The best part of this trip was coming here with strangers and leavin with good friends. Everyone got along well with each other , definitely a fun group of people . I honestly wish we all lived close together. Two of my favorite moments were with the kids and playing games with peers at 2am. I was working with K-2 and they were super fun with very high energy. I felt like good doing their homework , wishing me homework was still that easy. It was so funny trying to teach them how to play volleyball. There was a lot of crying about who was suppose to serve the ball. The kids and other volunteers really made this trip was filled with fun and bonding . I will not forget them!
At first glance Selma, Alabama looks like any other small town. Perhaps a little forgotten and quiet but after spending time with some of it residents there is so much more to discover. Coming from living in such highly populated and diversified cities, such as that of New York City and Raleigh, I never imagine that the words “racism” and specially “segregation” truly existed anymore. After hearing some of the stories the volunteers of the Freedom Fighters shared with us along with the cold hard facts of the history of Selma I learned that to this day Selma schools were indeed segregated primarily due to income and choice. Several white families did not want to be integrated and believe this action would taint their culture and heritage and as such they pulled their kids out of the public school system and created their own all-white private schools. To make matters worst there is an all-white country club that requires members to provide a picture and family heritage when applying, thus the board members can easily identify and deny membership to all African-American and minorities. The list goes on and on such as the monument dedicated to the confederate flag and Nathan Bedford, the founder of the Ku Klux Klan; the division of the town into West, the White and rich, and the East, the African-Americans and the poor; and the migration of 10,000 white individuals out of Selma due to their inability to accept having, for the first time ever, a black City Mayor.
This day was filled with so many emotions and disbeliefs, mainly because I could not understand how one kind of individual could hate another due to their skin color. Although today was very saddening I still have hope for I know there are hundreds of people that believe Selma can change and progress for the better, and this situation is only a temporary setback.
It’s amazing the things you see when you visit a new location. No matter where you go even if it’s in the same country (which in our case was Washington, D.C) you still have to immerse yourself into the individualized culture of that location. Our hostel was located in Metro Center, the epicenter of Washington. The majority of the places we visited were outside of this area of shopping, restaurants, and major tourist attractions.
They were about an hour commute that included walking, metros, and buses. I remember being told to pay close attention to the changes when moving from one area to another. It happens slowly, the changes that occur when moving from one sector to another. You get on the metro and everyone is wearing suits and business attire. It is obvious that they are in a rush, ready to start their workday. The station is very clean. Huge signs display “forget the fries” and informs guest that there is no eating or drinking on the metro. Then every stop more and more people get off and unlike when your in Metro Center no one else comes on to take their place.
Soon we are the only ones on the metro besides a few DC residents here and there. As the metro moves out of the tunnels we see a completely different sight around us. In this area graffiti covers the walls, the waiting areas for the metro aren’t kept up as well, and most of the residents live in food deserts or an area which lacks access to grocery stores, farmers markets and healthy food providers. It’s crazy to think that just outside of DC there are so many individuals who live in poverty. It was a blessing to work with all of these organizations as they helped to improve the lives of individuals in there community. Of course it was sad knowing that nothing we did was going to instantly get these individuals out of their situation. However, it was great knowing that everything we did no matter how small made a difference.
German Avila is a twenty year old International Student, originally from Colombia, South America. He is expected to graduate from Wake Tech by the Fall semester of 2016. He has been exposed to the medical field and community service throughout his life due to his family’s involvement. For this reason, German has decided to pursue a nursing degree. Martin Luther King is one of the most influential human rights activists there has been , one site German must see is the famous Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King Gave his “I have a Dream Speech”.
Jessica Bundy is a journalism/communications major and will be graduating from Wake Tech this year. She is excited about coming on the trip because she wants the opportunity to learn something new and to focus on the reality of hunger and homelessness. Jessica attending Spring Break in NYC last year and really enjoyed meeting people and learning a different side of poverty.
