Last week we told you about one man’s quest to build tiny houses for the homeless of LA. This week, it’s all about education — more specifically, Christopher Kai’s efforts to empower the city’s homeless youth through a program he calls Mondays at the Mission.
The Mission in question is LA’s Union Rescue Mission, a Skid Row-area nonprofit founded in 1871 by Lyman Stewart, the founder and president of the Union Oil Company. Kai started his Mondays at the Mission program in 2010. In the six years since, it’s reached close to a thousand homeless students and has hosted over 250 guest speakers (including big names like Elon Musk and swimmer Diana Nyad) from 28 countries and representing 100 different careers. Even the volunteers are diverse in their careers, with everyone from a former marine, a preschool teacher, a wealth manager, a model/photographer, and a ballerina helping out on Mondays.
But if you’re looking for a specific success story, Kai won’t give you one.
“This is more of an emergency room,” he explains. “We’re more about the most immediate things.” Things like — whether the student is alive, not suicidal, not about to get pregnant (or get someone else pregnant) or get involved with drugs. “The whole goal was teaching kids how to build confidence, how to plan for their college, how to build out their career skills.”
And that’s where the guest speakers come in. In Kai’s eyes, the students have a higher probability of succeeding in life when they meet the people they want to become.
But still, there are success stories, including that of aspiring comedian Cheri Hodge, an alum of Mondays at the Mission who found the confidence through her time there to approach a comedy show producer and ask him to book her.
And the kids themselves love Mondays at the Mission. As Andrea, a current student, told us, “Coming here really makes me feel happy…I feel excited because I get to meet everybody again.”
One Monday at a time, bonds of friendship are formed and dreams are set in motion. And that, is how lives are changed.