Monday, March 21, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

NOLA: Service and So Much More

Signing up for Alternate Spring Break has to be THE best decision I could have made. EVER. Before, I would just show up for class, then go home and do homework. I wasn't contributing at all, and I wasn't making many friendships. Now, after this amazing experience, I've given back to the community, but I have also gotten a reward: a new circle of friends. We are all devoted to helping others and making a difference. Without this trip, I would have never gotten to know these people the way I did. Our types of personalities are so different, we are all over the school. But coming together for one common purpose has brought us all closer than some people, some "friends," we've known for years. We don't make empty promises to see each other; we're not that kind of people, and this trip has proved that. This trip is just the first step in myself getting involved in the school. Now that I know what can come of such an awesome trip, I'll definitely be coming back for more.
-Jennifer Borwick

NOLA: Looking Back

During the interview process I was asked why I wanted to participate in ASB. I replied with, "It's an amazing opportunity in which I would get to step out of my comfort zone; meet new people; experience New Orleans; and help others." In reality I was incredibly fearful. What if I didn't enjoy my experience? The truth is, this has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The people I've met on this trip have made such an impact in my life. We've seen "the good, the bad, and the ugly" of New Orleans on a tour of the city. Being able to help people who have suffered such devastation that most have forgotten has been eye-opening. And I thought my life was bad... It's amazing to see how something as simple as painting a house can make such a difference in someone's life. Not only that, I feel I have made lifelong friendships with the people I was priviledged to share this experience with. Not friendship... family. I will forever cherish this.
-Victoria Gaines

NOLA: Final Day

ASB 2011 was more than what I was expecting. I thought that I would be coming to New Orleans, LA just to do service work but this trip turned out to be so much more. I learned about the history of New Orleans, Mardi Gras, individuals in the community, and my fellow volunteers. I was able to help someone repair their house so that it could be a home once again and I also gained a better appreciation for my life. Words really cannot describe how much this trip moved me and reaffirmed my desire to devote my life to helping others improve their own lives. My eyes have been opened to what goes on in other parts of society and I am motivated to challenge myself to become more and more socially aware. I am truly grateful for this experience!
-Sydney McGhee 3/11/11

NOLA: Personal Growth

Today was a good day. The project that we were assigned today was painting, which majority of the group was happy to do. We work together as a team compromising on each task. I was assigned to paint the front deck with two others and was able to go into deep conversion about my personal life, religions, and outlook on life. To my surprise, I connected the two young ladies on many different levels. The conversation we shared helped bring us closer and set a more profound understanding. As a team, it was great that we had no slackers and everyone involved made sure the task was finished. Even though we were not able to finish the painting job we plan to finish tomorrow.

NOLA: Miss Michelle's & More

This trip has been amazing. The people who were selected to participate in the ASB are not just people anymore they are family to me. New Orleans has opened my eyes to so many problems the world faces such as: injustice, corruption, destruction, but most importantly faith and the kindness of strangers. What happened after Hurricane Katrina destroyed a community with so much culture. United Saints in a non-profit organization that helps out the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Even though five years have past there is still so much work to be done. On Wednesday we helped scrape the paint of Mrs. Michelle’s house. It was so hard to try to take the paint of without digging into the wood. While we were working on the house Mrs. Michelle came for a visit and thanked everyone for doing this. I found out earlier that Louisiana has a law that if you do not fix or sale your house it can be taken by the state as their property. It made me feel so good inside knowing that something so small could mean so much not only for Mrs. Michelle but for her family and generations to come.
-Maria Galvan

NOLA Day 4: Individual Dreams

Today was another great experience that adds to the motif of collective memories. This morning, we primed and put siding on a house that is on the verge of being taken from the owner. As we worked diligently, Anthony and I had a discussion about the mindset of our American society. Being in New Orleans physically creates a sense of urgency and reflection of situations. Yesterday when we visited Mr. Green in the Lower 9th Ward, Mr. Green told us, “Never say things are going slow, but gradual.” I took that to heart because in all honesty, I am a little scared about the next page in my life. But listening to Mr. Green, a feeling of realism took over my doubt and replaced it with spiritual security. As the pant brushes touched the house and nails entered its exterior, I thought about how grateful I should be because it could be worse. Some people have lost their chance, others are struggling to regain it, and there are those like me that are in training to take others out of the struggle. I cannot literally saved an individuals’ dream, but I can inspire them to live life away from mundane tendencies.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

