By Jon Wolff
Thursday night, we all went to a karaoke bar, called Hillbilly’s, for our night out. It started out slow since there weren’t many people there besides us, but then it started becoming increasingly crowded and lively. Many of the students danced and sang karaoke and just generally enjoyed themselves.
Last work day is bittersweet
Much to the students’ dismay, Thursday was our last work day at the site. The general consensus is that no one wants to go home. Everyone loves Texas, and we have enjoyed the work we’ve been doing. A few of us were even joking about planting a Penn State campus here in Mission! (Penn State Behrend South? LOL).
It was a very special day because we presented the family with the food and the gift card we were giving them to to buy necessities. We also presented each child with a new pair of shoes, and we had a birthday present for the youngest girl in the family, whose birthday was a few days ago. We also gave the family a decorated picture frame that was signed by everyone in the group.
In order to show their appreciation for all of our hard work this week, the grandmother of the family arranged with a close friend to bring us a whole Mexican feast complete with fajitas, nachos, rice, beans, salsa, tortilla chips, and vegetables. We were all very thankful for the food. It was delicious, and we all sat down and enjoyed the meal on-site.
Su Casa de Esperanza – Visit 2
Another small group of students, led by Nicole Fedders, went to Su Casa de Esperanza today. The people who went were Stephen Galdo, John Klecha, Samantha Vertosick, Jenna Abate, Jessie Monteleone, and Chasity Wilson. The group worked with kids between the ages of 1 and 2. Thjey listened to their reading time, then helped read stories to them, as well as helped them with their vocabulary and numbers and naming objects in English.
They also played games with the children and helped participate in motor skills development activities with them. Some of the group also went on home visits out in the community to the homes of pregnant women, or women with children below the age of one year to see how well the families adapt culturally and developmentally.
Though their experience at Su Casa was different than that of the students who went on Tuesday, it was an extremely enriching experience for the students, who faced more cultural challenges because they were working with people who spoke little (or no) English, and the students really had to use their Spanish language skills to communicate.
Kids make hard work fun
From Tuesday on, we began building relationships with the kids in the family, but today was definitely the best day of the week in terms of interactions with the kids. Their smiles and laughter are infectious and we all took turns chasing them around and playing basketball with them, giving them piggyback rides, and just generally having fun with them.
And…yet, there was work to be done
Though we took breaks to play with the kids, none of us wanted to stop working on the house, whether it was to take a five-minute break to eat, drink or use the restrooms, or to stop and take a group photo. It was as if everyone just couldn’t wait to get back to their work and finish what they were doing, all in an effort to get as much finished on the house as possible.
It was amazing to see how dedicated the students were to finishing their work so they could truly make a difference in this family’s life. We are all so unbelievably proud of each other, and so glad that we all built such strong friendships, work ethics, and love for serving others this week.
Today was spent finishing nailing shingles on the roof that we’ve been working on all week, as well as finishing installing drywall and smoothing out the rough patches and the seams in the walls. We’re all so amazed at the amount of work we got done in just four days! The house is well on its way to being repaired.
Reflection time – It’s all good
Our reflection tonight focused on what we all thought of the entire week and all that we did. We were asked if there was anything negative about this week, and we really couldn’t come up with anything negative.
When asked about the positive things, though, everyone talked about how proud they are of each other, how much work we accomplished, and how we really reached out and touched the lives of the people in the family we did the work for.
As part of the reflection, the students were asked to write down a memory or a good thing about each and every one of the other students in our group, and put the slips of paper in a paper bag that we wrote our names on and decorated. This is a nice way for us to look back and remember this trip, and to especially remember the relationships and community we built this week.
With that said, thank you so much for checking in on our progress, and thank you to everyone who helped us and provided us with the opportunity to go on this trip.
It has been an unforgettable week, and I know I will definitely remember this for a long time. We hope that all the things we have learned this week will carry on into our lives as we travel back to Erie and go back to Penn State Behrend.
We also hope that everyone is inspired by what we did this week and that they, too, will take the desire to sacrifice oneself in order to better the world and serve people out into the world. Let’s face it, there’s a world in need out there and it’s right here in America — not just in other countries like we see on TV commercials, but right in our own country, and in our own backyards. And it’s incredible how doing something so small, such as chasing a child around a messy work site or installing some drywall can truly touch lives.
Again, we thank everyone who made this possible.
Friday’s agenda will be to wake up and be ready to go by 9 a.m. We’ll have a short information session from the border patrol and will be returning the rental cars by 2:30 p.m. Our flight out of McAllen, Texas, is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
On behalf of Alternative Spring Break and the e-board for Reality Check, I would formally like to thank everyone for making this trip possible. I would also like to thank Melanie Koster for helping me with the blog(being a former English major, she knew what to say)!
It has been an honor and a privilege to tell our story to all of you. We the ASB 2012 group are a family and the bond we have all made in the last few days will remain strong and with us forever.
To the parents: As a resident service leader and president of Reality Check (community service based student organization at Penn State Behrend, I hope that your son or daughter will remain true to the core with helping others out and giving back to those in need. I hope they walk away from this trip with the knowledge that they are blessed and continue to give back as a reminder of this trip and its impact. I would like to thank the parents of each and every one of the students on the alternative spring break trip. Your sons and daughters played a vital role in the entire group and made a positive impact on me.
Community service has always been a part of my life and will remain to be a part of my life throughout my academic career at Penn State Behrend. Thank you for following us along our journey from Erie to Texas and back. I would also like to thank my parents for believing in me and constantly pushing me to be a better person, leader, and encourager.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as we have enjoyed helping out while down in Texas. I hope you understand that we in fact did have an enjoyable and relaxing spring break and even though we didn’t get to go to beaches for a week or hang with friends. The moments we made together and the hearts that we touched will remain with us forever. We started out as strangers but ended as friends and, really, that’s all I could have ever asked for.
One final we are…
WE ARE PENN STATE!
Reality Check- President
Photography Club- President
Resident Service Leader – Ohio/Almy Hall
Lion Entertainment Board- Comedy Chair
“For the Glory”