rahamilton@rollins.edu

About rahamilton@rollins.edu

Hi, I'm Becca, a sophomore at Rollins College majoring in Marine Biology. I was born and raised in Scotland, UK, and although I have been living in Florida since 2006, you can hear my accent slip out every once in a while. My passions and hobbies include wildlife conservation, photography, guitar, horse-back riding, and reading. Thanks to the Cornell Scholarship, I have had the privilege of attending this wonderful institution, which I know will open up a world of experiences to me, making next years the best of my life.

All Wrapped Up

So today was the last day of our Intersession course, bringing our learning experience on the topics of hunger and homelessness to an end. However, it would be an injustice to forget about the things we saw and talked about during this week, so we created action plans in order to give a purpose to our new awareness.

On a personal level, I made my action plan to continue to remember the issues of homelessness and talk about it with people who may have misconceptions about people living on the streets in order to correct the stereotypes. On a group level, we discussed action we can take both on campus and in our surrounding community. Finally, we came up with an action plan on a societal level; We all agree that we hope to one day hold occupations that truly make a difference in the world and don’t ignore social issues.

I would like to leave you with a couple videos of one of our discussions during the week that sum up a lot of the surprising things we learnt and the serious truths revealed to us.

Video – Discussion Part 1

Video – Discussion Part 2

My last fun fact for the week: One of the things I would really love to do at some point in my life would be to run a rescue for neglected/abandoned horses.

Bye for now! (I will hopefully update this blog in the months to stay current on the issues and let you know how the action plans are panning out.)

~Becca

Just like any other kid

After driving back to Orlando today, we went to the local Coalition for the Homeless here in Orlando. We were given a tour of their “campus”, which includes houses for homeless men, women, and families. They take in all needy people, giving them hot meals, a safe place to sleep, help with childcare, transportation, detox for addicts, assistance in finding employment, and even opportunities for education.

Our main purpose in visiting the center was to host an arts and crafts activity with women and their children in the center. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this session, but I came away with the distinct observation that these children are not unlike any others; they were more interested in playing with paint and stickers than they were in talking, they talk about themselves and their families, demand a lot of attention, and have no reserves when it comes to meeting new people. Aliza, the 4-year-old I spend most of the afternoon with, was shy and quiet at first, but quickly showed her true personality, which is sassy and energetic. As it is with children, it touches your heart when they become attached to you in no time at all, and I was smiling from ear to ear when she decided she wanted to move from the painting table to the jewelry-making table and told me that I MUST go with her!

In reflecting on this activity, however, I am reminded that while these kids appear normal in our short interaction, their lives are far from main-stream. Their parents cannot make ends meet, and the future for these families is unpredictable, to say the least. But it’s no use thinking depressing thoughts, because thoughts cannot change reality, and I can only hope that the little help I offered made a difference.

Today’s fun fact about myself: I’m so bad at art, Aliza may be better than myself!

~Becca

The Selfless Helpless

Today we put in another 8 hours at the building site and I can honestly say that I am feeling the burn in my muscles that tells me I really gave it my all! And although I had an interesting time at the site, I would like to dedicate today’s blog to elaborating on our meeting yesterday with some members of Coalition for The Homeless.

I was astounded by the unselfish nature and will to help possessed by these people, who are in so much need of help, themselves. For example, Lauren, who has an accounting degree, lost her job, her house, and everything else in rapid succession. Reduced to couch-surfing at the houses of her friends, she now goes to her church daily to serve meals to other homeless people. She commented that this is the way she gives back. The fact that she feels a need to give back when she has such personal struggles currently occurring in her life show her passion for helping others. G.W., how has two bachelors degrees, similarly ended up on the streets, where he lived a tough life for almost 8 years. Now that he is back on his feet, he dedicates his life to helping others who find themselves homeless without a means of fixing their situation. He does this by helping the homeless turn themselves into entrepreneurs, making them “pull themselves up by their boot-straps” and making themselves the “answer to their own prayers”. Another shared characteristic of this group of people is their eternal hope. They constantly talk about their plans for the future, which include making a living for themselves and building a full life. They talk about this with excitement in their eyes and they have the confidence in themselves and their work ethic to make their situation better. Stacy, for example, is a beautiful singer who wants to start performing at weddings. She also wants to become an author in order to continue sharing her story through written word. Art, as he calls himself, has a passion for photography and hopes to make it as a professional one day soon, eventually starting his own website and newsletter that can share how he sees the world with the people of the St. Petersburg community.

