About kchadaideh

Hello! My name is Katia, and I'm a freshman at Rollins College. I'm originally from Winter Park, Florida, so Rollins is really not a far stretch from home for me! I'm currently majoring in biochemistry, and some of my hobbies include reading, hiking, and swimming. I'm extremely excited to be participating in this Habitat for Humanity intersession, and I hope you all enjoy getting my take on the experience!

1,000 Thank you’s

It’s unfortunately arrived. The last day of our amazing intersession experience. I’m feeling some bitter-sweetness about this moment, actually. I’m glad the fresh new semester will be starting up in a few days, but I’m sorry we didn’t get a chance to do even more service opportunities with our immersion. However, the small taste of service I got this week has definitely inspired me to keep the ball rolling.

Waking up today, the entire class met back in Reeves lodge to talk about final thoughts about our experiences from yesterday. Then, we were able to speak with a panel of some of Central Florida’s most influential non-profit leaders; The President of the Coalition for the Homeless, the Vice President of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orlando, and a prestigious politician from Seminole County is also a professor of communications courses at the Holt school at Rollins. They were there to answer any questions we might have still had after our immersion, and I learned a lot from their insigthful answers. I’m really glad we got the chance to talk to them.

After the panel, we were all given the instructions for mapping out our action plans. What is an action plan, you ask? It’s a plan for what you aim to accomplish with service and volunteer work on a personal, group, and community level. Our entire group worked together on it, to come up with individualized goals, which I personally hope to achieve by the end of next semester, and then combined our interests to set group goals that we hope to accomplish before the end of our four years at Rollins. After a bunch of brainstorming, we were able to pull together an interactive prezi (a word that got Kate upset, since she felt like she was getting a present every time she heard the word, then would get let down) that summarized what we aimed to do.

This was my personal goal:

After embarking on this amazing experience, I hope to use the knowledge I’ve accumulated over this immersion to volunteer more of my time to service projects held by Rollins, as well as to start making the effort to begin service opportunities that are most important to me. As a biochemistry major, I am very passionate about healthcare for the needy, so I would like to find a clinic that offers services and check-ups for the needy that I could volunteer for. I am also going to make a conscious effort to raise awareness about the ideas of poverty and homelessness in the minds of my family, friends, and peers.

When we finished working on our homes with Habitat for Humanity, Tom the contractor gave us all our paychecks: a check made out to us for 1,000 Thank you’s. While I originally planned on putting them all in my savings, I think I’d rather give a few away to some people that absolutely deserve them This journey has been one I will never, and I mean NEVER, forget. I would just like to whole-heartedly thank Dr. Cavenaugh, Jerrid, and Meredith, along with the contractors at the Habitat for Humanity site, Alan and the homeless individuals who shared their stories, Jenn and the volunteers at the Coalition for the Homeless, and the guests who spoke with us on the panel. Thank you for allowing me to go on this journey, and helping me learn so much about my ideas of service, my community, and myself. And finally, thank you to everyone following this blog. Hopefully you enjoyed taking the journey with me.

— Katia

A Little Piece of Love

Just when I think I’m done with getting emotional about this journey, Dean Cavenaugh, Jerrid, and Meredith find a way to bring it all back to the surface, and I have to say I love them for it. Once again, I got up this morning knowing that we were going to have an eventful day, and once again I underestimated how much it would affect me (I think I’m noticing a trend here, what about you?).

After driving though downtown Orlando, our final stop was at the Coalition for the Homeless headquarters for Central Florida. Walking into the area, I could see fathers, mothers, grandmothers, and children all roaming around the grounds. The first stop we had when we got there was at the front desk, where we met Jenn, who works at the coalition. She was extremely sweet and easy to talk to, and made us all feel welcome and comfortable. After some brief introductions and a little description of what the Coalition stands for, Jenn gave us a tour of the facilities. As we were walking through a hallway towards the back door to the daycare center, a man walked into the building pushing a cart with boxes for the coalition, and behind him ran an adorable little boy. I only got a glimpse of him as he ran by to catch up to who I assumed was his father.