NOLA Day 3: Understanding

When I woke up this morning I was hopeful to begin the first day of volunteering. More than hopeful actually, I felt like today was going to be my first steps in making a change outside of my immediate community. Not even the torrential rain of the morning could dampen the conquering spirit of this volunteer. When we were sitting through orientation, it was hard to think of an assignment I would not enjoy doing. That was when we were told of an alternative morning group activity, an in-depth tour of the city and its communities. Initially, I expected the clich├ęd tourist exposure of New Orleans, but to my surprise our team leader introduced us to tragic truths that are more difficult to relate. My knowledge of the history and culture of this city didn’t even compare to the devastation and poverty that I saw, even five years after Katrina. Kona, our team leader, told us the stories of volunteers and community members who boldly faced government manipulation. We were even given a brief tour of the home of Mr. Green, a recipient of a Make It Right home, by the homeowner himself.
It was at this point where I wondered if going on the tour had truly been worth it. . . I had definitely appreciated all of the information I had learned, but I felt as though I was already behind in my volunteering efforts. A whole day’s worth of work spent in the plush comforts of a 15 passenger van. It took some serious reflection to realize that the situation had been beneficial. After seeing all of the destruction I was more motivated to volunteer then if I had done so blindly. When our group eventually made it to our first work site, I felt inspired to work to the best of my abilities. And I think the other University of Memphis students felt that way. There is no greater inspiration than exposure. And through that exposure I think I have much more respect towards this organization and others like it.

Daynica Harley

NOLA Day 3: Personal Stories

Honestly I can't express how intense this New Orleans experience has already been to me. This trip isn't necessarily just about service, but about a priviledge in knowing that one can still be able to stand strong regardless of trials and tribulations.Today I stood in the house of a man who lost most of everything that he had due to Katrina...but despite of the lost of his mother and grand-daughter.this man Mr. Green still managed to keep moving and striving for better. As he stood and shared with us how he and his loved ones floated on the roof of his house to safety from the storm, a ball of emotion filled my eyes. Mr. Green's story really let me know that there is a difference in being Thankful and being Greatful. Clearly he was thankful, because he was still smiling...but this man was also greatful. Its one thing to go through an obstacle and no one knows about it...but he shared this particular part of his life so that others like me and my friends who came with me on this trip knew that we also can make it. And it was from this day alone that I realize that when life calls its self "testing" me, that regardless of the situation...use what I have left. If its the roof that I have to use to survive or a tear I have to cry, the objective of the test still remains the same. Survive, and then tell it so that others know that there is still hope if we just keep holding on.

**I just want to dedicate this portion of the blog to none other than Mr. Green, you gave me some HOPE
+ Job 14:7 : For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
-Sean Williams

NOLA Day 2

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Today was our free day due to the fact that it was Mardi Gras! You could practically feel the excitement in the air when we all woke up. It was in all of us, it was in the streets, and it was in every person we passed. The first thing we did was go to a parade where we all screamed and jumped for beads, stuffed animals, and whatever other prizes we could get our hands on. The floats were elaborate; men were standing on top of them dressed entirely in ornate feathers. It was fun to see the local culture as well as the many people dressed up! Among them included Super Woman, David Bowie, and many dressed in togas. It was exciting to experience an awesome Mardi Gras day parade.
After the parade, some took naps and others sat and talked. Today was a day to get to bond with each other, and we took full advantage of it by playing Taboo, Catchphrase, and generally just talking about everything and anything. Today was a little tiring due to the fact that we were all ready to get down to work, but at the same time we all got along well today. We began to refer to ourselves as a big, happy (and crazy!) family. It seems like a complete 360 degree turn from the first day we were here. We aren’t worried about what other people think anymore; we are focused on being ourselves and having fun with the many other members on our trip. The night is almost over, but knowing our group there will be many more crazy stories that will arise in the next few hours before bed. All I know is that I am SO ready to get to work and to do some community service!! I can’t wait to find out what impact we will have on the New Orleans community, and what influence New Orleans will have on us. So far the influence has been massive, and we have only been here a few days! I can’t wait!
From the beautiful New Orleans, with love,
Jacklyn Carroll

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Stay-cation Day 2: What a Joy!

Hi! I'm Bianca a business finance major. Day 2 of alternative spring break stay-cation has been amazing. I have participated in so many service projects from scraping paint off a house to stuffing envelopes. MIFA is an incredible asset to the community. At their office, they welcomed us to help with everything. I also enjoyed their encouragement when we were prepping their walls for painting. Today I realized how much help a group can provide by doing small things. For instance, we washed lids for the meals on wheels coolers. Now someone will have an easier time delivering meals. The staff was especially nice to be around and constantly smiled. What a joy it was to help today.

