SWAMPED Trip Day 2

Team SWAMPED had another successful day at the Nike Missile Base location of the Everglades. Yesterday was the last day at this location, working alongside Mava and her partner, John, who joined us as well. Our second half of service on Thursday and Friday will be at Biscayne National Park.

Our service included cutting down willow trees and spraying them with an herbicide that killed any future growth of these plants. The willow trees that we cut in this area were an invasive species. After the national park redirected the water source away from this area of the Everglades, this invasive plant began to grow and take over the plants that naturally grew here. To fix this problem, we removed these plants to allow for plants that were not invasive to grow in this area.

We also talked a lot about wilderness and what that meant. We decided that wilderness does not have to mean untouched by humans. The Everglades can be wilderness even though it has to be kept up by humans to ensure that invasive species do not take over.

Tomorrow we will be headed to Biscayne National Park to do work regarding sea turtles!

Thousands of Steps

A Pilgrimage is defined as a journey made to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion. For us, this trip was more a pilgrimage to define and solidify our values as a group that values interfaith work, as well as an opportunity to deepen our understanding and compassion.We came from many different backgrounds, and each member of the team walked a slightly different path, yet each person  on our trip came away with a new understanding of interfaith cooperation and service.

The Interfaith Team returned to Lafayette from Washington, D.C. on Friday the 20th after a very successful week. Driving out of the city we all felt a bit of relief to be going away from the madness that was the inauguration and all the traffic, police, and people that go along with it. We walked 4 miles round trip to attend Friday prayers at mosque Masjid Muhammad near the Dupont Circle area of D.C. The prayer service and subsequent conversation with Imam Shareef at the same time as the presidential inauguration was taking place felt like our personal vow to continue to learn and support people of all faith traditions. It was an act of solidarity, of learning, and of faith in one anther as compassionate humans. During the prayer service, the Imam spoke about how we all have faith in something. He spoke of young children and babies that have faith that a parent will take care of them as a particular example. I took this to mean that we are not alone, that at some point in our lives, no matter our faith tradition, we all rely on other people. This sentiment was echoed over and over at the many service sites we volunteered at during the week. Many of the sites we visited served the homeless or impoverished populations of DC by providing needed food, clothing, transportation, support, and most importantly, dignity. At many of the sites, the staff who ran each program had experienced homelessness themselves, and their desire to serve those just as they had been served struck many on the trip. So often, we focus on the differences between faith traditions as points of division, instead of remembering to look at the common shared values. Differences should be celebrated, but not at the cost of forgetting another group’s humanity and diversity. As the group transitions back to life at Lafayette and prepares for the upcoming semester, we take with us values from our thousands and thousands of steps in all sorts of shoes.


Swastika: the symbol of good fortune or that of the Nazi?

The name Swastika is a Sanskrit word that means good fortune.It is an ancient religious symbol originating from the Indo-Aryans of prehistoric Central Asia, that generally takes the form of an equilateral cross with four legs each bent at 90 degrees. However, with the rise of Nazi power it went from being an auspicious symbol to a symbol of genocide and terror.

Visiting the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. made me realise that if someone on the streets of the Western world saw me wearing a Swastika they are going to think of me as either a Nazi or ignorant. However, in reality I would just be wearing a sacred religious symbol. So, I decided to post this to show the difference between the Hindu symbol of good fortune and the Nazi symbol.

Image result for difference between hindu swastika and nazi swastika

The first symbol on the upper left hand corner was the Nazi party symbol while the bottom left corner is the Hindu symbol of good fortune. They are NOT the same!

Everglades Species Inventory

Below is an inventory of the species we encountered while in Everglades and Biscayne Bay National Park.

Plants and Algae


Brazilian pepper tree

Shrub morning glory


Coastal plain willow



Pickerel weed

Pond Apple

Coconut palm

Christmas palm

Bismarck palm

Red mangrove

Black mangrove

Turtle grass

Manatee grass

Bubble algae (one of the largest single-celled organisms)

Insects and other invertebrates

White peacock butterfly

Zebra longwing butterfly

Julia Heliconian butterfly

The dozens of species of mosquitoes known to occur in Florida


Barrel sponge

Hermit crab (not sure which species)

Speckled swimming crab


Florida gar


Honeycomb cowfish

Blacktip shark

Atlantic stingray


American alligator

Florida Cottonmouth

Florida red belly turtle

Diamondback rattlesnake

Green iguana

Black spinytail iguana


Turkey vulture

Black vulture


Great Blue Heron (also in white morph)


Great egret

Brown pelican

Double-crested cormorant



West Indian manatee

ASB TEAM: Please add any others that I’ve forgotten!

