Having the chance to interact with the children of Every Child Counts was an experience that will never leave me. Every child in this school has their own identity and brings something different to the school. I had the chance to work with the Older Development group today, and instead of me teaching the students they were the ones teaching me. I took a step back and just observed each child not for the label that many people have placed on these children, or even the school but just for the child that was in front of me. I felt a sense of joy that came upon me and I was just blessed that I had a chance to be with the children of ECC.
Sadly enough, this is my last post for one of the most inspiring weeks I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Everyone that went on this trip has inspired me to become a person in which strives to be as inspirational and kind as each and every one of them. Tonight at our farewell dinner, everyone brought so much passion and commitment. It was so amazing watching everyone pitch their future commitments. Whether it was something as small as a bracelet or as life changing as a plan of action or getting involved immediately with organizations that you are passionate about.
By, going to St. Petersburg and seeing all of these individuals who have had these really tough lives whether it be placed upon them for some reason or another but they always seem to find a way to find something to be happy about. And it’s the simple things in life like that. It’s just inspiring to remember the little things. Because its easy to get upset or angry about something that you don’t have or that you wanted and didn’t get. But when you take a step back and look at all these people they don’t have nearly as much as we do and sometimes its just easier to push away the thought that people aren’t nearly as fortunate as we are. Like I have a bed to go home and sleep in, a roof over my head. And there are some days when I complain about having to clean my room because it is such a mess because of all of the things that I have. Whereas some people don’t even have a room to sleep in. and its really sad to me because I take that for granted. I don’t mean to.. but I do. And I just there was a way that I could give back somehow because they’ve inspired me to remember the little things in my everyday life. To smile. Like this year I feel is going to be an AMAZING year. This year has started off where I have met some of the most kind and intelligent people that I have ever met. And I look forward to getting to know each and everyone of them, more than I already do. They’ve inspired me to become this person I’ve always wanted to be. To live my dreams. And go out and be a global active citizen. And I honestly can’t thank them enough for changing who I am and my life. And I know that sounds cliche but you guys are awesome. Every single person that I had met on this trip brought something into my life that I might not of had another time. And I just got back from Australia and I hadn’t met nearly anyone in the new class and I feel honored to be able to call each and everyone of you my friend. And I cannot wait for this year to begin.
Unfortunately this is the fifth and final post of the Habitat experience. I am so upset to say that this time together has come to an end. Over the last few days I feel we have all really become a family and I hope and believe we will all remain so even after this semester begins and the intercession ends.
Meeting for breakfast on Friday morning, Molly, Chelsea, Nelson, Sneh, and I all spent most of our day preparing our final presentation and creating the bracelets for our call to action. We shared ideas, worked together, and really reflected on the things we had seen and the good we had done. We talked about the men and women that GW had been able to help rise from the hopless bottoms of life and the amazing time we had spending dinner with them and getting to hear their stories. We also spoke about the bus rides, the inside jokes, the physical and mental draining of working with Habitat for Humanity, and the immense rewards we expereienced from it all. We continuously refrenced back to our time at the coalition and the stories that warmed our heart and burdened our minds. Thorugh the time I spent working with this group I really came to realize just how life changing this ecxperience has been. It honestly has changed me as a person and I believe I will carry it with me for the rest of my life.
Sitting around a table listening to the people I had sat side by side with the entire week, I was moved by just how amazing they all were. Every single person had such a wonderful act of committment and an inspiring physical reminder. I am so proud to be able to say I know all of this unbelivable people, and even call them my friends.
For our project, we created a facebook group for all who had been a part of this experience as a means to stay in touch and keep eachother up to date on individual and other service projects. We also made beaded bracelets witrh the saying Raise The Roof in multicolors in order to remind all of us everyday of our exerience with Habitat for Humanity and our committment to further progress in the world. We hope that it will remind all that wear it continue to help in any way they can, and to show how small deeds and beads can come together to greate someting much greater. Most importantly however, the bracelets serve to show how we are all connected, and that service is a never ending committment. We hope you wear them with pride.
Spread the word and never forget how together, we can raise the roof!
Finally our intercession had to end. And there was no one in the entire group who was not upset about it. But, we still had our final Act of commitment presentation. I partnered with Molly, Chelsea, Gabrielle and Nelson, so we could come up with a much bigger idea and can impact broadly.
This past week in St. Pete has been life changing! With the help of Charlie and Dave, eighteen people put up an entire roof on a house. WE LITERALLY RAISED THE ROOF! I was fortunate enough to meet so many great people this week and made memories that I will never forget! I would like to thank Jenny, Meredith, and Jared for taking us on this wonderful opportunity to immerse ourselves in an unfamiliar place.
