Hi. My name is Colleen Wilkowski. I'm a freshman English major from East Meadow, New York. I am currently attending Rollins College on a full scholarship made possible by the generosity of the Cornell foundation. On my free time, I like to listen to classic rock music and spend time with friends.

The Last Day

Today, we met with a panel of people who work with various organizations related to homelessness. We were able to ask questions and we learned a lot about governmental policies concerning homelessness. We also discussed action plans and things that we could do to lessen homelessness individually and as a group. We were all able to create individual action plans and well as group action plans. One of the examples that influenced our planning was the current Miami policy that places a surcharge on restaurant meals totaling over 100 dollars. The money gained from this surcharge is donated to homeless organizations. Through this surcharge, Miami was a le to raise over 9 million dollars for the homeless in one year. This seemed like a great way for everyone to give a little to create a huge difference.

Coalition for the Homeless

Today, we volunteered at Orlando Coalition for the Homeless. We made arts and crafts with children and their families. The people we met were all really nice. They were really excited to participate in the activities that we had planned. The housing provided by Coalition for the Homeless provided these people with a friendly environment where they could try to improve their lives.

The children in the building seemed to not even realize they were homeless. They werte so happy and playful. It was really great to see that they could be so happy despite their situation.

After our visit, we watched Easy Street, a movie featuring some of the people we met on Tuesday night. It was so interesting to see them in the movie when they had still lived on the street. One man, G.W., has made a dramatic change from his role as a homeless man to the person he is now. In the movie, he looks tired and beaten down. Now, he appears strong and triumphant. The movie reinforced what they had all told us during our meeting on Tuesday. The homeless people are not bad, irresponsible people. They are good people in a horrible situation who need help.

Shenanigans Day 3

Today, we had a lot of fun building on the Habitat for Humanity site. We installed kitchen furniture in one of the homes. It was hard work but it was a rewarding experience with a fun group of people and the time passed quickly.

We did a lot of work with wood today, which reminded me of the technology classes I took in middle school. I cut a hole with a jigsaw and sanded the edges of doors. I forgot how much I liked doing this things but it was fun to revisit them. We also painted a whole side of a house, which was really cool.

Working with the organization was especially rewarding today after last night’s activity. Last night, we met a group of homeless and formerly homeless people. It was so eye opening to talk to them and hear their stories. They were just regular people, who, due to various circumstances had ended up homeless. It really scared me to think that all people are truly vulnerable and it is a real possibility that anyone could end up homeless. Some of the people that we met had college educations. That really scared me because I always thought that my college education would provide me with enough financial security to at least support myself. I really wanted to help the people we met. They were so kind and positive and it was really upsetting that we had to leave some of them with no place to spend the night. It made me feel incredibly lucky to be in the situation I am in currently and reminded me not to take that for granted.

Day 2

Today, we helped build homes at Habitat for Humanity. We arrived at 8 am at the site where three homes were being built. My group taped paper on the floors so that the painters would not mess them up. Then, we painted the exterior of one of the homes and took inventory from the Home Depot trucks. After that, we unloaded furniture from the delivery trucks and carried it into the homes.

The homes were much nicer than I had ever imagined. It is great that people in tough financial situations are able to earn these affordable homes. Each home had a few bedrooms, a bathroom, and a nice kitchen and living room. The homes were going to be well furnished. One of the contractors explained  the organization to us. He explained that home recipients are not just given the homes for free. They must apply, receive approval, work 350 hours for the organization, and pay for their home through an interest free 30-year mortgage. Habitat for Humanity is an extremely worthwhile organization and working with them was a very rewarding experience.

Immersion Day 1

The first day of our immersion was very eventful. We arrived in Reeves Lodge at 9 am after a long and exciting winter break. It was really great to see everyone again and hear about their breaks After we were done catching up, we started the day’s activities. We had a few book discussions and took part in a lot of emotional exploration activities.

The activities were very interesting and helped us to really connect with one another. Although we already knew each other pretty well from living together first semester, we all learned things about each other we had not known before. The events were very useful in connecting us before the week ahead.

On the trip over, we got into a lot of shenanigans in a high tech minivan. We had a lot of fun eating brownies and playing I Spy. The week ahead should be a fun one.