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.
Although breakfast with our new found family and our drive home was lovely, today was amazing because of our jewelry making trip to the coalition for the homeless in Orlando. I have worked in a women’s shelter in Portland, Maine for the past few years but that is on such a small scale compared to where we went to today. They told us about all the wonderful groups of people that come through the shelter; there are people in need of food and shelter but also there are terrific volunteers that help out all the time.
I spent most of my time today with a 5 year old little boy named Max and eventually his 7 year old sister Wynter. From the begininng I could just tell that this little boy had so much love in his heart. He told me all about his first two days at this shelter. He also came right out and explained that the only reason why they were there was because when they showed up at his aunts house she would not let them in because “she didn’t have any room” and now his mom and aunt were fighting but he actually really liked this new place because he could make a lot of friends there. I was really affected by the fact that he was only five and felt the need to explain himself to me already. When we started making the bracelet he told me that this bracelet had to be for his mom and I insisted that we surprise her. As I was watching him make the bracelet I noticed just how smart that he was for being so young. Looking at him all I could see was his potential. Something that made me really really upset was that once we finished making the bracelet and Max went to show his mom all the hard work he put into it all she could say was, “Max, that looks a little too big.” I guess I will never understand exactly what everyone goes through on the day to day but I just did not know what to think. He loved his mom so much I know that.
Another boy that I met was names J’Kai and he goes to Ferncreek which is an elementary school that Rollins does a great deal of work with. He was so excited to talk about tutoring with me. On Monday, I promised him that I would go to the community engagement office and see if I could help him with his homework once a week or so. I gave him my name so that he could bring that to the teacher and then he introduced me to his 4 other brothers. It is so brave of him to be able to reach out to a complete stranger and ask them to help and I was so thankful that he felt comfortable enough to ask me.
Today was our last day at the habitat site. The roof went up quickly today, and for the first time I got to be part of putting a roof over someones head. It is truly amazing to see how much work a group of college students can do in a small amount of time. Although I hammered my thumb a few too many times I really enjoyed rolling my sleeves up and getting to work along side a group of my peers. There is something to be said about the special group that I am with. I have gone through a year at this school and never been able to connect quite like this. Everyone is here because they realize how outstanding our opportunities have been and they want to be able to give back to people that need a break and deserve opportunities that our current system can not give them.
Another thing I have learned to be grateful for is the manual laborers. It is hard, draining work that they do everyday and they do not always get the credit that they deserve. Especially because people do not realize that we need these jobs to keep building houses and keep roads paved so that we can have places to live and have ways to get to the places we need to go. This area of work often times gets over looked because as a society we tend to look down upon the skills that it takes. If I have learned anything today it is that it does take a lot of skill to be able to do this line of work as a career. And also that it can be rewarding. I had the pleasure of talking with the project facilitator and contractor today and yesterday and they are involved with habitat for humanity because it allows them to give back to their communities. Both of them have raised children that are not theirs and the way that they were talking about their children made me believe that the children were one of the reasons why they were involved in habitat. This, in turn, made me think about support systems again and how very important they are. These men have had to be support systems for individuals in their family and they have seen the way that it made a difference and they continue this by becoming part of a support system for someone that does not necessarily have a support system as readily available. The overwhelming themes for me this week seem to be thankfulness and I honestly can not reiterate enough how important it has been for me this week to remind all the parts of my own support system how blessed I am to have them.
It’s days like these when I am really thankful for my mother. My parents got divorced when my mom was 22 and like a great deal of the homeless population today, my mother was a single mom with no college degree, no income, and a baby girl. Thankfully, she had her parents to help with her living situation but it was not easy because she got divorced from my father they had no longer made her feel accepted in to the catholic church which could have been yet another support system. When James Knight was discussing family that would say that they were there for you and then not support you or turn your backs on you when you needed them to “have your back” I knew my mother would know the feeling. One thing about my mother is she is a very proud women. As soon as she got a job we moved in with a roommate in a two bedroom apartment. Eventually she re-mairried to a wealthy man and we got everything that we ever wanted and more. Coming from almost nothing she made sure I appreciated everything I was given and made me always remember where I can from. My mother is the stronger than any women I have ever met, and she has always been so brave for me. Her bravest endeavor was leaving my abusive step father. My mother risked our families economic stability for our emotional stability and safety. After listening to these people speak tonight I couldn’t help but think of how blessed I am to have a mother that would be able to give up everything for her children’s safety cause sometimes we underestimate the true power of money. She is an inspiration. I could not stop thinking about her and made sure to tell her last night exactly how thankful I was to have her.
On another note, I couldn’t quite understand why I was so puzzled by the stories that we heard but I guess I just feel like homelessness is such a complicated issue that stems from so many systemic issues. For example if certain sociological institutions like education and families were reformed we could make a greater impact the way our system works.
Today is the first day of this immersion and I couldn’t have more faith in the group that I am in. We spent the morning getting acclimated with each other which I feel is important in a group like this to get comfortable and feel the bonds of a team. For me, it was really amazing but also surprising to make connections with people that go to this school when you already have predisposed feelings about how everyone is going to be at that school. Every individual finds themselves outside the realm of the “average Rollins student,” dealing with some social issues in their lives. Difference is such a beautiful thing.
On our way to St. Pete we stopped at a grocery store so that we could make dinner for everyone this evening. We had a budget and had to feed seventeen people for that meal. Until now, even I someone that has been in all the upper, middle and working class, had to worry about having a budget of what I can get for food. Food is one of the many things that we take for granted. Some families can’t afford foods with the proper nutrients which can lead to many more health issues in the long run. Being more conscientious of hunger issues since volunteering at the soup kitchen in high school my friends and I have been packing homemade dinners for the homeless on Christmas Eve. We don’t have the money to be able to do this any other day, but providing food instead of money we feel is much more beneficial.
In the future I hope that we can build sustainable communities that can trade resources instead of trading money. Because we are in a recession, this just seems like a more logical way to get everything that you need.