For the last week of my winter break, I was able to have the opportunity through Assumption to travel to Baltimore, Maryland on a week-long service trip.
Nine other girls and I packed up a van and drove 8 hours down to Maryland to stay in a church and "live simply" for the time we were down there.
While I was excited to go to a place I've never been before and do things I've never done, I was a little anxious to go at first. I have to say, however, that those nerves were completely unnecessary. I had a really fulfilling time down in Baltimore and met some amazing people along the way.
We started volunteering every day at 9 am and finished at either 6 or 8 every night with a couple hours break in between. My favorite experience that we had was volunteering at a preschool in the mornings, and this was actually the most surprising to me. Throughout my life, I never really loved working with kids because I thought I did not have the patience for it.
However, now 21 years old, I think I have grown to change because volunteering with those students opened my eyes to the rewards of teaching and working with students so young and so moldable.
The pre-school program was called Head Start and was offered to low-income students in the Baltimore area. The ages ranged from 3-4 years old, and almost every student was intelligent and well-behaved. It was clear that they were very comfortable with the classroom routines and respected the classroom teachers. I loved working with the students and talking to them about their lives. They simply wanted someone to talk to and play with, and I was glad to help them with that.
I'll miss them the most. I wish I could work with them every day, see them grow and mature, and see where they end up. Their lives and experiences are so different from mine and I recognize that, and I'm curious to see how that shapes them in their future years.
We volunteered at homeless shelters, women's shelters, and soup kitchens the rest of the time we spent volunteering. It was crazy to see the different types of people that came in to be served or helped each day. What was touching was how grateful some people were, going out of their way to thank each one of us for helping before they left.
I found that strange because I did not go on the trip to get praise. Many people thanked us because they said without us they would have had to cover all the work themselves or it would have taken twice as long otherwise, but I went on the trip with the intention not to really be thanked but to make someone's life a little easier. I wanted to help and influence the people I saw in at least a small way. I went to learn to appreciate what I have and what I can do to continue helping people long after my time was done in Baltimore.
I wanted to thank the people I met for what they taught to me about the great need that exists in some areas, and what I could do to help. I learned that even something small can make someone's day in regards to the right person. I realized that I really do have a lot of advantages that I take for granted each day.
I wanted to thank those I met even briefly because it is I who will remember them for years to come, not the other way around.