"Be the change you wish to see in the world."~Gandhi

December 20, 2012

Day 4: Hanging Out in the Club

After being on the East Coast for five days, the group was starting to feel the fatigue of traveling as well as waking up early during winter break. Fortunately, our morale and enthusiasm was still high and intact. For our fourth and final day of volunteering, we went to Boston’s Westend Boys & Girls Club. When we first arrived, were given a tour of the facilities and were blown away with what we saw. Three floors of study rooms, arts and crafts areas, a full-length lap pool, a gymnasium, music studio, and so much more, it epitomized a kid’s fantasy. After the tour, half of the group set out to create a winter wonderland for the upcoming Christmas party by cutting out snowflakes and decorating the rooms. The other half went to work in the kitchen to help preparehealthy meals for the children. When the kids started trickling in the doors after school, we spent the rest of the day playing with them and helping out with homework.

Spending time with the club members, elementary to high school ages, allowed us to interact directly with the people we were helping. Conversations revealed their dreams of attending schools like MIT or NYU and majoring in subjects such as architecture or art. Activities showcased their impressive talents whether it was jamming to The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” reciting the multiplication table as fast as possible, or even cutting out fancy snowflakes. Watching a place like the Boys & Girls Club provide a positive, encouraging environment presented a heartwarming sight. Here, kids are safe to develop their creativity without limitations and pursue their dreams as they desire.

Alternative Breaks was a wonderful way to kick off winter break. Traveling across the country with a group of strangers for a community service trip seemed a little daunting in the beginning, but this initial thought was almost immediately dispelled. Our group felt comfortable with one another from the start but by the end of the week, it was as if we were all old friends. This trip also proved the importance of volunteering. There is always more that can be done to help progress a community and dedicating a few hours of time can get much accomplished. I'm grateful for this opportunity to make new connections, learn from experiences, and step outside of my usual comfort zone to help out others. My experience with Alternative Breaks not only made me realize that I can actually withstand 30 degree weather, but that a single individual's effort can truly make a difference.

December 14, 2012

Day 3 Was a Blast!!

We started off our morning bracing the brutal cold of 38 degrees. We're not in San Luis Obispo anymore! We took the T (Subway) to Cradles to Crayons where we were greeted by a California born-turned Boston native. We got a brief orientation and went immediately to work. We were broken up into 2 groups. One group inspected and sorted donated clothing for distribution and the other opened donated clothing bags for inspection.

After a long day of service, we regrouped with other volunteers to hear how many lives we impacted. Collectively, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo impacted 270 children with just 4 hours of service!

That night, we split up to partake in our individual night activities. A group of girls went to see the broadway show musical, Memphis, and another group went to TD Gardens to watch the Celtics take on the Dallas Mavericks!

Overall, the day was fantastic! Volunteering at Cradles to Crayons went by unbelievably fast! Day 3. Check.

December 12, 2012

Day 2- You Know You're Not from Boston When You...

Wear hoodies instead of a real coat to keep warm.
Get a kick out finding someone with a Bostonian accent.
Gawk at the amount of Dunkin' Donuts everywhere.
Still hesitate to walk diagonally through an intersection.
Wonder why ice hockey isn't a hit over on the West Coast. 
Pay to take a tour of Fenway park.
Have to stop and think about which branch of the Green Line you need to take.
Finally have a real reason to wear a scarf in public.

Despite all of the little idiosyncrasies mentioned above that the entire group seems to have been experiencing these past couple of days, the fact that we're in one of the most historic, charismatic, and breathtaking cities in the nation is finally starting to sink in through the excessive layering of our clothes.  The sheltered students from the land of 70 degree winters are finally getting their bearings!  As we ate our Trader Joe's smorgasbord in the Boston Common today, even the fluorescent, neon pink explosion of Cassie Pitkin's sweater couldn't counter the glow of falling willow leaves and the company of new friends...  something that I'm truly grateful for.

It's funny at least to me that regardless of the situation, the gratitude people show towards your service and work always comes off the same way- a smile that stretches the span of a person's face, the endless warmth of genuine hugs, the showering of "Thank You's", and the sincere connection that forms between two strangers.  Today our group volunteered at Room to Grow, an organization that enriches the lives of babies in poverty throughout their first three years.  As trivial as our assignment of folding and sorting baby clothes might have come off, the experience of "Learn By Doing Good", along with time spent with Jen, who patiently taught us how to identify a Onesie from a t-shirt couldn't have exemplified this idea anymore.  By the time I walked out today, Jen had just become yet another one of the people I have volunteered for that I can say I am truly thankful for.  You're surroundings and background are completely irrelevant... Go get off your butt, out of your heated house, and do something great with your Christmas Break, and I'm telling you that it doesn't take a trip across the nation for you to feel the same thing I felt today.

