After staying in Abaco for 7 days it was bittersweet to leave an island that I fell in love with. From the students at Every Child Counts, my fellow Rollins peers, to the friendly people of the Island. I was shocked when I first landed on Abaco, it was so different, the air was clean and the water was extremely beautiful at first sight. However, I quickly learned that there was a downside to this beautiful island, from minimum wage being six dollars, to gas at five and extremely over priced items at the grocery store. I quickly realized that I take simple things for granted every single day, even when I wake up and thank God for all I have I still didn’t truly understand why I was thanking him until I went to Abaco and experience another culture .
I learned so much in such a short period of time, I fell in love with children at ECC and simply wanted to take them home with me. However, I am glad that they are at ECC learning and improving every single day, it truly makes my heart happy to see their smiles and to know that those teacher truly want to help the students succeed.
To sit here and try to type everything I saw, every emotion I felt would just be an understatement of it all. I am truly grateful that I was able to experience this immersion, and I will never forget it.
As we are now 2/3 of the way done with our trip, reflecting back on it, a few moments stand out to me as being the most enjoyable.
One such moment was the first day at ECC. I spent my morning in the vocational workshop with many of the older students who were working on social skills and daily routine type activities. Latonya, one of the friendliest and most outgoing students, welcomed us in with open arms and was so excited to be sharing her space with us. She was so excited to learn all of our names and give us a tour. I absolutely loved being in her presence, as she was so curious to ask us millions of questions-with her favorite questions being: are you coming to the concert? and have you met my friend ___?. Latonya brought so much energy and excitement into my first day at ECC that it made me so overjoyed to be a part of such an incredible community.
Another one of my favorite memories so far, was learning dance moves with Samantha. Samantha, too, was so passionate about the concert and anxiously wanted to know if we would be there. She wanted to share her dance moves with us, as she had done with the rest of her peers. So, we spent part of the afternoon with her, learning the rhythm and some of the most basic dance moves that they will be performing in the show. For me, I find dancing to be a very intimate/personal activity that requires some level of connection between the people involved. The fact that Samantha was so willing to incorporate us so openly into her own culture and passions truly warmed my heart. It was even more incredible that she was asking us to teach her dance moves as well! However, the only move we taught her was “Making Pancakes” which was not nearly as fabulous as her dances which were filled with flair.
Lastly, I adored all of the love that each of the students gave us. They openly embraced us, held our hands, invited us to sit with them in class, and gave us kisses. There is nothing more rewarding than the satisfaction of knowing that you are truly making them happy, just by being their friends. I have loved my time here so much! I can’t wait to see what our last few days have in store for us.
This trip has tested me in many different ways, but I have enjoyed so much of it. I have been incredibly homesick for most of this trip, and I expected that feeling to get much worse once I was around the children at ECC. I expected that once I saw those children, I would become sad and miss my siblings like crazy, but these kids have made me feel so much better. The children at ECC have been so opening and loving towards me, even if they don’t know me as well as some of the other student leaders. They always say hi to me, always hug me, and always sing their hearts out during rehearsals for the concert. I miss my family immensely, but I forget about that when I am with these kids. They honestly fill my heart up and make me think about where I am and what I am doing. They are so appreciative and kind towards all of us, and they have so much heart. Watching them perform warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes. I am so grateful for all that they put into these songs, and I love how they fill up the missing parts of my heart for the time being.
My time so far in the Bahamas has been amazing and very eye-opening. Being in this new environment has led me to realize how lucky I am, how cultures differ in so many ways and that I need to see more of the world. I am very grateful to be able to explore the Bahamas and it’s culture while also helping out at Every Child Counts. This whole trip has been a very unique experience for me however my favorite parts have been seeing the children because I absolutely love kids and also the snorkeling trip. Going out on the snorkeling boat I was not sure if I would participate in this event because I am deathly afraid of sharks, however I overcame my fears and went snorkeling, and it was amazing!