After taking a look at the daycare center, then an area of the building where residents get the chance to earn degrees while staying in the coaliton (which I thought was amazing, by the way), we learned that we were going to get to do arts and crafts with some of the mothers and children. That actually got me excited; I was hoping we would get a chance to lift up their spirits in some way, even though our impact on them may be small. When we walked into the dining area to meet the kids, I saw the little boy from the hallway. He looked so sweet, I immediately started talking to him, and eventually sat next to him to work on crafts. His name was Nelson, and he is the most amazing little 4-year old. Not only is he super polite, always saying please and thank you, but he is extremely smart as well. I got him paints to work on decorating a picture frame, and he couldn’t find the color pink, so he immediately starting mixing white and red to make the color he wanted. It was so much fun to talk to him. He is just such a bright kid. I also met Nelson’s dad, who came to sit with Nelson and I and make a frame of his own. He was also extremely kind, and ran to get us anything that we needed, from paper towels to wipe paint stains to a bucket of water to clean the brushes.

As Nelson got more and more comfortable with me, he eventually moved onto my lap to work on his painting, putting coat after coat of pink paint to make it perfect, paying special attention to every corner. While he worked on that, I made him a frame with his favorite colors, blue and green, and he helped me pick out the letters of his name from a sticker bin to put on the frame. When he finally declared that his frame was finished, he turned to look at me, held up the frame, and said “I made it for you!” It was at that moment that my heart just melted. Here was this incredibly amazing little boy who unfortunately didn’t have much in this world besides his parents, who spent so much time and attention on this frame, and he had been making it for me, a person he had just met. Looking at this sweet little boy, it took all I had not to break down in front of him. When it was time for him to leave, I handed him the frame I made for him and walked him to his father, who was now across the room. Before they left, Nelson wrapped his little arms around my legs, and I immediately picked him up and gave him the biggest hug I could manage. As he said goodbye, his father thanked me for spending the day with his son, and all I could think was no sir, thank you.

Children like Nelson are plentiful at the Coalition for the Homeless. After meeting him, I know for a fact that I will be back to the coalition as a volunteer, and I think everyone who can should do the same. Here’s a link to the website for the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida. Please check it out:

http://www.centralfloridahomeless.org/movie.html

Just across the Railroad

At ten o’clock this morning, armed with my suitcase, backpack, and knowledge collected from the first half of this week, it was time for our little immersion group to leave St. Pete and head back to Rollins. That was actually a pretty eventful car ride for me. Instead of everyone besides Dean Cavenaugh and I falling asleep as they’ve successfully done on every car ride without fail (personally I think I have a chronic disorder that leaves me incapable of napping), Becca Kleinman, Callie, Kate and I all covered a wide range of global topics, from the crisis in the Middle East to our views on religion and spirituality (a conversation Becca particularly loved was whether or not Messianic Jews should actually be considered Jewish). Of the two cars I think we were more productive, since the other car was singing along to the radio for an hour and a half (I’m so sorry Jerrid).

When we finally got back home, we had an hour to put our stuff in our rooms, relax for a bit, then get right back into the cars for a drive around Orlando before heading for Central Florida’s Coalition for the Homeless. On that drive, Meredith took us along back roads to get to downtown Orlando and explained how the “haves” and the “have-nots” in Orlando, and many other major cities around the country, can be separated by something as short as a railroad track or a two-way street, where rich communities with expensive homes and fancy restaurants are on one side, and run down neighborhoods and convenient stores are on the other. It was actually kind of shocking to me to be honest. I’ve lived in the Winter Park and Orlando area all my life, and I have never been in or even heard about some of the poor areas we drove through. Meredith challenged us to count the number of trash cans we could find in these areas, and I only found one small bin at a street corner. That just shows how support for these areas really isn’t there from the government or the community, which is sad. If it doesn’t start with these types of institutions to help these areas improve and thrive, can it actually start at all? That is definitely something for me to think about.

And They’re Off!

Today was the definition of awesome! After the seriousness of yesterday’s work and the conversations we all had, it was extremely nice to just do good work and have some fun. After waking up, taking an extra-long time to get out of bed yet again, and eating breakfast, we all braced ourselves for another day at the work site for Habitat for Humanity.