Knowledge is Responsibility

We began our service work early today at Biscayne Bay National Park, where 96% of the protected area is under water.  We worked with our learning partners, Arend and Kelsy, to remove trash and debris from sea turtle nesting habitat.  Today was a difficult day for me. I felt full of shame and dismay as I looked at long stretches of sandy beach and mangrove coastlines spoiled with our filth and debris. I even cried a little as we bagged soda bottles, flip flops, toothbrushes, fishing nets, tennis balls, light bulbs, seat cushions, plastic doll parts, hypodermic needles, ball point pens, buoys, and thousands of broken up pieces of plastic. Some of the plastic bits were so small that they couldn’t be separated from the sand grains, and I couldn’t help but wonder how all that microplastic was impacting the marine food chain. And the dozens of Mylar balloons we found wrapped around mangrove roots…we learned that sea turtles confuse them with jellyfish, ingest them, and die an agonizing death as a result starvation when the balloon blocks the passage of food.

But our ASB team diligently and reflectively continued to clean up the beach where sea turtles would be nesting in June until we’d managed to remove over 500 lbs of marine debris. The trash filled about 20 giant-sized trash bags, included a 150 lb drift fishing net, and covered the full stern of our boat on the return journey to the park office.

At reflection, some of the students found themselves wondering whether the work we’d done today was worth it, given that the beach would most likely be littered with trash soon after our departure. What could I say to assure them that our hard work was valuable? Honestly, I’d had the same thought multiple times today, but I also know that a defeatist attitude leads to hopelessness rather than productivity and progress. So, can we reframe and refocus our helpless feeling into one that is more empowering?

I believe we can. The truth is that this ASB experience has the power to transform us and to motivate each one of us to take positive action in our own lives. We can be reassured by people like Mava and Kelsy and all the scientists dedicating their lives to gathering data to help us find better solutions.  These people may be overworked and underfunded, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. There are other people out there who – like us – care about environmental issues. This also reminds me of a comment Dr. Hope Jahren once made in a blog about climate change. She said, “We are strong and lucky. The fact that we are a group of people with food, shelter, and clean water obligates us not to give up on the world that we have compromised. Knowledge is responsibility.” So, even as more plastic trash is drifting toward the beaches we left clean for the next generation of sea turtles, we look forward to our return journey home and the opportunity to spread the knowledge that we gained during this experience.

Team Swamped! Day 1

After a long journey from campus last Sunday,team swamped has settled easily into the cozy hostel of the everglades, a wonderdul place reminiscent of a lush jungle with a waterfall to complete the scenery. Today marked day 1 of our service trip. Following an early breakfast and a 30 minute drive across the everglades, we met with our guide Mava. She was both welcoming and engaging, providing us with a history of the national park (used to hold a missile base) and a reminder of the importance that our work holds for the future of the environment. As part of our work, we were tasked with removing invasive plants in a region called the hole-in-donut (HID). The HID is the last remaining region where invasive plants such as the Brazillian pepper tree need to be removed from the everglades. Using both clipppers and a special herbicide, we spent about 4 hours razing down the threatening plants. The work, under the heat of the sun, proved to be very intensive. However, through sheer team work, dedication, and the guidance of Mava, we were able to remove a large amount of invasive plants and exceed the target goal that Mava had envisioned for us. Soon after we finished, a group photo was taken to commemorate our work. Mava seemed very grateful which made us very happy. Afterwards, we left to go gator sighting. We were amazed to see so many alligators, birds, fish, and turtles. We took lots of group pictures with them before leaving. On the way home, we stopped at an exotic fruit store called “Robert is Here”. We had some of the best fruit milkshakes of our lives and picked up fresh produce for dinner. The day ended with card games, reflection time, and lots of night time fun!!

Intensive Caring Update

I received an update from Mary Wilford-Hunt: 

We’ve settled nicely into the beautiful town. We had a couple minor transportation glitches, but nothing we couldn’t work though.

Christiana is great and has an activity packed week planned for us.

I’ll post additional updates as I receive them!



