Ariella Lvov

About Ariella Lvov

Hello, my name is Ariella and I'm a freshman at Rollins College (at least at this point. If you're reading this in the future, I'm most likely not a freshman anymore. Unless I pull a Van Wilder). Currently, I'm double majoring in political science and music. I come from a very musical family and have been playing the piano for 13 years now. Although I was born here, my heritage becomes really obvious the moment I get a phone call from my mother and start babbling to her speedily in the wonderfully Slavic language called Russian. Through the generosity of the Cornell scholarship, I am able to attend my top choice institution and take advantage of opportunities that would've never been available to me if not for Rollins.

“Run Toward That Which Disturbs You”

Looking back upon this last week of life-changing experiences, it feels good to have some sort of concerete ideas on what I plan to do after this course is over.

Before we embarked on this trip, I was under the impression that most homeless people fell under the demographic of lazy drug users. This myth was, obviously, debunked. It turns out that women and families are the predominant category of people to fall into homelessness. There are many shelters for women and children. However, now that I’ve expanded my view, I am left wondering what there IS for those single men and single women without children. They should inspire sympathy and compassion as well. They are human beings and need shelter and food. Perhaps they are not as high up on the urgency scale for revitalization, but they still need a bit of help at this point in their lives.

As amazing as the Coalition for the Homeless is, it’s obscene that a non-profit organization is basically forced to carry the burden of a government organization. Something is definitely wrong with the priorities this country holds when its own government can’t even ensure that every citizen has the basic necessities. However, this is not something I can change by myself, at this point in my life.

Therefore, there are a few things I’d like to implement in my life, as I move forwards, that I will make every effort to abide by throughout my daily life.

  1. Always make eye contact with the homeless and other disadvantaged individuals, even if it makes me uncomfortable.
  2. Listen to their stories and show some compassion.
  3. Work with Habitat for Humanity (I may have been sore, but I got such a sense of accomplishment out of it that I’d love to do it again.) www.habitat.org
  4. Involve the College Democrats in service projects, in addition to the already existing political projects.
  5. Work with local restaurants to add a 1% surcharge on meals over $100 and donate that money to local causes.
  6. Use left over meal plan money to buy non-perishable items from the C-store and donate them to Second Harvest Food Bank.
  7. Eventually choose a vocation that involves bettering the world through some form of service. In my case, it will most likely be changing public policy and getting to the root of these problems through the means of politics.

Eventually, I will be a check writer for something, somewhere. I may not yet know what that is, and I have plenty of time to figure that out, but I do know that in my heart, I will always want to ease the suffering in the world, and I will do so in my own special way.

As Meredith likes to say: In service, progress is an important key word. It's unrealistic to expect to change the world with one service project, but progress can always be made.

As this week comes to a close, I am grateful for the eye-opener that was presented to me as a result of this immersion. I would encourage everyone to learn a little bit more about homelessness before making uneducated stereotypical remarks. But most of all, I would encourage everyone to find a cause that they are passionate in, and pursue ways to improve that cause. Everyone has their own unique qualities and passions, and those can easily be put to good use making the world a slightly better place.

For now, I bid you all adieu with the title of this post: run towards that which disturbs you. That is the best way to discover what your service niche is in the world. It was said to me this morning at the panel and it really caught my attention. Enough so, in fact, that even though Kate used it as her blog title as well, I decided to use it anyways as I planned, so much it spoke to me. But I will continue to use it as my motto, and hopefully will discover how I will make the world a better, safer, more caring and peaceful place.

Motherhood.

The work we did today was a lot different from the manual labor we’ve been doing.

If there’s one demographic of people that can always make an emotional impact, it’s children. And that’s just who we worked with today. We went to the Orlando Coalition for the Homeless. After a short tour of the extensive facilities, we set up some arts and crafts for the kids.

We didn’t even have to do extensive recruiting – the mothers just came pouring in with their adorable children. There was picture frame painting, jewelry making, bookmark decorations, and plenty of love going around. The kids were undoubtedly the cutest little humans, with paints all over their faces and clothes but absolutely loving it.

It was sad because I realized that they don’t often get to do fun things for themselves, don’t get to have a normal childhood. The children always manage to extract sympathy and understanding from even the most stoic people, because of their obvious innocence and endless cuteness. And yet they don’t have a stable home, stable surroundings, consistent caregivers. It was heartbreaking.

I really enjoyed watching Becca Kleinman discover her motherly nature. She is going to be the most adorable mother ever.

Salmon.

It was a wonderfully positive day spent after a day of emotional turmoil and injustice upheaval.

