Last Day in Dallas

My experience on the last day of service was the best one that I had!  We went to Crossroads and Voice of Hope.  When I was volunteering at Crossroads, my main job was to shop with the people and make sure they got everything they need. I managed most of the volunteers, because they were not familiar with how to shop with the customers.  While shopping with the customers, I was able to have more intimate conversations to get to know more about each person.  It warmed my heart because I have been through what those people are going through, so I could connect to what they were telling me.  Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Crossroads.

Voices of Hope was our next volunteer stop.  While there, one of my tasks was to restore the garden.  We had to get it in shape for the students to be able to plant veggies and fruit, because they were learning about sustainability.  The next task was to clean and sanitize the computer lab, bleachers, and tables.  Voices of Hope was a great experience because I knew that we were helping cute, little kids to learn and provide the community with fresh produce.  It was a great accomplishment to ensure that the students had a comfortable and clean environment to learn.

Overall, my volunteer experience was amazing!  Volunteering in urban areas is dear to my heart because I was once homeless and living in my car.  It is also close to my heart because I was a child that did not have much.  I know how it feels to be alone and without anything. So, anything that I received was a blessing for me and I was honored.  I know those people loved that they were able to get the food they wanted.  I also know that the children will be very grateful for their garden and clean areas while they are learning.  It is essential in my life to give back!  My hope is to be a part of something bigger than myself!  What you give out to the universe is what you will receive back.

 

-Diamond

Dallas Day 1

Coming into Dallas, I was not sure what to expect.  However, I was very excited to be a part of a new project of service.  Our group happen to be residing in a hostel for this trip, and that was ironic for our group because some of us, if not most, had not been in a situation or living arrangement of this kind.  It definitely sent a sense of realization of how blessed and fortunate we are to have the comfort and stability that we currently have within our homes.  We were asked, “What does volunteering mean to us”? For me, volunteering is only a small contribution to show my empathy and humanity for the people around me.  It represents the commitment that I’ve made within myself and God to exemplify the selfless love and giving qualities that he continues to provide for me in my life.  Things that I have taken for granted such as food, a warm home, and socks to put on my feet are things that other people in life may lack.

We had the privilege of volunteering at Crossroads Community Food Bank where we met extremely generous people who connect with the local food bank and other organizations such as SNAP to provide food for those who are in need for weeks and sometimes up to a month of resources.  They not only provide their clients with wholesome foods, and they give them a sense of stability and hope knowing that that is available and OPENLY offered to them without judgement.  We also had the opportunity to work with the food bank of the Jewish Family Services where they offer an array of services like adult mental health, case management, job readiness programs, and many other services to assist people within their community from children to adults.  As a Social Work major, I felt especially touched and moved to become the best student and social worker I can be. Hopefully, this effort will better position me later in life to impact the growing issue of poverty and world hunger by giving back immensely to and spread awareness in my community.  I will say having compassion is a very special component to carry with you as you maneuver through life because life can almost instantaneously take a turn for the worst, and one may find themselves in the shoes of the ones they have helped.  Overall, I feel that this experience has given me an even greater insight on the work that still needs to be done.  We must engage in the great fight to change the lives of others by creating a brighter and safer future for those who come after us.  I am the example to the greater solution.

 

-Kyra

Day 4 | Asheville, NC 2019: Pleasant Surprises

     Today was the last day of service for the 2019 Asheville, NC Alternative Break with a focus in environmental sustainability tied to human rights. Last year I went on an alternative break as a participant and had an amazing time, but this year I was lucky enough to go on an alt break as a trip leader. My trip last year was amazing; I made strong bonds with new friends, impacted many people, and learned A LOT. As this year I was fortunate enough to plan an alt break, I had very high expectations. It turned out this trip was everything I could have wanted it to be and more. Ten students who had never met each other before got on a van Sunday at 5 am and by the end of our service at 5 pm on Thursday you would have thought we had known each other for years. We have become so close, learned so much about each other as well as the world around us, and worked very hard together as a team to impact many lives in Asheville.
     For our last full day together, my team (my family) began the day at the Western Carolina Rescue Mission sorting shoe donations for a shoe giveaway that the mission hosts for their residents. We worked as a team to come up with methods to organize and transport the donations. The lady we worked with said that today in just a couple hours we accomplished something that would have taken her a week if she was by herself. We then went to the River Arts District and served with an environmental nonprofit called RiverLink. With RiverLink, we cleaned trash out of a stream adjacent to the French Broad River. This was a very eye-opening experience for all of us. “You don’t realize the impact of throwing just one cigarette butt out of your car until you recognize that your one cigarette butt is added to a thousand others thrown out just that day,” said one of the participants as we cleaned several thousands of cigarette butts out of the stream. This service experience opened our eyes to what really happens to litter and stray trash, as well as how to prevent our own contribution to litter.
     When I began planning this trip in July I never would have thought that it went as well as it did. My crew has bonded so well, we have laughed and cried, we have impacted and been impacted, and through sickness and health we have become best friends. I am so thankful for my nine new best friends; my family.
     I look forward to alternative break again next year and can only pray that it is amazing as this week has been.
With gratitude,
Sarah J.
03/07/19

Day 3 | Asheville, NC 2019: More Impact Than I Knew We Could Make

It’s day three of the alternative break experience and I’m beyond excited. So far in this trip I have realized so much that I was unaware of about people in different communities. Today the first stop was the Manna food bank. My first expression was how much could we really do to impact the lives of others but little did I know we would change lives. Some children leave school on Friday and don’t have a meal to eat over the weekend. I got to be apart of a plan to help make food bags for children, who would otherwise maybe come to school hungry. I love kids and even though I did not get the opportunity to work with them, I still got to impact their lives in a positive way. As a team we helped prepare around 900 children with meals for the weekend. That was the most amazing experience I have had indirectly helping children and would not change it for the world. Our next stop was a thrift store connected to the North Carolina rescue ministries. As I was tagging and sorting through clothes I again did not think it would have a huge impact. Again I was proven wrong, all the clothes that we helped prepare to be sent out helped the workers there a lot. What was considered days worth of work was completed in the few hours we had there. As the lady there explained to us, if the clothes don’t get out, then people cannot buy them, and if people cannot buy them, then that’s money that the mission can’t use to help and impact the lives of others.