Team Hope for Home: The Great Expectations by Anita Chen

ASB Blog Saturday, March 19 

Riiiinnng! My hands instinctively burrow into my pillow searching for my phone. My index finger slides over the front-side recognition button and I roll myself out of bed promptly. It’s 3:30AM; I had barely been able to squeeze two hours of sleep in before the 4AM bus was set to whisk my team members and me off to the Allentown airport. Our destination for Spring Break: New Orleans, Louisiana, the birth city of Jazz!

At 4AM I pushed open the doors of my dorm building. Trudging hurriedly across Anderson Courtyard in the darkness, I felt sleep-deprived and nervous of what would await me. What if something goes wrong on this trip? What if the team members don’t get along? I could of gone back to New York City and spent the break with my friends and family, all of whom I missed dearly. What if this whole trip idea was a mistake?!

I arrived in front of Williams Art Center expecting to be the last one on the bus, but to my surprise the bus hadn’t even arrived yet.

“Anita, over here!” I heard someone call from across the street. Sure enough, on the other side of the street my team members Erik, Leo, and Mike stood, clutching their luggage, and shifting to ease the dawning cold weather. Exchanging small talk as other members slowly trickled in, I wondered how our team dynamic would be. Apart from seeing familiar faces on campus, I honestly never interacted with most, if not any, of the members on our team. Though we met weekly the couple of months preceding the trip, there was really no way to predict what kind of experience we’d have eating, sleeping, and living together for the next week.

Turns out, the bus was half an hour late; and we all know, slumbersome travellers and late vans don’t make the happiest combination or the grandest start to a week-long trip.

Fast forward to 7AM and we, tired souls, have boarded the plane and will momentarily leave taking off for Atlanta, then New Orleans. Not much to say about this part since we all pretty much slept the whole way there. However, I, in particular, was especially excited to board my first plane flight in ten plus years. That’s right, this girl has less travel experience then a tree frog in the forest! Now that I think about it, I must have looked quite foolish phone in hand, face pressed close to the plane window, and peering eagerly to capture in my memory every minute of the plane ride up. Thanks for dealing with me, Ari (my seat partner for the flights)

We arrive in New Orleans at around 2PM. And boy, oh boy! They are not kidding when they say New Orleans rains a lot, and by a lot, I mean heavy rainfall and misty skies. Like the plane ride, my eyes were glued to the window throughout the whole car ride to Camp Hope, where we would be staying for the next week. New Orleans is a mix of suburban housing and city atmosphere. The houses are painted in every color imaginable; each house having it’s own so-called “character.” Also, palm trees. Ugh, beautiful, beautiful palm trees were everywhere. Even ones shaped like pineapples! It’s absolutely amazing how a few miles here and there can completely transform the appearance, atmosphere, and overall feel of each place. New Orleans, itself, is a city of it’s own.

Soon after we arrive by car to Camp Hope, a former school building transformed into a charity headquarter and living arrangement to visiting college groups on service trips. Walt, the owner of the place, greets us in the cafeteria as we enter the first floor of the building. We toured the facility: communal bathrooms, trailer shower rooms, and bunk-bed lined living rooms upstairs. It truthfully was not the ideal living situation, but for a service trip it would do. After all, our mission was to humble ourselves with the experiences that others regularly face.   

After unpacking and settling in, our team decided to split into two for a late lunch break and hopefully double it as exploration time around the city. I joined Camila, Alleyah, Necie, Ari, and Leo to experience authentic seafood in New Orleans at a Cajun Seafood Restaurant. Confused initially about what to order and how to order, I hastily asked for a carton of broccoli and shrimp with a pound of cajun shrimp on the side. Finally seated, my team members and I joked about the how the trip has progressed so far, how spicy the food we ordered was, and what our plans for the rest of the day were. As we laughed and exchanged our ideas and details about ourselves, I felt a sense of comfort and pride in our team. I knew then that this spring break would be an awesome one with unforgettable experiences and incredible people to top it off.


Later that night, we arranged as a group to go see the renowned Preservation Jazz Band perform at Preservation Hall. We strolled around the heart of the French Quarter, the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans (analogous to Times Square in New York City), taking in the nightlife and rich culture that personifies the area so well. There were people wearing flashy apparel dancing in the streets, gift shops selling one-of-a-kind trinkets of voodoo figures and masks, green and red trolleys passing, and horse carriages waiting to transport people. Everything was a sight to be seen.

