Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tackling Poverty and Serving Youth Day 6

            The trip is coming to an end but we didn’t care there was too much to do and not enough time to dwell. We woke up bright and early ate breakfast and waited for are instructions on what we can do to put the finishing touches on Passion for Fashion. Who know all the work we did would not be enough to be ready hours before the event. As the time came closer we realized that the final touches really make the place stand out. The smells from the food and just how good the food looked was making everyone hungry and meant the event was time to go. The girls would come in eat and listen to a speaker who was there to provide insight and motivate the girls to become strong and powerful women. The speaker was amazing giving insight to everyone in the crowd and really allowing for the girls to think about their future. Then once the speaker was finished the girls got to run and pick out their dresses for prom. Once they find the dress they would get the ultimate makeover and become beautiful young women with strength for the short term and for years to come. Then the girls got in a line and walked down the runway with confidence and strength.

            This trip was more than making flowers and a runway. It was about giving girls strength and confidence that they can get through anything that life throws at them. The service this week was service that was indirect but one that lives a lasting impact for a lifetime. The learning experiences we learned while their allowed us to have a new perspective in life and the Native American culture as a whole. The people of the community are friendly and welcome us back.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Got Social Justice? Part Five

                As we all concluded our last day in New Orleans, Louisiana we decided to spend it bonding with each other and around the city. After all the hard work of service each one of us has done, we wanted to dedicate our free day to the city that welcomed each one of us. We started our morning by visiting the cemetery, The Tomb of The Unknown Slave, and getting a guided tour at the Whitney Plantation. While running through our day we had great laughs as well as interesting new foods, even if it took an hour to have the best seafood in town. Having the opportunity to educating ourselves through the Whitney Plantation tour was an interesting part of our day. During the tour, we were given information on the history of Louisiana while visiting all the memorials of slaves was devastating but a learning experience. A few of the A.W.O.L group members had their own personal experience throughout the day that were necessary to include.

“Learning about slaves, Hurricane Katrina, while using my five senses to get a taste of New Orleans was nothing but inspiring. There are many not as privileged as us, and to be in Louisiana, where I never had been before, is a beautiful place to be.” -Alyssa Donnelly  

“Although today was our free day, it was probably one of our most educational. The tour of the Whitney plantation allowed us to remember why we were in New Orleans and the strife that slavery caused on several generations of Americans, even in our current generation. Spending some time in the French Quarter also provided us with fun and educational activities as well as memories that we will keep with us for years to come.” -Nahomi Estrada

Throughout the week we did a great amount of service. It’s been a great experience. We learned a lot about people in New Orleans and the culture.  Throughout the week I began to feel like I was at home and most importantly I began to grow close with my fellow AWOL members. It’s been a great experience full of challenging tasks and a lot of laughter.

We spent our free day visiting several different sites in New Orleans. We started out our morning visiting a cemetery. We went to Tomb of The Unknown Soldier and got a tour through the Whitney Plantation. It was a remarkable experience. It made you go through a roller coaster of emotions. After we finished, we spent the afternoon in the French Quarter. I couldn’t ask for a better experience with such an amazing group of people. -Kelsey Lange

Got Social Justice? Part Four

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Everyone deserves to read a book regardless where they are. Today, we served at an organization called Books 2 Prisoners. There were a few different projects that we worked on today. We ended up splitting into three groups. One group worked with answering letter from the prisoners, another group worked on putting up installation and dry-wall, and the last group worked outside preparing for brick pavers, so they could have a bike rack in the front of the house. I personally worked outside preparing the ground and foundation for laying brick pavers. First, we had to dig and pick up all the non-dirt objects, and pound the dirt down. Kelsey, Jasmin and I didn’t think it would take long to pick everything out, however, it ended up taking us a couple hours and a lot longer than expected. After we finally got the foundation finished, we had to put the weed prevention clothe done and than pour 900 pounds of sand down. Once we got the sand smoothed out and levelled, we had to put had to put the paved bases down. Alyssa, Amanda, and Jamii was the group in charge of
answer the letter from the prisoners, picking out books for them, and packaging them to be mailed to them. I didn’t hear a what all the letters said, however, I was informed about an individual who was on death row that requested a book that would pass the time. I feel like society forgets that people in prison are actually people and still want the same privileges that everyone gets, like simply reading a book. This is why Books 2 Prisoners does what they do, and they work so hard to make a difference in these prisoners’ lives.

