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!
Today was definitely what I would consider bittersweet. Waking up should have been easier than the days before, but instead it was much more difficult even though it was 3 hours later. Once my roommate and I, Chelsea, were able to lift ourselves from our bed I concluded that it had been so hard because we genuinely did not want to leave. The experience, the people, and the bed had all been way too good to be true and we were dismayed to leave it all behind.
After we collected ourselves we packed up and headed for Crackle Barrel, where we shared one last meal in St Pete. Breakfast was great as usual and the conversation was lighthearted and a much needed relief from the shockingly serious and heartbreaking events of the intercession. After filling up on laughs, eggs, and (for some people) bottles of maple syrup, we headed back to Rollins to get ready for our day that would be spent at the Coalition for the Homeless. Listening to the same music play on the same stations, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I was to be doing so. The scenery was spectacular and better than anything I could ever wish for, and I was headed for a campus that looked like a kingdom to most people. With so much at my fingertips, I felt that I had nothing less than an obligation to utilize it all. Ideas were flying through my head about just exactly how I would do so, and before I knew it we were back at Mills Lawn. I wrote the ideas on my phone quickly, and then headed to my room to get ready for our trip to the Coalition.
The trip to the Coalition was much different than what I expected it to be. I had never in my life seen so much poverty. The life seemed to be sucked out of the men and women standing like statues in front of what our advisers pointed out to be the Coalition. Inside however, we came in contact with much more upbeat and energized women and children. We spent hours talking and making jewelry with them and we even went 45 minutes over the time we were allotted. While there, everyone in our group really surprised me. The boys were so great with the women and made things that I don’t think half of us girls could have done. No pun intended, they really stepped up to the plate and it really impressed and warmed my heart to watch. I am so thankful to be apart of such a loving group and was so happy to be able to meet the women I did today. After hearing their stories, and sharing in their tears, I promised myself I would continue to do all I could do to help them. I talked to the woman whom had directed our tour and I discussed plans for future visits and other activities we could do for the women at the Coalition. I am so excited to visit again, but I am so saddened to think about what these women will be battling until we are able to return.
In my previous blogs I have been extremely focused on structure, and entirely too worried about form. Today I realized that this is MY blog and I am going to write it the way that I think, rather than how I think it should be written.
This experience has been so amazing, and I am honestly so disappointed to know that I have to go back to Rollins in the morning. In truth, I thought that I would not get through today, being that it was almost double the amount of time than yesterday’s cite work. To my excitement, I was so surprised to find that rather than waiting for the labor to end, I was dismayed at the thought of it. Looking around the site, I saw the house that we created and watched the passion and excitement of all of the people building it. Everything seemed to be in rhythm, the pace had more than tippled since the day before, and everyone was so determined and focused on what they were doing. Thinking about the cement wall that we pulled up to the day before, I was blown away as I started at the home that was now rising and growing from it.
Through this opportunity, I have done things I never thought I would be able to do. I truly believe that anything can be accomplished if you have a group of people supporting and working with you. Working together, we helped completely change one families life, and it was spectacular to meet the woman for whom we were building. Form my conversations with her I learned that while we worked for two days, she fought for much longer to ensure her children would have a better future.
After building this home, I am sure that I will look at the world around me differently. I have already begun to think about and see things that I would have never contemplated or noticed before. I have taken so many things for granted in my life and not realized the work that goes into something as simple as the dorm in which I am living. I have a new appreciation for the simple things that I often look over and pass by in my daily life. After going through this immersion I feel more aware of the people around me, the floor beneath my feet, and the roof above head, and I am sure that I have become a far better person because of it.
Looking back on the first day of our experience, I truly had no idea what to expect. Flying in the night before to an almost empty campus and barren dorm room, I have to admit I wasn’t so thrilled about my decision to come back to school early. However, I still packed and tried to make the best of it because I knew it was so important and such a great opportunity. I had not known of one person that was going to be on the trip and I was hesitant when I entered Reeve’s Lodge at 9 am Monday morning to find a room of strangers. However, as the conversation and the day unfolded I came to find that these people were far from strangers. Through a series of discussions, ice breakers, and name games I came to get to know the 16 people i would spend the week working with, and I couldn’t have been more excited to do so. Everyone was so warm and open. Listening to each person speak I realized that I was surrounded by a group of people that were not only intelligent, but also passionate about changing the world around them.
After spending the day at Rollins, we embarked on our journey to St. Pete’s and the car ride up was full of laughs and enthusiasm. Throwing us a little curve ball, Mere, our trip advisor, had us go to Publix and split up into teams that were in charge of our dinner that night and other meals throughout the week. After this challenge we ventured to the Marriott that we were staying at, received our room assignments and went to work cooking dinner with our teams. After all the groups had finished we met in Mere’s room and sharred the dinner, talked with one another, and discussed plans for the coming day. Overall, I couldn’t believe how well the advisers had planned and directed the day, and how close we had all become in only one short day. I felt that it was so important to establish this feeling of community in order to produce the best work possible on the Habitat Site, and I can now say that it was in deed a success.
Looking through the window of our bus, I watched as the man we laughed and dined with walked into the back of a one story motel in an area that was unsettling to say the least. As I saw him strut proudly towards his “home” we turned around and began our own journey back to our beautiful villa and our queen sized beds. It was in this moment that the phrase “One must be able to dine with kings and walk with paupers” flooded my mind and has stayed with me since. I think I am now able to understand these words that my wisest family member had said to me before the years beginning. At the time I didn’t fully comprehend how one was to go about following this advice or why they even should. However now, after attending Rollins I have seen more money than I had ever imagined and been in the company of those far higher in the social and economic hierarchy. From them I have seen a world far greater than the one I had been raised within. I have been taught what I can be and what the future can hold. I have acquired new perspectives, opinions and insights that I would have never been exposed to previously. Being here, I have been challenged to also adapt to a new culture, or “dine with kings” as you will. Ironically, while in the company of kings I was given the opportunity to “walk with paupers” through the Habitat for Humanity Immersion. Today I sat and listened to the stories of four people who lived lives far different than the classmates sitting beside me. These men and women had faced and are even still battling true poverty, addiction, oppression, abuse, and inequality. Through a formal discussion at a church and a more personal dinner I was able take a walk in the ragged and worn shoes of the smiling faces that inspired and shocked me. From them I was able to learn about a world so incredibly different from the one I am currently in as well as the one I had been born into. They truly showed me the abhorring realities of life and the unthinkable circumstances that can come to make it this way. After all of today’s events had finished I came to conceive that in the phrase that had entered my mind was so significant but in, more ways than one. I came to interpret it through my interactions and understandings, and concluded that in life we must engage with all people of all classes and ranks, for we have much to learn from all of them. In all the paupers and the kings have stories and from them, we can come to truly begin to understand ourselves and the world around us, and by doing so begin to truly mold it for the better. I am so glad that I got this opportunity, for now that I have truly walked with the paupers I am able to see that it is time for the Kings to stop dining and do the same.