The Memphis Rock and Soul Museum taught me something new about Memphis. When segregation was big in Memphis, the one thing that connected blacks and whites was music. Of all the years I have heard about the music in Memphis, I never realized what an impact it had on bringing different races together. To top off a great day, we had dinner at Trolley Stop Market. The food is splendid with a variety of sandwiches, wraps, and pizza. There is also a section with fresh produce and art work from the Memphis area. What a wonderful day of community service on spring break!

New Orleans Day 1, An Adventure

Monday March 7, 2011
Alright, well, today had an early start to say the least. After a long day of driving and searching among all the Mardi Gras festivities for a parking spot, we were all wiped out. And yet we had breakfast bar at 7am with a meeting following at 8am.

Now let me just fill you in on what the house set up is and how well we all worked through our first morning. We have three bedrooms, a ton of bunk beds, a kitchen area, fourteen people and ONE bathroom. Yes, I sad one bathroom; with one toilet, one shower, and one mirror. We actually handled the shower issue fairly well and got to the breakfast on time. Afterwards, we all met in the same room with the United Saints staff and the other volunteer groups that have come out to help. We were given a rundown of how the week will go and how United Saints began etc. Then another man was introduced to tell us about the houses and families we would be helping this week. I have to say that it was truly shocking how cruel and animalistic people were after the flood. There are families we are helping re-build their homes that were swindled, tricked, and flat out robbed of thousand of dollars. This was heart breaking to hear of these cases.

One house’s owner was a victim of fraud from a fake contractor, and when the criminal was caught, the man was told to stop re-building his house. The DA said it was evidence. However, because of that, he has now been fined thousands of dollars for not getting his house fixed. That is just horrible. Another woman was robbed of all of her government aid, and that man was never caught. These cases went on and on and I’m sure there are so many more that I could easily lose count. Hearing all of this was just fuel for my fire. It made me want to get to work immediately. I love how many people are willing to give up their spring break to help. It’s wonderful!
After the meeting we went out front to take a group picture and have a tutorial on how to use the ladders. I was pretty proud of Memphis because of how many people were eager to volunteer to help. The people chosen alongside me for this trip are amazing! I only knew one other person going into this trip and now, two days into the trip, I’ve made such great new friends. Everyone is so considerate and kind. We all have the same level of responsibility and desire to help. At the same time we all have our own quirks to add to our mix.

I am loving every minute of this trip! We are supposed to go get some real Cajun food at a restaurant called Mother’s tonight. I’m so excited; I can almost smell the gumbo now! I hope to get some sleep and bonding time in somewhere too. Well, until next time, over and out! -Mandy Martin

Monday, March 7, 2011

Stay-cation Day 1

My name is Julia Noel, and I am a sophomore Health and Human Performance major here at the University of Memphis.
On the first day of the Alternative Spring Break Stay-Cation, all of the volunteers met on campus and traveled to MIFA (Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association) near downtown Memphis. I had never been to MIFA before, so it was my first time being an active volunteer inside the building. There we met Patrick Howie, Handyman Coordinator for MIFA Volunteer services. After a brief introduction to our first project, we headed over to the house that we would be renovating. I enjoyed working in the backyard, picking up what Howie called the "dead fall," and shoveling around several tree stumps that needed to be dug up. Even though it was very hard work, especially in the chilly weather, I felt like we made a lot of progress as a group and really bonded with our teamwork. For lunch, Angie bought some pizzas from the Memphis Pizza Cafe, and I could tell that everyone thought it was delicious. After our hard day's work, instead of bowling, we decided to go to the National Civil Rights Museum downtown. I had not been to the museum for a few years, so I was looking forward to seeing some of the newer exhibits. One exhibit that really stood out for me was the building across the street from the Lorraine Motel where James Earl Ray (Dr. Martin Luther King's assassin) shot from his bathroom window. Seeing the actual room and being in that building felt somewhat haunting, but I still really enjoyed the experience.
I had a lot of fun on the first day of ASB Stay-Cation, and I look forward to the other activities for rest of the week!

Stay-cation Kickoff

ASB Stay-cation (Memphis) had a fabulous first day working with MIFA. Volunteers worked at the home of a Memphis family measuring windows & doors for boarding during renovation, Cleaning deadfall and vines from the yard, removing stumps, picking up litter, and preparing paint supplies (for tomorrow.) The group had their first Memphis Pizza Cafe experience for lunch and went on to visit the National Civil Rights Museum. Great start to a great week! looking forward to tomorrow!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Follow Us in New Orleans and Memphis!

Follow Alternative Spring Break New Orleans and ASB Stay-cation Memphis through their service work and hijinx! In the meantime, here's a little of what last year's group did in Birmingham, AL...