The weather this morning was pretty dreary, with rain clouds hiding the sun well past 10 am. I was definitely still in the mindset from yesterday at first. But the work we did today was extremely rewarding, and my mood got happier as the day went on, which was mirrored by the improving weather.  Becca Kleinman and I worked under the supervision of David, a gruff 86-year old contractor with a bit of a sassy attitude, who I absolutely loved. He was definitely one of the coolest people I’ve met, attitude and all (any 86-year old has a right to be sassy in my opinion). We screwed door hinges to the sides of closet walls, put rollers on the closet doors, and even handled paint jobs. All the while, the fabulous David was being a tough guy, but we eventually got a glimpse of his hysterical sense of humor. Still, I could have sworn he growled at us a few times when we put a screw in crookedly! Overall though, the last day on the work site was extremely satisfying and so rewarding. It was tough work, but the end result of seeing the houses really come together in the short time we were helping was so amazing. I definitely have to do work with Habitat again soon.

After some down time in our rooms, it was time for us to have some carefree fun. After dinner at Panera, we made the fantastic decision to go to an indoor go-karting track! I don’t think I’ve had that much fun in forever! My Racer name was the Curly Menace, and I did my best to terrorize the others with my lightning-fast racing ability! Out of the three races, I really thought my 2nd place win was pretty awesome, considering I’ve never ridden a go-kart in my life. I’m really glad we got to do something like this, as a way to de-stress and get ready for the next half of the week, which I’m sure will be just as insightful and thought-provoking as the first half. I guess we’ll just have to see what comes next!

Indescribable

Awake. That’s how I feel after the dinner we’ve just had. The restaurant was great, a Greek place called Acropolis (amazing food, by the way) where we all sat at a very nice round table, sharing laughs and stories as we enjoyed the company. But the company itself wasn’t exactly what I would call ordinary. We were sitting with extraordinary people. They were educated, well-spoken, honest, generous, hilarious, and kind. And they were all homeless. The people I’ve met today I’ll probably always remember, because not only did they give me such a shockingly open and personal insight into their lives, but they made me realize how lucky I am, and how close I could be to losing it all and ending up on the streets, in the same way that it’s happened to them.

After our experience with Habitat for Humanity, we all got a chance to wash up and get ready for the rest of our day. I was in a pretty good mood, feeling great about what we’ve accomplished so far, so I was excited for the rest of the day. But the meeting we had with Alan and his group of guest speakers is not something anyone can really be prepared to go to and not be completely affected. The speakers who volunteered to come and talk to us, Stacy, Darrel, GW, Art, and Lauren, told us stories of how little setbacks or problems in their otherwise normal and successful lives led them on a downward spiral to homelessness. And after hearing their testimonials, we all got to go to dinner, where we were able to talk to them in an informal way to get to know them a bit more. Some of the things they told us were unbelievable, from Stacy’s story of how a woman once tried to run her over because she was homeless, to absolutely touching, like Darrel’s statement on how he wanted to eat at Acropolis because a young waitress that worked there used to give him bags of food every night he slept behind the restaurant.

Even though their stories held so much pain and many hardships, they were all completely willing to answer any questions, and handled themselves with so much dignity. It was one of the most emotional experiences I think I’ve ever had, but I have so much respect for them and for what they’ve gone through. On the other side, though, I couldn’t help but think about what I would do if it had happened to me. Or, even further, how easily it could happen to me. While poverty and homelessness are really pretty taboo terms in our society, today gave me a wake-up call on how poverty like theirs is sometimes only a couple of missed paychecks, an injury, or an unplanned disaster away.

Word of the Day: Efficiency!

Waking up this morning was not extremely easy, especially with a certain person who will not be named (cough cough, Becca Kleinman) coming into the room Callie and I share and simply blinding me with ceiling lights at such an unholy hour. But even with the initial road blog of being unconscious for the first twenty minutes of breakfast, my day has been extremely energized, with absolutely no dull moment.

