The Mustard Seed offers rare living opportunity

By Michael Grondin

The Mustard Seed, a Christian humanitarian group in Calgary, is offering a unique living experience for post-secondary students and a chance to become neighbours with less fortunate individuals.

“The Missional Housing Program is an opportunity for college and university students to take the learning they get in their own lives, from the classroom and books, and really put it to work in their own community, living among the poor and the homeless,” said The Mustard Seed’s manager of community living Deb Runnalls.

The housing initiative debuted in 2011. Runnalls said the program can help students share their skills with the community and gain an understanding of the challenges the impoverished face. It is open to students in all areas of study, and will begin again this September.

Participants will live at The Mustard Seed’s downtown location for $400 a month, which includes five meals a week, utilities and Internet. Participants will live in dormitory-style housing for a choice of two semesters with a shared common area and kitchen. Students must make at least a four month commitment to the program.

“For students who really want to understand their community in a different way, and who feel that living among the poor would enhance their own learning experience, regardless of what they’re [studying], this is good chance to do so,” said Runnalls. “This program will give endless opportunities to engage in the community in whatever way each student feels would help.”

She said the program is about friendship, in which students can help boost confidence and encourage less fortunate people.

Weekly support meetings will be offered to help participants process their feelings and what they have learned. They will also receive mentorship from the community living and housing team and The Mustard Seed staff.

Runnalls said this program can also help struggling students.

“We are aware that students struggle with homelessness and poverty,” she said. “There’s a lot of couch surfing going on, residence fills up quickly and we feel like this would also help students in need.”

She said diversity among participants is valued and the experience can be positive for anyone involved.

“It’s important for anyone, regardless of their individual life journey, to understand that we all have blessings in our lives, and we all have something to offer,” said Runnalls. “Sometimes all we have to give is what we can give, and it’s the small things like time, sharing and friendship that go a long way.”

Participants were unavailable to comment.

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