Since I didn’t fill you in on the details of today’s work, I will include a couple of the videos we took throughout the morning at the end of this blog.

Fun fact for the day: I am obsessed with big cats, especially lions, and one day hope to travel to Africa to work as a conservation volunteer.

~Becca

Video – Concrete is heavy!

Video – A Look at the Building Site.

Video – We Constructed a Kitchen!

Roller Coaster

Today I experienced many ups and downs throughout these hours of action in the community.

Our day started bright and early, heading for the Habitat for Humanity building site. Previously, I had known only the very basics of this organization; they build houses for people who are struggling financially. What I didn’t know was the effort required by the future home owner. Unlike the common conception that these houses are “given” away, people must go thought a rigorous process in order to qualify, and while their house may be at a reduced cost, but they still have to earn it by paying a non-interest mortgage and also working hundreds of hours with the organization in order to help build both other houses and their own. I found this rule extremely logical and helpful; making sure that there is a constant stream of volunteers all helping each other and themselves, keeping the cycle of giving back moving forward.

The house I helped paint at the site today.

Later in the day, we met with members of the St. Pete community who have experienced homelessness, and some that are still living it. They talked to us about their lives and the circumstances that led them to the street, which usually came down to the interference of the unexpected in life; the loss of a job, the sudden sickness of a loved one, a chronic and disabling health problem, or even a house fire. These people, some with college degrees, showed us that anyone can end up homeless through no fault of their own and society cannot condemn them by claiming that they are responsible for their situation.

Overall, today was a roller coaster of emotions. I felt proud and happy to help build a home for a needy family, but I also felt a strong sense of helplessness and frustration when, for example, we had to watch Darrel pick up his backpack and bicycle and go off in search of the spot on the sidewalk where he will sleep tonight.

Well, it’s been a long and tiring day, and I desperately need some sleep in order to be awake again at 6:45am tomorrow. Since my brain power is decreasing by the second and my eyelids are becoming heavy, I will leave you with a very short fun fact about myself:  I am an only child.

After a long day of work, we feel like pros. With hard hats, we look the part.

~Becca

Ready, Set, Talk!

Today was a day of words.

We started the day with normal words; Our name, year, what we did over break, and fun facts about ourselves. But as the day progressed, we started delving into realms containing words of strength, of personal strife, of controversy, and even some of revelation. We first discussed the novels we were assigned to read during the break, Nickle and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich and Flat Broke with Children by Sharon Hays, both of which really caused me to open my eyes to the real issues behind welfare. One of the controversies that struck me the most, personally, was the reality of the strength held by those individuals on welfare, which does not at all align with the associated, negative stereotypes that assume these people are lazy, uncommitted individuals that care for no one but themselves. I hope that throughout the course of this intersession, I can continually gain insight into the true issues for those facing homelessness and share these discoveries with you.

board of words

At one point in the day, we had the above board of words, representing our expectations for the trip, keeping in mind that service can often be messy and unpredictable, and that we should always be willing to expect (and accept) the unexpected. I hope that I can keep this advice with me in order to remind myself of these values over the next few days.

The most memorable part of the day occurred directly before leaving the Rollins campus for St. Pete this afternoon, as the discussion took a turn for the very personal, with an activity called “Crossing The Line”, which, to say the least, was extremely revealing and sensitive. During this activity, it was the words of Meredith, one of our Immersion facilitators, that drove us to self-reflect on the person we define ourselves as, and openly share this with our peers. This caused us all to divulge our deepest of insecurities, fears, and characteristics that define us at our core. While this took an emotional toll on all of us, I’m glad for the opportunity to get to know the others here with me on this trip in a greater capacity than ever before, even though we live together and are already great friends.

For now, I’m looking forward to getting some sleep since we have an early rise tomorrow morning as we head out to lend a helping hand to Habitat for Humanity. I will leave you with a fun fact about me; I consider American Sign Language to be the language I am most fluent in after English, a venture first initiated after a administrative scheduling error in my first year of high school.

~Becca