SCV teens set up pandemic relief supply to aid homeless, low-income residents

Event organizer Hannah Chung, right, organizes volunteers as they prepare to hand out food, cleaning, hygiene and personal supplies to unhoused and low-income community members during "The Village Well" event held at the Global Prep Academy in Valencia on Saturday, October 17, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

From packaging to logistics, a group of Global Prep Academy students set up a zero-cost, pandemic relief supply operation for homeless individuals and low-income families in the Santa Clarita Valley. 

The teens spent their Saturday handing out care packages to those in need, with items such as canned food, clothes, toiletries, books and toys. 

“We are in the midst of a global pandemic with COVID-19, and it’s kind of been affecting everyone profoundly — but mostly our unhoused and low-income residents here in Santa Clarita,” said Hannah Chung, 17, one of the organizers.  

The students’ operation stemmed after hearing stories of young sex workers in South Los Angeles and how, despite the figures and circumstances behind sex workers and homelessness appearing differently in the Santa Clarita Valley than in L.A., Chung said. 

Global Prep Academy students Alex Yang, 17, left, and Eric Luo, 17, lay out toys during “The Village Well” event held at the Global Prep Academy in Valencia on Saturday, October 17, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

“It’s still happening here,” she added, “so we wanted to be that resource.” 

“Especially since we’re students, and if we’re advocating for change, we need to be out there on the streets in person and hearing these stories, even, is a big part of the work, in my opinion,” she added. “Just taking the time to know where everyone came from is important.” 

Using the various rooms at Global Prep Academy in Valencia to compartmentalize donations for the care packages, the students each took on a roll to create what they call the Village Well.

To address some of the basic needs for local women and girls, 17-year-old Thu Le took on the task of collecting feminine hygiene items. 

“My team and I organized over 4,000 products of pads and tampons, and we did over 300 individual bags of pads,” she said. “We reached out to about 20 organizations from different parts of the world, with only three accepting our requests to donate. At times it was difficult, but I’m glad that we got so many feminine products because these unhoused women don’t have these kinds of things, and so we’re trying to send a message that they deserve dignity and respect.” 

Student Derrick Borden, 16, right, brings a bag of clothing to Bridge to Home resident, Jerry Steede, 64, during “The Village Well” event held at the Global Prep Academy in Valencia on Saturday, October 17, 2020. Dan Watson/The Signal

Adjacent to the hundreds of feminine products, were dozens of folded clothes and shoes of all sizes that were donated by the local community. Their inventory had grown to about 1,000 donations, according to Chung. 

Saturday morning catered to about 10 individuals, including Jerry Steede, who said has been homeless for 12 years. 

“I found out about this because I go to Bridge to Home,” he said. “It’s very helpful because when you need clothes sometimes to change or stuff like that, it helps. They (the students) do a good job; I’m proud of them. I wish there was more people like that.” 

Though people can stop by the Academy, located at 23310 Cinema Drive, the group plans to expand their service via delivery operations to places such as Bridge to Home and the city’s Jakes Way Neighborhood program. 

The goal is to hand out as many of the donations as possible, said Alex Yang, 17, who is part of the inventory team. While born out of the pandemic, the group would like to keep The Village Well alive, with donations expected for at least the remainder of the year, they said. 

“We’re trying to solve an open-ended problem in an open-ended manner; that’s the only way you can,” said Antranig Asmarian, 20, a local college student serving as the project manager. “If the problem will persist, you can’t have a solution that’s just not consistent. It has to be a solution that’s long-lasting and sequential.” 

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