Friday, March 27, 2015

What a wonderful world

Our service has come to an end, and although we are sad to be leaving New Orleans tomorrow we are excited to take back all the important values and memories we have made on this trip. For our last day of service we went to an elementary school. The elementary school that we were serving today had just recently relocated due to a bat infestation. Today our service consisted of helping teachers with class projects and setting up classrooms. We also had the opportunity to meet some of the students and spend time with them. We had a blast coloring with the children and getting to know them.
 

After finishing our service at the school we celebrated our successful week by going going on a cruise on the Mississippi River. We had some great food ( I'm telling you there is nothing better than New Orleans cuisine ) we enjoyed our boat ride by dancing to some great jazz music and overseeing the river. We shared laughter and enjoyed each others' company. Our cruise on the Mississippi was a great way to end our service in New Orleans. 

Once again I am extremely proud of all the service my group and I have accomplished throughout the week. Our work ethic throughout the week has just been outstanding.  I am eternally grateful for having the opportunity to have served with some great hard working individuals. We accomplished everything we set our mind to. We are excited to get home and share our stories with others. Our time in New Orleans had taught the importance of serving our communities and those in need. We leave New Orleans tomorrow but it will forever be in our hearts.
NOLA 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Never doubt what a few hours of your time and a positive attitude can do to change a community

Today we had the opportunity to go St. Paul United church where we assisted in painting walls, cleaning the carpet and waxing floors. At the church we met pastor Lisa and her husband Dan who ran the church. I assisted in painting the walls ( I am now a pro). The reason why we were renovating the church was because the church was going through the process of rebirthing the church in order to bring in new and younger families. As the group worked hard today Dan, pastor Lisa's husband shared with the group how he had opened up a youth center in the New Orleans area, that is open to all children and teens in the area in his center he has activities for the children to work on while there. He explained how he had decided to open this center up to keep children out of the streets. Dan and his wife seemed very passionate about the work they do and it was inspiring to see these individuals be so passionate about their work and all the hard work they are going through to bring in more families into the church and how bad they wanted the church to be welcoming to the community. They expressed the importance of being accepting of all who come through the doors. Hearing these two individuals express their love and passion for the church made us want to work harder to finish this project.


After talking to Dan and Pastor Lisa about what AWOL was and the requirements we had to go through in order to be a part of this trip they were so amazed and expressed their gratitude and appreciation they had for us. I am so proud of all the the things my group and I have accomplished throughout the week. Every individual we have  encountered  are impressed with our work ethic. As the week comes to an ending we have all realized the importance of service and important values and memories we want to take back with us. Once again I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this group we have all built strong bonds and friendships with one another. We're all a family and we look forward to encouraging others do service. 


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Master Tree Planters

While this is my first blog post, (Hi Mom!) I am so excited to write about the day we had down here in New Orleans! For our service today, the group headed to a small plant nursery that is run from the back of a home by a wonderful woman named Betty. We met Doctor Rich, who is a spearhead for the Saint Bernard Wetlands foundation. Today, we planted little baby Cypress trees into pots that will eventually be planted and used to recreate some of the damaged wetlands. The wetlands down here are basically used as severe damage control and keep storm surges from running right into people's homes and into areas the brackish water has no place being.
Even though the humidity was up and so was the sun, we had an amazing day working together. From laughing at my expense (I tend to have blonde moments) to having conversations that brought us to tears, today was a day full of hard work, sweat, and love. After our busy day, we ended up planting about 450 trees. That is an amazing number and Dr. Rich couldn't say enough wonderful things about us. It warms my heart knowing that we are affecting
people in ways I had never realized before.
After cool showers, the group got ready to head down to downtown for the night. After grabbing a quick supper at Popeye's, (Holy cow, it's so much better here in Lousiana than in Iowa, I can't even begin to explain!) we hopped in the car to head to the French Quarter. After we dropped off the oldies of the group (only myself and three other girls are under 21) for some swing dance lessons (which got cancelled) we were allowed to wander around downtown til we met up at 7. After spending too much money on silly souvenirs, the group met up for delicious cafe au laites and, of course, beignets at the famous Cafe du Monde. (Best coffee I've ever had hands down!)
Today was extra specials because of all the laughs and love we shared. I even got emotional at reflection while talking about our "superheroes" of the day. I am just so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work with these caring people and change lives. The best part is, I can see my life changing as well.

