First Impressions

IMG_20160321_153713At 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.

WelcomeThis 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.

 

First Day of ASB SELMA 2K16

IMG_20160319_164323Dang yo, where do I start? This whole day has been a roller coaster of emotions, experiences, and just down right fun. I was a first time flier so that was pretty cool. The drive wasn’t too bad. the real shocker was when we crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It really was like stepping back in time. It’s almost as if this town froze in time and nothing changed (except for the cars lol). One of the things that really struck me was how much segregation there still is and how many people’s mindset was still not changed after all these years. The death threats were the most disturbing news to me because I thought people had left all that negativity back in the 60’s but unfortunately that was not the case. It was also amazing to tour Selma and get to learn about the many different historical property whether it belonged to a brigadier general of the confederate army or just a racist politician. It was really cool to see some of the historical landscapes that were portrayed in the movie actually in real life. The most impactful place was Brown Chapel A.M.E church where Dr. King used to preach for peace and equality because you really get a feel of how it would have been like at the time. My favorite part was the freedom cafe. It may be located in a church basement, but it is such a safe haven for any and everybody and you can truly feel it. Everyone is your friend there no matter what shape or color you are. And let’s not forget those turkey and cheese thingies were the bomb. I feel as if my eyes have already been opened up and this is just as a result of the first day. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week holds in store for us.

Bitter-Sweet Goodbyes

It was our last day in Washington D.C. and there was a feeling of nervousness and excitement. Nervous, because it was our last project together; and excited, because we still had work to do, and great company to do it with. For the first time all week, all fourteen of us were to volunteer together at the Capital Area Food Bank. This food bank takes in a whopping 42 million pounds of donated food, 17 million of which are fresh fruit and vegetables. With the help of their other partner agencies, the food is delivered to families across the Washington metro area.

Partnered with other colleges, we split up around a large conveyor-belt and assorted donated foods, spices, and condiments.  Some were in charge of taking all the foods and placing them on the belt, while others were tasked to pull off specific foods and box them together. However, some canned and boxed foods were too severely damaged and we were told to throw them away. The experience was definitely an enjoyable one. And while this was not a direct task, it really felt as if we made a large contribution towards the fight against poverty and hunger. We worked from about 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM but still made huge contributions for the organization. I was extremely proud to work with such a dedicated organization and would do it again in a heartbeat.

After taking the metro back to YSOP, it was time for our final reflection. We were asked to give a hypothetical postcard of our favorite experience and share. We also got a chance to receive the letter we wrote to ourselves on our first day that started with “The last time I saw a homeless person I felt___” We asked to write any changes to our previous answer, and I bet that almost everyone did. As we left the church for the final time, their were no feeling of sadness. It was still 3:00 PM!! We still had the whole rest of the day in D.C. Some of us made another appearance at the Mayur Kabob House, located right next to our hostel. Abdul-Mannan is the owner, and gave us very inspiring words about our mission in life. Afterwards we decided to take a bus to Georgetown University where we explored and took pictures.

This was one of the greatest and most gratifying experiences of my life and on behalf of all of the Wake Tech volunteers, we would like to give a special thank you to Mariel Steinbesier, Melody Wiggins, and everyone else at Wake Tech who was involved in making this trip possible. These life lessons and experiences will be remembered by all

.Capital Area Food BankIMG_1711Mayur Kabab House

Everyone deserves a chance

I had heard about stereotypes and misconceptions about homeless people, but never really knew about the reality of the life they live. I was extremely happy to hear that I got accepted to attend Washington D.C for alternative spring break. I told all of my teachers and friends about the trip. I have volunteered for about  three days counting today and I can’t explain how grateful I am for this fantastic trip. This experience has given me new perspective about life that I need to get out of my shell and think about other individuals who need my help.

Today, I volunteered for an organization called The Wider Circle which helps lower income families to get free furniture and toys. They basically receive donations and give to the people who can’t afford to buy basic household items like: furniture, toys, lamps, mirrors, e.t.c. The thing I liked about that organization is that they facilitate things and make it smooth for people to get good items.  My group asked their coordinator about the requirements for families to receieve these items, and she told us that they ask very few general questions. This made me relieved and happy that their requirements are easy and help people   while honoring their dignity. I think it is very important to have organizations like that who can help low income home owners to afford the privilege of having good furniture that we all take it for granted. This trip helped me to learn a lot about different problems that people of our communities are facing. I think we should spread awareness and take action in order to improve the lives of homeless and poor people of our community. We should help people because everyone deserves a chance.

