The 4th Year Of The Alley Outreach Project Now In Full Effect


Ember Konopaki

The group takes a photo after the outing.

It was a rainy day on Saturday December 5th and as a part of The Alley Outreach Project (A.O.P),  a group of thirty students and staff from St. George’s travelled to Oppenheimer Park on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. A.O.P is a very unique opportunity for high school students. It is not often that a school initiative takes students from the comfort and security of their daily lives to the heart of the Downtown Eastside to help those who have fallen on tough times. A.O.P distributes warm food and clothing to people living on the streets. Dry socks or a fresh pair of mittens may not seem like much to most but to some people on the street it can be the difference between a warm, cozy night and shivering in the cold.

This  program was founded in 2011 by Mark Lindsay along with a group of St. George’s students. Mark was once a successful business man until he did his first line of oxycontin, a powerful prescription pain killer.  He became addicted to drugs and eventually found himself living on the street. Through much hard work he was able to get off the drugs and rebuild his life, but he never forgot the people and friends from the street. He founded A.O.P with the goal of helping the homeless while also informing high school student of the dangers associated with drugs. As stated by Mark, “My lack of compassion and greed led me to make some terrible, life changing decisions, and eventually a crippling oxycontin and cocaine addiction by age 26.  By living like this I missed some of the best years of my life, squandered so many real moments with the people and family I love.  No matter a persons area code, profession, or income, we are all just human and in my ignorance I forgot this.”

During the first outing, students were asked to bring in used clothing donations, As one of the student liaisons for A.O.P Gabe Atkinson (12) stated, “We had the most amount of volunteer brought donations that I have seen so far so that was very successful.” These articles of clothing alongside some granola bars, were handed out to those people that students met at the Downtown Eastside.

With regards to future A.O.P events this year, the board of directors alongside the student liaisons are planning two more outings in addition to the annual year end barbecue. As Gabe stated,  “Throughout the rest of the school year we are looking at doing two more outreach events and then finishing the year with our year end bbq at Oppenheimer park and in the coming events we are looking to collaborate with other schools, like Crofton House in particular. ”

Reflecting on his first A.O.P outing, Blair Ference (12) said,  “It was a very different experience than what I thought that it would be. The people who we were receiving our donations of clothing and food were very accepting and thankful. This made me realize that these are people like you and me who may have fallen on hard times or made some poor decisions and need help getting back on their feet.”

The experience has touched students deeply. Even though these people may not be as fortunate as we are, they are marginalized by society and would have every right to be resentful of outsiders coming into their community. However, they were open, friendly, and profoundly grateful for the help the students brought into their lives. Every participant in A.O.P has experiences that will stay with them for a lifetime.