All my love,
Taylor

Like a Cowboy

Today we were able to help out at the bunny area here at Best Friends. They had us moving big bales of straw and cleaning out the bunny runs. This was a big task that required a lot of muscle work but our group was able to tackle it with out a problem. Since we were done in no time, some of us were able to feed and spend time with the bunnies. Deb, our tour guide, got Miranda and I a tour of the Best Friends veterinary clinic since we are both pre-vet. This was an amazing experience and we are both so grateful that Deb got us this opportunity. The clinic was filled with almost every veterinary necessity that you could imagine. All of the advancements that they had (there was a ton compared to our small town clinics!) make the experience of going to the vet a little bit easier for the patients.
In the second part of the day we were able to go for a nice three hour horse ride. This was a huge reward for the girls considering how hard they all have been working. The horse ride was in Zion National Park and for some this was the first time ever being in a National Park. It was amazing to see all of the wildlife around us while we climbed up and down the canyon. The horse I got to ride was named Chester and I was amazed at how easily he was able to maneuver along the trail full of rocks and sand. We all really enjoyed this activity and we were all really sore when we went to supper right after the ride.  We are all really tired but we can't wait to start another day of service tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The more you use the reign, the less they use their brain.

AWOL ANIMAL ADVOCACY: PARELLI TRAINING 

I am not much of a blog writer ( I am new at this) so this will be a short reflection.  The beginning of our day consisted of cleaning pig pens, petting pigs, and watching a parelli horse training demo.  This type of horse training teaches handlers to understand how to replicate horse body language.  Horses communicate through body language rather than noises because they are prey animals.  The woman demonstrating this type of training explained that horses should not be pressured or forced to do anything because it is not natural, can cause dangerous situations, and changes the relationship between you and your horse.  Using body language to direct a horse is more kind and allows a more trusting relationship.  

The trainer told a story about a horse that had been trained so rigorously on ropes, reigns, and pressure that it did not know how to act like a natural horse.  The horse was later given up and a  parelli trained owner took over.  The new owner loosened the reigns and let the horse make its own decisions.  With parelli training, the owner trusts the horse to make its own decisions based on its owners body language.  Horses can sense every movement and each movement is interpreted in a different way.  This may seem dangerous, but it is what horses naturally do in the wild with their herd.  As the owner and it's horse were riding, a left turn was approaching and the new owner didn't direct the horse.  The horse did not know what do do and ran right into a large fence because it was so used to another individual controlling it with pressure and reigns rather than making decisions itself.   The horse had turned its brain off.  It is a sad realization that many people don't know how to properly train their horses to make their own descions.  Trust is key.  This idea ( too much reign=less brain) also can be related to our education in college and life at home with our parents.  If professors pull too tightly and do not allow any critical thinking room, we will not learn, but memorize.  If our parents make all of our appointments, decisions, and rules for our lives we will become dependent on them and not learn how to do things on our own.

Mardi Gras Beads

Service - Day 2!
Arc of New Oelans is a non-profit organization committed to serving individuals with intellectual disabilities and delays from birth through adulthood. With this organization our group helped sort, package, and store over 5,000 lbs of Mardi Gras beads! Margie, one of the leaders of Arc, saw a problem with the beads being thrown at the many parades in New Oelans. The plastics beads cannot be recycled due to the material they are made of. So really the only thing one can do with all the beads is throw them away - which fills up our landfills.

Arc will set out recycling bins after each parade and people can place any parade item in them (i.e. Beads or trinkets). The beads are then brought back to the building and sorted by volunteers and people with disabilities into 6 categories: 33', petite, long, pearls, krewe beads, and green. Krewe are social organizations that put on the parades. Here is a list and history of krewes in New Oeleans - http://www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/mardigras/krewes/?notmct=14
In order to pay the disabled workers, Arc will resell the beads to organizations or krewes for the next parade year.

Doing this definitely gives me a new perspective on plastic beads and the harmful effects of them. So next time you are about to throw your parade beads away think, "what could I do with these?"

NOLA



A Simple Act of Kindness

Monday was full of learning and hands on experience with the animals. We started our day off by watching an informational video about the Best Friends sanctuary. From this video, I learned that over 9,000 animals would die in shelters each day, but with the help of collaborating with other organizations, they have increased the number of adoptions,donations, and volunteers that come all over the globe to meet the animals and hear about their stories. From this video, I gained new knowledge on animal rights and the Best Friends' no kill mission and will be able to bring back what I have learned to advocate and encourage others to volunteer at animal shelters in the Storm Lake community.

Later in the day we headed to the Dogtown to clean kennels, fill holes, and sweep sidewalks where the dogs walk. When we were serving we got the chance to interact with the dogs. What was special is that we didn't care about what backgrounds the dogs came from, we loved them for them. When we showed we cared, the dogs noticed it and you could tell there was a difference in the dog. They were a little bit calmer and a little bit happier. From this, I learned a simple act of kindness makes a difference.