IMG_1700

 

ASB DC 2K15

Today was our third day of service, and I can honestly say that this trip has been an incredible experience so far. To begin with, I want touch on my pre-trip experience. When I originally signed up for this trip and got notified that I was selected to attend, I was extremely excited and could not wait to go to DC. I remember telling some of my friends that I was going to be spending my spring break in Washington DC volunteering at various places to serve homeless people. The responses I got were pretty similar, ranging from, “why would you waste your spring break doing that?”, to, “what a boring way to spend one of your few breaks from school.” My friends just could not fathom what I was going to be doing and they do not understand how passionate I am about resolving the issue of hunger and homelessness. This trip has been so eye-opening and has completely changed my perspective towards homeless people.

With that being said, the service we got to participate in today involved preparing food with the DC Central Kitchen. We spent our morning chopping and dicing vegetables that would be used to create meals for various people around the DC area. This organization receives 3,000 pounds of food every day and is always working two days in advance. It was so amazing to me how efficient they were in everything they did from assigning tasks to volunteers, to instructing the volunteers, to preparing the food, and to the entire clean-up process. I also really liked how welcoming the entire staff was and how they really made us feel like a part of the organization. Although we didn’t get to volunteer quite as long as I would have liked to, it was still a very enjoyable experience to work with other volunteers that are passionate about ending hunger and homelessness.

I feel so honored to have been a part of this group of like-minded peers and I can wholeheartedly say that this experience will be engrained in my memory for years to come.

IMG_0318IMG_0319

A Unique Experience

Today was very different from what I was expecting it to be! We went to this place called the URCC (Unique Residential Care Center) and were working with elderly people. At first I was kind of skeptical because I am usually a shy person and I didn’t know how these people would react to my personality or my group.

When we arrived, we were put to work right away. All of us were separated to do various odd, and important jobs around the building. Jasmeen and Jessica both did different kinds of filing throughout the day that was tedious, but very much needed. Sarah-Beth made phone calls to the families of the people who were at the hospital inviting them to come visit the residents and go to various events that they had at the healthcare facility.

German was put in Physical Therapy helping set up machines and taking the patients where they needed to go. He also made sure that when the Residents were put on a certain machine, he assisted with their comfort and safety.  Melody, our leader was sent out doing odd jobs like putting flyers up and various cleaning jobs.

Chad and I were put with recreation setting up the dining room for Saint Patrick’s day. We put decorations all over the room and made posters that had “Lucky!” and “Happy Saint Patty’s Day!” written all over them. The residents were in the room while they decorated and we got to talk to some of them a little bit and interact with them. After we finished the room, we had a quick lunch break and then went to the movie area to paint the ladies fingernails. (Yes, even Chad painted the ladies nails) That was my favorite part of the day because I was really able to talk to some of the women about their lives and what kind of things they liked to do, their schedule, etc.

Going to the URCC was impactful to me because I never realized just how much elderly people needed to be loved on and cared for. Just talking to the residents put a smile on their face as well as mine. It was a great experience to impact someone just by asking them about their life and serving through whatever job was needed to be done! All-in-all a great experience!

 

#OnThePathToProgress

This morning during our first meeting with YSOP we were told to write a letter to ourselves with the first sentence stating: The last time I saw a homeless person I felt_______. Truth be told, I said, I felt unsure how to respond to the situation. Indeed, I did not know how to approach a homeless person or respond to them upon being approached. I have always treated them politely, but I just wasn’t sure what more I could do. However, today during our first trip to the Brethern Nutrition Program, I was finally able to interact with homeless people and completely overlook the fact that they were homeless to begin with. Before I get into the remarkable experience I had, I just want to briefly describe the kitchen we serviced in.

