Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live without an iPod, cellphone, computer or TV?
Could you ever see yourself going out of your way to talk and meet with a person who is homeless or suffering from a disease?
About 40 teens from Western New York, New York City and the Boston area took a week out of their summer vacation to do just that when they visited the Romero Center in Camden, N.J., to serve people living in poverty. Camden is one of the most poverty stricken cities in the United States, with 50 percent of its population not having a high school diploma. What was once a city of businesses and success has turned into a city full of empty factories, violence and destroyed homes.
The teens had the opportunity to visit homeless shelters, work at a children's day care, inspect homes and more.
Liam McMahon, a junior at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, worked at the day care.
"Starting off I was very nervous as well as excited because I didn't know what to expect from the kids, but by the end of the week, the kids opened up so much and I would never be able to tell that they were from poor families because they are just like kids at home," Liam said.
The retreat was about more than just doing service, but learning and trying to understand what it's like to live in poverty. Part of the retreat included no TV or iPods and minimal cellphone usage.
"Without technology, I had time to realize that there is a world outside of Buffalo and that people in that world struggle and need help," Liam said.
"After meeting the people of Camden, I really learned that we are all in the same boat and everyone deserves the gift of hearing the words ‘how are you?', " he added.
Caroline Loftus, a senior from Newton, Mass., said this was her second time going on the retreat.
"Although I've already done some of the activities, my service was completely different [this time]," she said. "My first time, I got to interact with people of Camden, but this time I had to observe the houses and I really got to see the condition that some people had to live in."
A teacher at the day care center where some of the St. Joe's students worked said there are still some good things that Camden residents can enjoy.
"There's still the baseball stadium and the art center, which hosts concerts and events, but the thing that people need to hold onto is hope," she said.
She talked about some of the children who have grown up and become successful despite their poor living conditions.
"I'm so appreciative for what I have," Liam said. "Even though when I arrived at Camden and felt like I didn't belong, I learned to understand the people and I started to feel accepted as though I were a citizen of Camden."
"This week was all about the experience," Caroline said. "It started with hearing the ways that the media portrays poverty and ended with the experience of real people looking for help."