So the moral of this blog today is that you'd be surprised as to how enlightening folding clothes can get... Now I get to drift off to sleep, the ringing of the subway's screeching brakes still bouncing in my ears as I shudder at the 29 degree forecasted low for tomorrow.

December 11, 2012

Boston is AMAZING!!!!

Alternative Breaks 2012- Boston

Day one in Boston was definitely a day to remember. Though everyone was tired from travel, we all mustered up energy and by the time breakfast was over, we could not wait to get out and get to work. We left the hostel around 8 AM and walked into a beautifully cloudy and chilly Boston morning. We walked the streets of Boston on our way to our first destination, the Park Street Church. We were greeted by a man named Rich, who as we later found out was an expert on the history of Boston. He gave us a brief tour and history briefing of the church, and then explained the tasks for the day. First on the list was painting the stairways.... We teamed up, three people per floor, and got to painting! Other tasks for the day included cleaning carpets, leaf blowing the roof, painting pillars, cleaning pews, and refurbishing chandeliers. Halfway through our day, Rich ordered pizza for us, and as we ate he went into more detail about the city of Boston. Once we finished, he guided us on a tour of Park Street and the surrounding area, really giving us and insiders perspective on the city. We cruised around for awhile before eventually coming back to the church to finish our tasks. As our day of volunteering concluded, it was obvious how grateful Rich was for us being there to help out. He explained that  painter would have charged him $8,000 to complete the same work that we did for free. It was truly amazing to see how thankful he was.

After eating dinner at the hostel, we were off to the Harvard hockey game! We got to walk around the streets surrounding Harvard, and even the campus itself. After the game, we did some more walking around, and then headed to Quincy Market. Everything was decorated so beautifully for the holidays, and we even got to watch a light show that was completely synchronized to Christmas music. By the end of the day, we were all exhausted from the adventures we had, but all in all, everyone was grateful for the amazing things that we got to experience. It was the perfect way to kick off the trip!

May 10, 2012

Alternative Breaks, New York: RECAP!

It feels as if we just flew back from NY yesterday. Starting as a group of strangers, shy and uneasy, we ended up a group of friends, caring and fun. Though educated about the food devastation problem, it didn't exactly hit me until I saw it with my own eyes. Seeing the massive long lines at the community kitchen and seeing the streets devoid of produce markets made me realize how much these people need help and support. My most memorable part of the trip was being able to see the people I was serving and converse with them. One of the guys in line, when asked why there was a pen in his pocket, said, "I am a writer. I write almost anything; poetry, I write whatever is happening around me." I don't think I can forget the look in his eyes as he thanked and blessed us with his sincere heart. Going on this trip influenced me to reexamine the situation here in SLO--in this past month, I was able to be a part of this ministry with my fellowship in passing out sandwiches, socks, and fruit to anyone in need in the downtown area. Every time I think of this trip, it is a reminder to volunteer at the homeless shelter or community kitchens and really put myself out there to make a difference. Cassie and Jessie were awesome leaders and I can see how truly passionate they are about helping their community and making a difference. Thank you Alt. Breaks NY for shining a light upon me so that I may be a light to others. "Leadership is action, not position." - Donald H. McGannon
Diane Lee

May 9, 2012

Alternative Breaks New York Reflection!

The Alternative Breaks New York 2012 crew flew back home to California over a month ago, but we will forever stay connected to NYC through our experiences, memories, and continued volunteerism.  Volunteering throughout the week at four different locations, with varied populations, opened our eyes to the extreme amount of hunger in NYC.  We now understand the importance of volunteering whenever possible and doing what we can for those in need.  Running on limited sleep, the smiles and thanks that we received from those we were serving pushed us to keep working hard throughout the day.  A day that stuck out to me was when we had the opportunity to work with Encore Community Services delivering meals on wheels to homebound seniors in Times Square.  These senior citizens were so thankful for the meal we were dropping off and the interactions we had with them will forever be in my memory.  Overall, this experience has made me a better person with a changed outlook on life.  As a graduating senior, Alternative Breaks will stand out as a key component of my college experience and will continue to push me to volunteer throughout my life.  I want to thank Jesse and Cassie for all of their hard work and planning to make this trip happen, we all love you!
Julianne Jochums

Blog Archive