We started off the day just as early as we did yesterday (although I made an effort to go to sleep just in time to wake up at the end of a sleep cycle ~ a wonderful new method introduced to me by Becca Hamilton, found on www.sleepyti.me). Heading off to the Habitat houses we were helping with, I felt a sense of optimism. I spent the day painting one of the houses a salmony-pink color that somehow managed to coat my arms, t-shirt, jeans, and shoes.

when we first began

I felt very accomplished when we drove off and the fruit of our labor was evident in the bright coloring of the house.

when we drove off

As I was painting, I loved the feeling that I was making someone else’s future home beautiful. That we are responsible for the future homeowner coming home and feeling welcome and proud of their shelter. After last night’s horrific stories, it was very rewarding to feel as though we were helping provide a reliable, comfortable, beautiful shelter for very deserving people. We also all enjoyed flinging paint at each other, resulting in complete annihilation of our clothes.

And then the real fun began.

Sassy pants Jerry (as one of the volunteers lovingly dubbed Jarrid) missed our exit so we got to cross the 8-mile bridge yet again. We got to see plenty of baby ducks but unfortunately no octopi. Plenty of shenanigans were observed and the other car was very angry. Why so serious?

 

P.S. I will be joining Kate Barnekow’s valiant efforts to donate leftover meal plan money. You should too.

I have never

I never knew I could experience such never-ending and always changing emotional intensity in one day.

Today has been one of the most emotionally overwhelming days of my life. When I said something very similar yesterday, I had no idea what was in store for us today. It’s amazing what an impact a few heart-felt stories can have upon a group of well-intentioned individuals.

We started off the day at the break of dawn (trust me, I complained vocally and often!) heading off to build houses for Habitat for Humanity. I’ve never done physical labor with such enthusiasm and sense of accomplishment and contribution. I always believed my efforts were better utilized in the civic action area, working to change policies and the overall unpleasantness in the world. Turns out I’m just as capable of making small differences and feeling even more passionately about it than I would have in a removed setting.

After a very self-gratifying 6 hours (or so) of manual labor (and multiple shenanigans from the group entertaining ourselves while hauling cabinets and painting exteriors), I left with a feeling of fulfillment that i’ve done something good for the world.

Little did I know what I was about to experience.

We heard 5 testimonials from either formerly or currently homeless individuals. And suddenly they became, indeed, individuals. Not just numbers or statistics, but people with personalities, families, struggles, medical conditions, and a very unfortunately living situation. Suddenly I was feeling a flood of emotions ranging from elation at success stories to helplessness to pure sadness. I was crying on multiple occasions, but most notably when one of the women started singing. She opened her mouth and the most incredible voice I have ever heard came out (and growing up in a musical family, i’ve heard quite a bit). I was sitting not even 4 feet away from her and the emotion and passion pouring out from her just completely unglued me. In fact, I’m tearing up writing about it right now.

Dinner was at a greek restaurant Acropolis (I hate feta cheese. My apprehension was prevalent. I persevered nonetheless with settling on a delicious shish kabob). 4 of the people at the panel earlier came with us, and we treated them to dinner. We bonded on an even more personal level (who knew that was possible?).

I have to say that I never felt as useless and helpless as I did in the moment after dinner when we dropped our guests off on the street, knowing they had no place to sleep tonight. I never wanted more to reach out and do whatever in my power to help. The urge to make these incredible, humble, selfless and grateful people’s lives just a tiny bit better was so intense that I, yet again, teared up.

Some people’s misconceptions and ignorance is abysmal. Imagine a woman trying to run over someone that (stereotypically) looked as if they may have been homeless. Imagine police arresting you just because you are carrying more than 2 bags. I want society to realize that these people are not a group, or a social class, or a statistic. They are just like you and me, just like people that own multi-million dollar houses and yachts in marinas. They have professions, children, and hobbies, just like you and me.

And most importantly, they sometimes need to be shown a little kindness to not feel so lonely and hated in the world, just like you and me.

 

Dr. Cavenaugh attacked those paintbrushes with an intensity that almost frightened! But we all worked with that same intensity that is palpable in this candid shot.

 

Shenanigans

Icebreakers are usually the dreaded part of pre-trip experiences. The silly games, the same inane questions, the endless introductions. I never knew that icebreakers could actually be profound introspective experiences and emotional self-explorations.

Before we embarked on a week of selfless service and shelter provision for the less privileged, we took a few hours to divulge some of the most personal aspects of ourselves to each other, so as to bring us closer and cast aside the vulnerabilities that would disable us from fully internalizing the experience. Playing “Cross the line” was possibly one of the most emotionally draining hours I’ve experienced in the last year. It took a lot of courage for everyone to unveil the most private parts of our lives to people we’ve known for less than 6 months. It really brought us all closer and enabled a (hopefully) enriching and positive experience over the next week.

We also discovered the joy of octopi and various analogies that could be extracted from them.

Looking forward to future discoveries and humorous analogies throughout the week.

crossing the line into unknown territory.