neha Bhat after the successful October distribution at Neil Day Good Center.
(Tao Shen)

On Oct. 8, Canyon Crest Academy students Emily Shen, Neha Bhat, and Kate Lee, and Del Norte High School student Emma Shen distributed sleeping bags and care packages to individuals struggling with homelessness at Neil Good Day Center, a shelter for the homeless in downtown San Diego, according to a news release. The distribution occurred under a nonprofit organization called the International Association of Youth (IAY). Founded in 2004, the IAY’s mission is to encourage leadership skills and education to the youth throughout the world. Last October, under the leadership of Emily Shen, IAY Southern California Regional president, members aided those without homes who were suffering from a lack of hygienic products and sleeping bags.

Throughout the month of August, the IAY members picked up 528 sleeping bags and assembled care packages consisting of beanies, socks, gloves, toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and nail clippers. These items were then distributed on the morning of Oct. 8, leaving a greatly positive impact on the homeless in downtown San Diego. But, they were not the only ones who were affected by this distribution. The IAY members that took part in the distribution were substantially influenced by the experience as well.

The sleeping bag and care package distribution set-up: tables to support the resources and IAY members behind the table.
The sleeping bag and care package distribution set-up: tables to support the resources and IAY members behind the table.
(Tao Shen)

People struggling with homelessness are frequently discriminated against for their appearance and prejudiced stereotypes, the news release stated. Yet, through IAY’s distribution, president Emily Shen recognized that these stereotypes held no significance.

“As they expressed gratitude, asked for extra resources for their loved ones, and helped us distribute the resources to those who could not walk to our booth, my perception of people experiencing homelessness has definitely changed for the better,” Emily states in the news release. “I encourage the people reading this article to donate resources because although a warm beanie and cleansing toothbrush may not seem like a lot to you, it could mean the world to them.”

This is just the beginning. Due to the ongoing demand for warm sleeping bags and care packages to combat the cold San Diego winter, the local IAY volunteers are planning a second round of distribution in early 2023. To provide a generous donation, visit the website, theiay.org, to help fund for the IAY’s mission in supporting local communities and promoting leadership in youth around the world.