Normally most people who are traveling to Washington D.C. from Atlanta, Georgia first head to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and board one of their many airplanes. But Love Beyond Walls co-founder Terence Lester chose to take another means of transportation; his feet! In a world when there is so much hate and violence, Mr. Lester is on a journey to make the world a better place. Find out how and why he is walking 648 miles.
QG: What is Love Beyond Walls?
Terence Lester (TL): Love Beyond Walls is a non-profit organization founded by my wife and myself in 2013. We fight homelessness and poverty dehumanization through various programs.
For instance, we found out that homeless individuals in our area were having a hard time washing their clothes because many places would either not allow them to come into the place to wash because of prejudice and stereotypes or because it was hard for them to secure funds to wash.
We immediately jumped in and created a free laundry room in our building so we could not only give them dignity but build relationships and understand their deeper needs. This laundry room has also served low-income families that have to choose between purchasing food or washing their clothes at a coin laundry.
That’s just one program that we use to humanize those who are poor. Since starting, we’ve served over 30,000 individuals locally and nationally by taking love beyond walls that constrict and divide.
QG: Where did this philanthropic passion come from?
TL: The passion comes from my personal story. I’ve overcome a lot. Former gang member, ex-high-school dropout, ex-at-risk youth, and sleeping in cars myself as a teen. I turned my life around completely.
I’ve been married ten years, have two beautiful children, obtained four degrees, have written books, and am devoting my life to lifting people out of pits like I was once in.
That’s not my full story, but God rescued me, and has set me on a path to do the same for others. It’s more than philanthropy to me. It’s God’s work.
QG: What Sparked the idea to March to D.C.?
TL: MAP16 is a national awareness campaign that exists to glorify God, give a voice to the marginalized, educate the unaware, mobilize people on the sidelines, film a documentary, and build a resource center for the poor.
Every single week, people walk to our headquarters in College Park for various items to survive. Many walk to receive groceries because they are food insecure. Some walk for haircuts from our Mobile Makeover Bus. Some walk to wash their clothes because they need to save a few dollars and not spend it at the coin laundry. Some walk for clothing out of our closet to do interviews and attend church. Some walk to attend educational workshops that we host.
Whatever reason, many people walk because they lack transportation and most times—hope.
Therefore, people that we encounter on a week-to-week basis inspired the idea. Their strength, courage, and tenacity have pushed me to identify with the suffering of the poor in this country.
Also, I’m walking to share a message that to overcome poverty it takes many steps, and people can beat poverty by taking the right steps.
QG: Why are you walking 648 miles?
TL: Specifically, I’m walking to raise awareness about the millions of people who live in poverty in America. With this campaign, it is our intent to elevate stories over stats.
Each week, our organization resources people who wrestle with poverty, and many of those stories go unheard. Stories including:
Single moms who struggle to care for their children.
Homeless people who did not ask to be homeless, or struggle to find help.
Working class people that walk miles to secure resources to survive and live.
Senior citizens that live on less than $100 per month.
Mothers that struggle to gain resources for their children.
Persons who have been unemployed for months, and do not have any job leads.
Persons who have severe health problems, but can’t afford adequate health coverage.
Homeless people who struggle to find a place to shower from month to month.
QG: Why walk instead of riding a bike or traveling in a car?
TL: I have chosen to walk because when you walk—you see more, and understand more. Additionally, walking has many symbolisms:
Walking symbolizes long-suffering. There are many people who wrestle with poverty and have been doing so for a long time. In fact, many people have had to display a long-suffering attitude in dealing with poverty. I have chosen to walk this distance to identify with those who suffer for long periods of time.
Walking symbolizes taking one step at a time. There are no quick fixes when it comes to poverty, however we can collectively provide solutions and make strides one-step at a time. Additionally, if someone is wrestling with poverty, we’d like this demonstration to symbolize that poverty can be overcome one step at a time.
Walking symbolizes the ordinary. Sometimes people think that we need to have magical powers before we make a difference in the lives of others and the world. That’s not true. We are making this trip to inspire individuals, small organizations, and groups of people to take a stand for something. Everyday ordinary people can make a difference.
QG: What is mobile makeovers?
TL: Mobile Makeovers is a grooming bus we launched in 2015. It was an old church bus that was donated to us. We converted it into a barbershop, hygiene area, and clothing closet to give the homeless makeovers on the spot and connect them to resources that can help their physical makeover match the internal makeover.
Currently, Johnny Taylor and myself are using it to sleep on as we travel to Washington, DC for #MAP16
QG: What is the hardest part of being on this mission to help people?
TL: That’s easy. It takes constant sacrifice, but I believe it is worth it. We have helped thousands and have even seen people get off of the streets. Sacrifice will forever be the hardest part, but worth it in the end.
QG: What can people do to help Love Beyond Walls?
TL: You can:
Reach out to Partner with us to start something in your area.
Volunteer with us and get involved.
Share our story.
Donate to our mission. We are hoping to build a resource center to serve people who wrestle with poverty every single day.