Jeremy Bryan is in the transfer program at Wake Technical Community college studying to get an associates of science degree. After graduating from Wake Tech in May 2017, he wants to get a BA in Biology and proceed from there to work on a Masters in Nutrition. On the trip he expects to help a lot of people that need help by doing his part in making their lives easier even if it’s not directly. He’d like to go to the Smithsonian, as well as the Holocaust museum, and if Barack is home maybe he can talk the secret service into letting him grab one of DC’s famous “Half Smokes” with us!
Jasmeen Kaur is an Associates of Science major who is planning on graduating in December 2015. She is most looking forward to the trip to D.C. in order to make friends, explore DC while helping homeless and hungry people. One must thing she would like to do beside helping people is visiting some of places like White house, Lincoln memorial or Washington monument.
Chad Kibbe is a Student Ambassador at Wake Tech Community College. He is getting his Associate of Arts degree and transferring to NC State University to get his bachelor’s degree in the College of Natural Resources. He will be graduating in 2018. Chad hopes to gain a greater appreciation for what he has and gain the ability to look at life from a different perspective upon serving those that are in greater need of help and service. Along with helping and serving others that are less fortunate, Chad is especially looking forward to visiting the Smithsonian Museum and the Holocaust Museum
Asia King is working towards her Associate of Arts degree and will be graduating from Wake Tech in December of 2015. Asia volunteers at the Wilmington Street Men’s Shelter and is the Secretary for Phi Beta Lambda here at Wake Tech. She is looking forward to meeting amazing individuals and hearing all of their stories. Her biggest goal while on the trip is to gain a better understanding of the challenges homeless individuals face so that she is better able to assist the homeless community wherever she goes. Asia refuses to leave D.C until she visits Good Stuff Eatery, a restaurant in Capitol Hill.
Sarah Elizabeth Grey Kirkland is a Dental Hygiene major who plans on graduating in June 2016. She is hoping to better understand not just how to temporally help someone who experiences hunger and homelessness but instead to find long term solutions. She would like to find a way to place homeless men and woman into jobs that will sustain their living suspense and how to find them places to shower, wash their clothes and prep them for a career until they can find a permanent residence of their own. She absolutely wishes to get see the cathedral or go dancing in D.C.
Joselyn Ramirez-Mendoza is a Baking and Pastry Arts major who plans on graduating in May 2017. She is looking forward to the knowledge and experience that she will gain with this trip. She does not consider this trip a vacation but considers this as the opportunity to make a small difference in our country. She is truly looking forward to meeting new people and more importantly, getting to know on a personal level the real issues of homelessness. She is such a museum goer but if she had to narrow it down she would choose the Smithsonian museum of American History and the Holocaust museum.
Bianca Olivares is an optimist who is very enthusiastic about her studies. She will be graduating from Wake Tech this upcoming May 2015 and will be transferring to Meredith College. Bianca plans to major in Psychology and continue on to graduate school to eventually become a Clinical Child Psychologist. Bianca is mostly looking forward to experiencing a new perspective of life and learning another way in which to help other people and is planning to share this with others in hopes of spreading awareness and involvement. One thing she must do in D.C. is mainly just explore the area and make memories with great people.
Atif Rafique wants to get his bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from UNC Chapel Hill. He will be graduating from Wake Tech in the spring of 2015. The main goal of this trip is to learn about the problems homeless people are facing in our communities. He is looking forward to a great learning experience.
Baleigh Scheibner is in the Associate in Arts program and is hoping to graduate in May 2016 and transfer to NC State for Mass Communications. Baleigh is looking forward to serving others by giving up her spring break to help the homeless and those in need in Washington D.C. She hopes to gain a better understanding of our country and the need to help those around instead of just passing life by. Her must do thing in Washington would definitely be to go see the memorials especially the Holocaust Museum Memorial!