The first half of today was dedicated to working at the building site for Habitat for Humanity, and I have to say I was excited to get started after our group session in the classroom yesterday. The site, which wasn’t far from the hotel, had three houses being prepared for families, all in a row, and were being worked on at the same time by a small contracting crew. Almost immediately after walking on to the site, we were all told to grab a hard hat, which looked extremely fashionable when worn if I do say so myself, and assigned to one of the houses to handle different jobs. I was part of the group needed to cut and tape down construction paper on the floor of one house to protect the tile from interior painting. While the job doesn’t seem too difficult when someone’s explaining it to you, it actually does take time, patience, and the ability to wield a box cutter without maiming anyone. Ella and I worked together to lay out the paper, cut it along the wall edges, and tape it down, all the while repeating the word “efficiency” in every way we could. Time efficiency, material efficiency, and job efficiency were of utmost importance, and after testing out multiple methods we finally found the most efficient way to get the job done.

One of my favorite moments was getting to talk to two of the volunteers on the site, Jean and Ruth. The house they were working on was actually being built for them and their sons. We could all tell how happy they were that this beautiful home was going to be for them. Jean explained to us how his children were excited to each be getting their own rooms, and how he and his wife are so grateful to be getting the opportunity to have a house that is completely theirs. This made me think about what a house really means to people. Not only is it a structure with walls, windows, doors, and a ceiling, but it’s also a central part of a family unit that can give people a sense of security, comfort, and happiness. I was so glad I got to meet them, and be a part of an experience that gave some very deserving people something that many of us take for granted. A place to call home.

 

And so it begins!

Intersession. What a cool idea, isn’t it? For those of you not familiar with this Rollins tradition, let me explain what intersession is exactly. In a week-long period between the end of winter break and the beginning of the spring semester, students have the opportunity to take a class that, in a nutshell, is interesting, stress-free, and puts everyone back into the college mood after such a long break. I had never heard of intersession before coming to Rollins. But for me, coming back to Rollins a week early was a perfect escape from the monotony of winter break, which could only be fun and relaxing for so long before I’d start pacing around my house like a crazy person. When January 8th rolled around, I was more than happy to pack my bags, hop into my car, and come back to my home away from home. And today marked the first day of my first intersession experience at Rollins.

The day started out like any other first day of class. Waking up later than you hoped, realizing your alarm didn’t go off as planned, and then rushing to get to class on time to avoid being “that kid” who earns the first professor glare of the term. And trust me, I did NOT want to be that kid. But when I got to class, I quickly realized that this course wasn’t going to be typical by any means. I had known before signing up for this intersession that we’d be going to St. Pete, and working with Habitat for Humanity. But the day wasn’t centered around statistical ideas of poverty, hunger, and welfare, like I expected it to be. I actually learned more about my friends, and even about myself, in this one day than I ever thought was possible. Since all of us who are taking this intersession know each other extremely well, not only because we’re all freshmen living in Ward Hall (a fact that we all remembered to mention when we first introduced ourselves), but because we’ve become such close friends over the last semester, I didn’t think the getting-to-know-you exercises would be extremely revealing in learning about each other. I mean, when you live together, all secrets are out, right? But as the day progressed, we went from simple conversational starters about what our favorite cartoon characters were, or our favorite childhood memories, to deep-rooted questions about our characters, our pasts, and the hardships we’ve all faced. We all shared our struggles, and there was actually a lot of crying involved.

One of the most insightful exercises we did was called “ROPES”, which I thought was the most relevant to what the class actually entails. We were divided up into groups, and we all had to find words that started with the letters R, O, P, E, and S that we thought embodied the experience we were about to have. Some of the words we all came up with were Respect, Open-minded, Perspective, Excitement, Soul-searching, and even Octopus (it’s a long story how we got that one to fit, but because of my group’s brilliance it somehow worked). But what I really got out of this activity was the need to be willing to experience new perspectives, and meet people who have faced problems that I could never even imagine dealing with. After doing this exercise, I realized that it’s important to me to absorb as much as I can from this immersion, because there is so much that I will be able to gain from it. Putting myself into this mindset, I am totally ready to start off a week-long journey of helping others and achieving active citizenship.