-De’Jah Tripp

03/06/19

Pura Vida

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Over the last week, I got the opportunity to participate in the Alternative Break Experience.  I was blessed with the opportunity to volunteer with my peers in Costa Rica.

When we were told we would experience culture shock I thought, “ how bad can it be? I know Spanish and how different could it be from Mexico?“ 

But culture is more than just the color of your skin, the language you speak, what you eat, or the music you listen to. 

Culture goes beyond the superficial. It is our values, traditions and lifestyle. 

Costa Rican lifestyle is Pura Vida. They say it means hello, goodbye, and even the answer to “how are you?” 

I was initially skeptical of this saying, that is so short but means so much. But, by the end of the week I understood the meaning of Pura Vida. 

It is enjoying the work you do, being grateful for life and being positive. 

Parque La Libertad welcomed us and reinforced the meaning of Pura Vida. Parque La Libertad is an organization that works with the community to promote social, economic, and environmental development.

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Throughout the week we prepared the soil, marked the wood planks, painted and learned about the surrounding community among other things.

Our project was to build gardening beds to attract the community and teach kids not only about plants and gardening but sustainability as well.

After the first few days of the trip, the culture shock hit me. Costa Rica is on the opposite end of the environmental sustainability spectrum in comparison to the US. They all work together in unity to take care of the environment with the support of different organizations and their government. In the US, we are not working together as a nation to support a more environmentally conscious country.

On Thursday we got to see our completed project and see a glimpse of its future use. A group of 1st graders from the local school joined us and learned how to plant vegetables. After they left, we learned more about how adding something like the beds could make a difference in the community.

The last day was a bitter-sweet moment. I’ll miss working at Parque la Libertad with people who are passionate about the environment and their community, but  I am excited to bring some of their passion to our very own city of Memphis. 

To learn more about the University’s Alternative Break Expereince visit click on our 2019 Alternative Breake Expereince video.

– Rosa Perez

 

A Greener Planet

Saturday morning, myself and twelve other students left from the University of Memphis University Center parking garage to travel to San José, Costa Rica for spring break. This week long trip was not just about learning about a new country and it’s culture; it was also to travel as volunteers and work in the community of San José. There is truly no better way to learn about a country than to meet its people, but to work alongside them is an even greater gift. And I must say, Ticos (or the people of costa rica) are especially incredible. 

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For our service project, we had the honor to spend several days with Parque La Libertad, an organization whose mission is to be a self-sustainable and inclusive public space that enhances the surrounding communities’ social, economical, and environmental development. With this in mind, the area that the park covers includes a gymnasium, auditorium, skate park, parkour area, endless gardens and greenery, and even a school and technology center.

Our plan was the construction of 6 large plant beds each with benches at the end, that could be used by the organization for environmental education efforts with children. We started our work there Monday and finally finished three of the six beds on Thursday, when we got to share our hard work with first grade students of a nearby school! They loved planting carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes and even got to take home some plants of their own. 

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The work that Parque La Libertad has done to protect and conserve the beauty, biodiversity, and nature of Costa Rica has paid off. Through educational efforts and community development, this organization has spread its message into the hearts of its neighbors in San José, leaving them with a greater respect toward our planet. Seeing this kind of impact for myself has inspired me. Can Memphis have this same kind of impact on its people, state, and even country? How can we continue these practices to make our city and country one that leaves this planet better than we found it? These are the questions I will bring back to Memphis with me. I know that Memphis has this potential to make these changes, and I can’t wait to implement sustainable practices into my own life and hopefully see our university and city adopt more of these ideals as well. 

– Payton Middleton

Costa Rica Alternative Spring Break

The Parque of Libertad is a park that works to improve the surrounding communities through economic, social and environmental development. Our service project consisted of breaking down old flower beds and creating and installing new ones. In the beds there were previously planted peppers, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, etc. This park was created a little over 10 years ago that offers recreation and training opportunities.

Even being my second international ASB trip, a challenge for me with this trip was being away from home, as well as learning how to be social with a different group of peers. Another challenge was the language barrier with the project managers. With English as my first language, there were times where I didn’t fully understand the directions of certain tasks or what was being said. This obstacle was something we overcame as a group through good teamwork and communication. 

Aside from the labor of the project, I’m glad that I understand how impactful and important building the new plant beds are to the community. Along with the beauty of Costa Rica, the joy and happiness from the children was a sight to see and something I will miss from this trip. I’m glad that at a young age they get to experience and see how important it is to not only take care of the environment, but especially the one they live in. This way as they get older they can teach generations under them to do the same to keep the country flourishing. I think teaching children the importance of keeping up the environment and how it affects the way of living is something we should do as well in Memphis. One city may not make a difference compared to an entire country, but it can be a great start!

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Ahmaya Wright