Yesterday was our last day. We were given the whole day to work on our final project. I worked with Nelson, Chelsea, Sneh, and Jersey. We decided to make colorful bracelets that said, Raise The Roof. I started out the day by going to breakfast and Michael’s to get supplies to build our bracelets. We then made the bracelets pictured above for everyone on the trip. Also, we wrote our final group act of kindness and each of our own. As a group we each promised to each other that we would do one act of service with each other once a month. We signed a document to create accountability and make it official. We all had our final dinner in the campus center in which everyone presented their projects. All projects were amazing and everyone did a wonderful job expressing their creativity in many different ways. I am so thankful I was able to go on this trip this past week and look forward to many more!
I am attaching my personal plan of action below.
It was nice to sleep in but right when I woke up I wanted to be back with the little family that we have created over this past week. I do not know if all the immersions are like this, but this week has really been special.
My group decided that we were going to a combined act of commitment as well as individual ones. It was really nice working as a group because we got to reflect together on what the week meant to us, as well as have personal time to reflect on what was important to us specifically. We decided to make bracelets for everyone in the group. They would serve as a remind of our time together because of the phrase, “raise the roof” on them. They were also bright colors in the hopes that people would ask what they mean and we’d proudly respond and share the details of our amazing experience this week. The bracelet is symbolic because of our jewelry making at the coalition but also is symbolic in its circular shape showing our never-ending commitment to service. As a group we are challenging ourselves to getting together as a group and doing some service activity together. We also made a Facebook page so that we could all communicate and support each other in future service activities.
My personal act of commitment stemmed from my personal experiences and knowing that sometimes children get overlooked because we do not think that they know any better or understand things that happen to them. I met a number of amazing children over this week and I feel like just spending time with them and being there for them is something that they need more than anything right now. I’ve decided that I am going to become a Fern Creek Tutor to a boy named J’Kai Abrams who had the courageousness to approach me and ask me if I would be his tutor in math. I couldn’t be any happier being able to spend a few hours with him once a week or a month, whatever he needs.
This week for me has been a reinforcement to me to be thankful for what I do have and how important my safety net is but also I think sometimes that we get caught up in our own world and we leave behind the problems that are bigger than we are. As a member of society you are aware of the social problems but you don’t do anything to help because you think that you do not have the resources to fix the whole problem. As a consciencious citizen I’m going to challenge myself not only to think on a smaller scale of helping the people that have been affected by homelessness with a “hand up not a hand out” and realize the difference that that makes in their lives BUT ALSO make my peers more aware of this mentality.
Our final intercession dinner was an extremely moving experience. I’d known that I was in the presence of extraordinary, caring people all week long, but the final presentations proved exactly how thoughtful and ready to change the world my peers are. I’ve never met more motivated young people. Everyone’s projects captured the mood of the week perfectly, and I know that I won’t forget the lessons we’ve taught each other anytime soon.
My final act of commitment is to overall change the way I present myself to people I encounter day in and day out. Whether rich or poor, cheerful or depresses, I want to engage my fellow citizens with warmth and understanding. This can be as simple as lending a hand or smile when someone truly needs it.
The second part of my commitment is to use the hope I’ve seen in both my peers and the people we’ve met this week to encourage me to follow my dreams as well. I’m passionate about the environment and want to lead a career that allows me to protect our world. In terms of being a conscientious citizen, holding a career that makes an impact is beyond important to me.
I wrote the following poem to remember both the lessons of the week and my act of commitment. It includes the names of several people who have inspired me this week. I hope you enjoy it.
Learning and growing in the Rollins way,
Building a house that will be a home someday.
For Nina and her children we braved new skills,
With thoughts of no shelter giving me chills.
Into their roof we built our souls and our hearts
So that the Nelson family may never be apart.
The tresses and beams served as a physical sign
Of the hardships of dancing with the poverty line.
But the impact was not made with hammers and nails,
But in the way that my mind has blazed a new trail.
Throughout my life it was always important
That the shelter I knew was from the world’s misfortunes.
But after this week I can finally conceive
That ignorance is never bliss, but naïve.
So from this day forward I solemnly swear
I will never pass through my day without a thought or a care.
Whether walking through campus or down Division Street,
I will acknowledge with a smile every soul that I meet.
Not a smile of pity or one that dismisses,
But one that sees battles and hearts full of wishes.
In the poor and forgotten, the face with no name,
I will see Nina’s laughter and the pride that filled James.
Little by little, I’ll transform my life
Until I’m ready to make my complete sacrifice.