Travis Suite is a second semester freshman and plans on graduating in 2018. He is planning is current plan is to major in Political Science from Appalachian State University. Travis most looks forward to meeting and talking with people and hearing their stories. He hopes to get a chance to meet the President of the United States, although unlikely. If that does not work out, Travis will be just as excited to get to explore D.C. and visit famous memorials.
Before we got off the Subway today someone asked me what my favorite location has been and I answered that I haven’t found it yet. That is no longer the case, The Common Pantry has definitely been my favorite location to visit and volunteer. We walked in to the pantry and were immediately greeted by a very energetic coordinator by the name of Jen. She took us downstairs to the pantry for the “fun stuff” she called it. And it was a lot of fun. I could see me and my group making a real difference in this pantry. We were packing the bags after the orders came in and bagging produce and stocking shelves. The Common Pantry was the most organized and well put together program I have seen in New York since I have been here. The process started downstairs in the lobby where the person checked in and sent their order to the pantry on a tablet. The order came from the tablet and was sent to the Pantry volunteers on the computer. We then packed the grocery bags and sent them to the respective person. Jen called the pantry a high tech establishment which made it a smooth process. Melody and I were discussing upon departure that this place would fall apart without volunteers, it is run very efficiently because everybody has the common goal of doing good for the people of New York.
On Tuesday night, after a long day of serving others, we returned to YSOP to get ready for an amazing opportunity to meet and enjoy dinner with some disadvantaged New Yorkers and other college students from across the country.
We began by splitting into teams to make different parts of the meal. I was grouped with two students from the University of Arizona and one student from the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point and together we made the garlic bread, while others were busy preparing the chicken, salad, mashed potatoes, stir fry, and brownies.
When our guests arrived, everyone was eager to get to know them and make them feel comfortable. I first met Katherine, a very nice lady who said she was born in the Bronx and has lived in New York City her entire life. We played a round of Bananagram with a bunch of students from the other colleges. Before we ate dinner, everyone gathered around in a big circle and introduced ourselves along with our favorite movie. Later in the night, I met another one of our guests, Manuel, and found out we shared Puerto Rican heritage.
This night was extremely fun and exciting. I did something I had never done before (making the garlic bread) and got to meet so many wonderful and unique people. This dinner was definitely the highlight of the trip.
Well, today was certainly a treat to the volunteers who went to Help 1. When I was told about what the volunteering would entail, I was expecting to stay in a shelter to package bags, give out food, and get to know the homeless people in the community. My expectations were completely off. Instead of going to a homeless shelter, I ended up going to a children’s daycare. When I arrived with my group, I waited in the lobby for someone to guide me to where I was to help the teachers instruct their students. What happened next took me completely off guard. The facility director approached my group and guided us down a hallway, tell us “this room is for 2 year olds, this one for 2-3 year olds, 4 year olds…choose one.” I was astonished! The director didn’t even tell me ANYTHING other than her name and where to go. Sorry, but I’m used to having introductions and explanations on what I’m to do. IT really made me think about how this area operated and how it could be improved.
To make matters even more “interesting,” the teachers were the same. Yes, they were nice and did their job, but I didn’t feel that they were as sensitive as they should have been. Even so, it only added to making it a meaningful experience. After all, I wouldn’t learn much from this experience if it was I saw the same things in North Carolina. Furthermore, the daycare was connected to a series of apartment rooms (where most of the kids lived) that had iron barred windows and were enclosed in an iron fence. And even under the cumbersome living situations they were in, the kids there were incredibly engaged and interested in socializing and playing like no one I’ve seen before. It was pretty upsetting seeing some of them getting excited about talking to me when I knew I wasn’t going to see them again. If only I could stay there longer to get to know the system more and make a bigger difference to the daycare…Overall, the experience I had at Help 1 is one I will always cherish and take with me wherever I go so that I may be able to better relate to others living in impoverished communities.