The kitchen we served in today was much like your average and everyday type of kitchen. It was actually very different than what I was expecting. I was expecting a soup kitchen type setting or a kitchen in which we would be preparing meals out of canned goods (not to make these kitchens lesser in value), but I was very surprised to find out we would actually be making all meals from scratch. Everything from the main dish to the peanut butter cookies were made from scratch using all natural ingredients. I was even surprised to find that vegetarian options were made available to those who preferred them. I personally, started off by chopping kale (that would later be sautéed with ham), than I made homemade applesauce. Despite the fact we were cooking, cleaning, and serving, we all managed to have lots of fun. I really enjoyed the time we spent preparing all the meals and engaging directly and indirectly with the clients. Of all events that took place, the most rewarding was finally having a normal conversation with the clients.

The immense satisfaction that I received from being able to carry a personal and very normal conversation with John, Donna, and Inez was absolutely rewarding to me. I was stressing way too much over how to approach people, than actually just doing it. I came to the realization that often times people have this same problem. We just don’t know how to react or engage with homeless people and the reality is they are people just like us. It was truly amazing to realize I had more things in common with these three amazing souls a lot more than I could have ever imagined. They have gone through hardships just like I have and we were able to connect somehow through the scope of comprehension and understanding our similar circumstances.

Towards the end of the day we went back to the YSOP unit for a period of reflection. We had a guest speaker talk to us about his work and explained to us the importance of getting involved with others. Everything he said had value to me and was very inspiring, but there was one piece of advice that really struck me. He said that people tend to go after careers for the money and don’t do it because they really want to do it or love it. Furthermore, he said that each individual needed to find his or her niche. As soon as he said that, I immediately felt that I could relate to his words of advice. I was totally captivated with the love in which he felt towards the people he worked with and his overall job. I just felt that someday I would also like to feel that way. In the end, I believe having this guest speaker was like the cherry on top to what was a wonderful experience. For these reasons, I believe I am on the path to success. Little by little, but I know I am making progress. I feel I am on the right path in finding my niche and I know for sure I want to continue helping others.

Dinner is best with good company

IMG_3883-1I can assume that every individual that was selected to participate in the Alternative Spring Break had different expectations of the program, and although I had my own assumption of what I would get out of it, I never would have imagined that it would be SO fruitful.

One of my favorite nights ,and many others’ favorite as well, was the night in which we actually cooked dinner and sat down to eat with the guests we were assisting. First, we were assigned groups to be in charge of certain foods (I helped with lasagna), and afterwards we sat down and talked with the guests and served them their meal. Actually being able to sit down and converse with people in need as actual people over lasagna as opposed to throwing a pity party or ignoring their situation was among the most amazing of things that has occurred in my lifetime.

The men I had the pleasure of speaking with held the most intelligent conversation I have had in my whole 21 years of life and truly impacted me in a way that I KNOW I will carry with me forever. He spoke of religion, and how it all boils down to love and peace. He spoke of politics and what was particularly wrong with our system. He spoke of so many elements of life that led him up to where he is today and it really made me realize just how united we are as a species and how much more awareness we need to spread on an individual level, because it is not just his problem, it could happen to any of us at any given time.

I think what truly stuck with me was my misconception of who was assisting who. I went into it thinking that I was assisting him, but when I left I realized, he was assisting me. 

From One World to Another

IMG_0910[1]IMG_0998[1]

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. IMG_0929[1]

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. IMG_0945[1]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.      IMG_0947[1] IMG_0949[1] IMG_0983[1] IMG_0991[1]

ASB spring break DC 2015 (First day of service)

This was one of the most wonderful experiences I have ever had.  To work in the community selflessly without getting anything in return is very rewarding and satisfying. I am more than happy that I made the decision to spend my spring break doing community service, meeting new people and developing my social skills.

First day of ASB 2015 at DC was so much fun and memorable. We were divided into two groups, our group got to serve at local Community Greening Center. During the day our group worked with parks and people and marvin Gaye Community Greening Center. As D.C expands the citizens are realizing that going green is the way to go. Our group started off by aerating tree’s which provides them with the proper amount of moisture and oxygen in order to grow into adult tree’s. By adding tree’s and parks in D.C it improves the air quality of D.C. and overall health. After aerating the tree’s our group went out into the neighborhood to pickup any trash around the neighborhood. We had a lunch break with Rutgers group and we made new friends during lunch. Our group then went into parks and removed anything dangerous such as glass or trash so that children could safely play in the parks again. The group then went around the park picking up broken limbs and clearing the park.

IMG_6172 IMG_6171 IMG_6170 IMG_6169 IMG_6158 IMG_6155 IMG_6154 IMG_6153