Careers that exude our passions and goals
Allow us to give back when life takes its toll.
So I will follow my passions for the trees and the lakes,
Protecting the world’s beauty no matter what it takes.
I’ve seen a spark in Allan and a fire in Ilene,
They’ve given me the courage to follow my dream.
And so I will grow from simple member to active
By combining my experiences both thoughtful and interactive.
In this life we’re all students, and teachers too,
And this trip really altered all I thought that I knew.
And to my peers I will say, now that we’re done,
Never forget to be someone else’s ray of sun.
At the Homeless Coalition, the cycle of poverty became alarmingly apparent. We were in charge of leading a jewelry making class for the women of the Coalition, meaning that many children also had to tag along and be included in some way. It was interesting to be leading a class in a subject that we were all pretty much novices. I tried really hard to pretend to know what I was doing, but I still had the directions strategically placed in front of me the majority of the time. Making that kind of jewelry is legitimately difficult, despite how easy Sneh made it look. 😛 The women had to use most of their focus and attention to make sure they were stringing their bracelets, earrings, and necklaces the correct way. So when one of their children came and tagged on their elbows, the patience was limited. I saw children turned away, reprimanded, and scolded for simply wanting to show their mommy what they made.
But these women were not necessarily cruel or bad mothers. I discovered this firsthand after working with a particularly overbearing mama. Jody came to my table, bossily instructing me to begin two sets of friendship bracelets for her two daughters, making them in different colors so that they wouldn’t get mixed up. She continued to direct my actions the entire time, irking me just a tad. I’m no expert in jewelry design, but we were there as the hosts of the event. I thought that maybe possibly gave me a little bit of a leg up. Not with this mom! As I sat by, unsure of what to do with my hands when Jody took over my job, I began talking to her. I found out that she’d been planning to attend the event for weeks, ever since the Coalition first announced it. She said she had wanted to do something special for her daughters.
Jody’s intentions were good. She didn’t carry out her plan in the way the mothers I’ve grown up around would have, but she had the same basic need to make her daughters feel loved and nurtured. Maybe she’d had a less than loving mother, or had spent hours that day working hard, or was struggling without a father in the girls’ life. I have no idea, but I realized that I can’t be quick to judge a person before knowing their story. These are mothers who can’t leave the room when they’re about to lose their temper with their children, or pay for babysitters to ease the strain that raising children can bring. Jody’s little girls, Jamie and Emily, were really no different than me…they’d simply been born into a different life. Their hardships, the ones that landed them at the Coalition, were situational, random circumstances that they did nothing to incur.
Why hadn’t I been born into such a family? What did I do to deserve the love and support and necessary resources that I am always surrounded by? In the end, we are no different from the rest of the world. We are all victims of random chance.
I hope to use my chance opportunities to improve the opportunities of those around me.
Tonight was our last meeting as a group. We ate dinner and discussed with Jenny our time at the Coalition. Afterward, we all shared our Act of Commitment with the others. Earlier, I painted a picture symbolizing what was needed to escape homelessness based on Alan’s acronym H.I.T.: Housing, Income, Transportation. The painting explores the interconnectedness of these resources, and how to have one you must have another, which makes attaining all of them together even more difficult. I have already hung it up on my wall so it can be a daily reminder of my Act of Commitment, which is to talk to at least one person a week about the issue of homelessness while trying to dispel the stigma that surrounds it.
Tonight was very important for the effectiveness of our Acts of Commitment because it provides the “accountability” piece. This word instantly reminds me of my faith because it is tossed around a lot in church communities. When a person makes a commitment to do something, a huge part of whether the commitment will be carried out in the long run is by having people around who know the commitment and can encourage the person to act toward the goal on a daily basis. Having all these friends around who can make sure I follow through is reassuring and gives me confidence as I try to be faithful to my commitment.
This week has been incredible. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to be on this trip and learn so much more about this social injustice of homelessness. Thank you to all those who have worked to make this happen. I hope and pray that all of us will remember what we have learned and continue to work towards being active citizens of the world.
After tonights dinner and reflections I believe that my previous post might have been a bit premature to say the least. Given past promises at the conclusion of service events past I was quick to “jump the gun”, but after tonights presentation I think that it would be wise for me to reconsider the projected outcome.
With that said the self proclaimed act of service that I have agreed upon has been the expansion of service based volunteers by using both the bracelets that we constructed with bright eye catching colored beads. The other will be through the various organization that I am already apart of and any in the foreseeable future. Not only will this help garner new citizens of change, but will enable me to step out of my comfort zone and enable real progress to be made internally .