Today was our first day volunteering and I anticipated a day full of hard work aiding people in need of basic necessities. After a long train ride, we made our way to Far Rockaway United Methodist Church. As we entered the door we were welcomed with open arms and warm smiles. I enjoyed the enthusiasm given by the lead cook Anna Marie. You could instantly tell that she took pride in her duties as both a cook, and pantry coordinator. Her staff was eager to work, and once she delegated tasks her staff was right there to help us. We were split up into two groups.
We were bagging fresh bagels and bagging pantry items for guest to pick up the following day. The pantry bags that we filled consisted of cereal, rice, potatoes, onion, canned goods, peanut butter, grape jelly, and bread. We were never without work and we enjoyed our host as they sang along and danced to today’s popular music. By lunch time, a line had formed outside the building and our new tasks entailed making plates of food. The meal of the day was baked chicken mixed vegetables, potatoes, bread, and cake for dessert. The plates were wrapped and bagged and guest took their meals to go.
The flow in the kitchen came from the heart and Anna Marie insisted on the plates being made with care and refused to let a messy plate leave her kitchen. There was a real sense of community and excitement, but the good deeds did not stop there. Before we wrapped up for the day those of the UMC thanked us for all that we had done and insisted on serving us lunch. Our task was to assist them and the people they aided on a daily basis, but they continuously thanked us for our few hours of service and it opened my eyes even more to see just how generous they are all the time, and it made me want to help more. What they do provides people with a meal they cannot provide for themselves and it is a means of surviving for a lot of people. This organization felt more like family because that’s exactly how the treat everyone who walks through the door. It was filled with laughs and couldn’t have gone better.
Jessica Bundy is a journalism/communications major and will be graduating from Wake Tech this year. She is excited about coming on the trip because she wants the opportunity to learn something new and to focus on the reality of hunger and homelessness. Her one must do thing not related to service in New York is to visit Chinatown.
Anta Diouf is a Pre-Engineering major and will be graduating from Wake Tech this May. She is joining us on an Alternative Spring Break trip in hopes that she will become more aware of the community needs and develop more skills relating to social responsibility. She doesn’t want to leave New York without seeing Times Square and Central Park.
Chase Johnson is getting his Associates in Arts and will also be graduating this May. Service is very important to him because he strongly believes that “service is the rent we pay for being” and he would like to grow more personally from this trip. He really wants to stand in Central Park and maybe even go to the Bronx Zoo.
Shaun McKellar is majoring in Global Logistics Technology and will be graduating in 2016. He volunteers at the Wilmington Street Men’s shelter and is involved at Wake Tech through the National Society of Leadership and Success. He’s hoping that our service in New York will help keep him grounded and accountable and that it will draw more alertness to the homeless epidemic. While we are in New York he is hoping to get a chance to visit Wall Street.
Cherise McManus is a nursing major who will be graduating in May 2015. She is involved in Wake Tech’s gospel choir and FCCLA. She hopes to strengthen her leadership skills and bring back knowledge and skills to continue helping out at home in Raleigh. While in New York she really wants to try the pizza!
Samantha Reed is an architecture major who will be graduating this summer. She is very excited to volunteer on a level of this magnitude and is excited about the opportunity to help and share with others who might not of had as much. She is very hopeful that we will get to see the Guggenheim Museum.
David Roman is in the associates of arts program who will be graduating from Wake Tech this May. He is very involved in Wake Tech’s student activities as an active member of the SGA and the Gospel Choir. He is hoping this opportunity will allow him to be immersed in an environment he is unfamiliar with in order to gain a better understanding of the struggles people go through. While he is in New York he really wants to see China Town.
Rebecca Ryan is a nursing major who is planning on graduating in December of 2015. She has a lot of volunteer experience from high school did a project on teh importnace of volunteering in hospitals. She is hoping to come back from New York feeling empowered and prepared to gain a passion for volunteering again. Her must do thing while we are in New York is to stand in the middle of Times Square!