-Kristina Grossman

Got Social Justice? Part Three

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

Life is hard. Over the last few days, I’ve encountered a handful of people, who had to deal with the hardest things that life could throw at them, but they were able to take the struggles and make something beautiful out of it. On Wednesday, our service site was at a place called Pray the Word, Say the Word, and we helped an elderly woman by the name of Josie. This woman having survived Hurricane Katrina, financial struggles, a heart attack six months ago and than a stoke two month later, is still about to bring the word of God, joy, and hope to the people in her community. After everything Josie went through and doing most things on her own, finally allowed someone to come and help her out, which is where we came into play. When we first arrived to Pray the Word, Say the Word Wednesday morning, Josie only wanted us to clean up the backyard, get rid of broken objects, and make it safe for the children from her ministry to play again. Along with the backyard, Josie wanted to sort through her three storage closets, but didn’t want us to tack such a large project. Nonetheless, we took on the challenge of tackling one storage closet, which was the size of a small room, and cleaning up the backyard for the children. I personally was assigned to the backyard, which was covered with broken toys, dirt and leaves, empty milk crates, and a small garden bed covered with weeds and dead plants. Through all of that, about half our group, myself included, started working. We put all the broken toys on the curb, filled three garage cans of leaves, dirt, and dead plants, and organized the back shed. After we cleaned out the garden bed, we planted okra and collards for Josie, and bought garden lights to put in down the middle of the bed. While we worked, Josie would come check in on us and try to help, but we were able to convince her to rest and not work as hard. Josie, who never accepted help before us, was able to let us help her and make her ministry just as beautiful as it was before her heart attack and stroke. In the end, not only was it rewarding for all of us, but also we were able to make a difference in this woman’s life, and help further her ministry’s mission. Sometimes the most selfless service is helping that one person who only helps others and almost never accepts help from others.

-Kristina Grossman

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Got Social Justice? Part Two

Another great day in the books here in New Orleans!! Today we were worked with an organization entitled A Community Voice. This organization is key in allowing the surrounding residential area know about new movements among their governing boards. Our particular task was to take the news of an Expansion of the Industrial Canal. For some background coverage, the expansion of the canal would cause roughly 13 years of construction work, displacement of people from their homes, and even the potential for flooding, This is obviously not something that would benefit the community, For me it was extremely hard to see how the people in the community that we talked to had not idea that this was even happening in their community, However on a happier note, our group had a wonderful opportunity to meet some great characters. I had the opportunity to meet one gentleman who was a through and through volunteer man. He talked about how he was touched to see how a group of people from Iowa would spend their time canvasing a community to help spread the word. I love the sense of community that we were able to witness whether it was someone honking if they saw someone they knew, walking a dog as someone signed a petition, or even seeing people talk on their porches. Today really just showed how strong the people in this community are to have such love after such a great devastation. 😊

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Got Social Justice?

Here in New Orleans, we started the week off with a BANG! Driving around the city, we were able to witness the various and drastic changes in the neighborhoods that were impacted by the Great Flood. Which was followed by an educational session about the ways that racism impacts the city. Today our group traveled to Grow Dat which is a youth farm located in City Park. This organization was started to donate produce to the community as well as create profit on land that was once a plantation. Our group took Bagasse, which was crushed and dried sugar cane, and used it as mulch in their fields. After spending the day battling fire ants and the sun, we got the pleasure to pick mulberries. After getting our hands super colorful we were able to help see, plant, and pick the farm. This organization is built on introducing leadership and sustainability into the community, It was a great day to meet some amazing people who truly enjoy what they do, as well as see every aspect of the farm. As they say at Grow Dat "A Dream Starts with a Seed".

Mid-Week Update: Animal Advocacy and Environmentalism

We're here to update you on our service thus far! We started our first day volunteering at Lynnwood Park Zoo. Driving up, we were unsure about what we got ourselves into, but the experience couldn't have gone better. We were able to help out with various tasks around the zoo from sanding the paths, to feeding monkeys, to educating visitors about different animals. Throughout the day, our eyes were opened to the possible disconnect between animals and humans. This is one thing that the park director chose to focus on, and wanted us to take home. We found the importance of educating others about animals and the impact they have on our lives and ecosystem. The next couple of days, we went to our service site Possumwood Acres and while we were there, we were able to learn a great deal about the medical care and maintenance that must go into a wildlife sanctuary. We watched the staff work with baby and injured animals that needed attention and learn more about the daily routines of the sanctuary. The diverse animal population must be fed everyday and their cages cleaned, which we actively got to take a part in. We also helped with their education trail that they use for school groups by building a couple sitting areas along the trail. We are looking forward to working with them in the upcoming days of service!

Along with volunteering, we have also had the opportunity to learn more about the culture of North Carolina and experience some of what it has to offer. Tuesday afternoon, we were able to take a boat to an island called Shackleford Banks. This island is known for the wild horse population that inhabits the land. While we were unable to find any of the horses, we still were able to take in some magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean. This evening, members of our group were able to take a nature hike around the area. We again were able to see some spectacular views of North Carolina as the warm sun was setting.

Note from Site-leaders:
We have had the best group of participants that have been willing to serve and help out wherever needed (even if that means cleaning up poop!). We have been able to see them come out of their shells and create an unforgettable experience for the entire group. We look forward for the days to come! :)