As expected, the Jazz Band at Preservation Hall was well worth the (long line) wait. The show consisted of various musicians performing musical scores with instruments such as trumpets, tubas, bass, clarinets, piano, drums all meshed into harmonious tones. The music flowed easily as my teammates and I bobbed our heads and swayed in unison. Mhmm.Yes! I could hear Necie praise the music behind me. If I could describe the experience in anyway, which I could never do justice in accurately describing, I’d say it was one of those experiences in life you just want to wrap up and keep in your pocket forever.


After the show, we ended the night exploring Bourbon Street. There more dancing ensued, people crowded the balconies atop buildings throwing beads down, clubs and street performers bounced with music on every corner. You could just tell: Everyone was there to have a good time and no one failed, disappointed.



In the car, heading back to Camp Hope, I close my eyes falling asleep tired, but reassured and happy. Although the first day was long and felt like several days jammed into one, it didn’t matter; we were here now. I am here for Spring Break, in New Orleans, in a magnificent city with multitudes to see, with beautiful, humorous, and down-to-earth people, whom I will share this special, remarkable experience with.

Till next time,

Anita Chen ‘19

Jammy claims Mr T is a Russian Spy

You know that feeling when. you don’t want to wake up but responsibility and having to adult takes over? Well that’s how most of my morning went  even with the delicious breakfast set up for us. I really didn’t have much motivation as we pulled up to the project site and dragged ourselves into the house but somehow, in the midst of the music provided by adri and “the white girl” (zack) as well as the constant drilling noise coming from the other room where Seiver was handling the drill like it was her trade, I found the energy to play in mud lol. Well technically not playing; it’s called mudding. From discussing last night’s “catch phrase” connections to talking about our lives before college, the house was bustling with energy and noise. And I have to admit winning the water fight between Adriana and myself was very satisfactory, we are lunch on the side of the road enjoying the beautiful day New Orleans offered us and discussed minorities as compared to armpits( I swear our conversations could not get weirder). by the end of the project day, we felt both accomplished with what small role we played in helping the people of the city but also sorrow from having to say good bye to one of our supervisors, Jay aka Jason aka Jay-Z??

I really didn’t feel like it when I suggested it but doing Shaun T’s ainsanity fast and furious out in the grass with Zack,Kofi and Steve felt amazing and added another item to our list of accomplishments of the week. After we had showered, all of us headed out to the French Market and what a gorgeous place it is. What surprised me the most was how similar it was to what I experienced markets to be in Pakistan not only the ambience but also the objects being sold (some things were even from Pakistan).  We toured through Bourban Street like the touriss we were trying not to be but it was a unique experience of having bead necklaces  being thrown at us by the residents from above.

The most important day for all of us though was the reflections led by Charlotte and Hannah. Filled with laughter and embarrassment (sorry Kofi and yari) as well as a nice conversation about what were trying to accomplish here as well as the hurdles people all over the world face with oppression, inequality and gentrification. It ended with us being much closer that we were and developed a stronger bond which i hope continues to grow.

Highlight of the night though: Jasmine thinks Tim was sent from Russia as a spy. I’ll post future updates as we discover Tim’s identity.

Jammy and Steve , two very newembers of the team

The day began like any other , just casually rolling out of bed at 5:30 in the morning and trying to stay awake for our very first daybon the job. We were pumped but that energy had yet to be awoken by “hotline bling”( I’ll explain that in a bit).We managed to make our way to the volunteer site for The St. Bernard Project (An organization which works to rebuild/repair homes for Katrina victims who had contractors just run off with their money(how can people be so heartless?) as well as provide subsidized homes in new Orleans for the less well off).  Annnnnyyyyways, we got to hear the story of a new orleanian,Mr Felix and how his life played out before and after katrina until his phone starts blaring ” YOU USED TO CALL ME ON MY CELLPHONE…. LATE NIGHT WHEN YOU ..” lol.

Soon after we were at the site of the house well be working on and were learning tools of the trade of builidng homes … mainly mudding and drilling. From Zack being offered mud to eat from our supervisor Jay to music blaring while we sang along, it was a phenomenal experience. It was also there that the big revelations of Jasmine’s nickname Jamie (prefers Jammy) came to light upon which Justin decided to make his long lived desire of being called Steve by everyone known.

The rest of the day went by in a blur from playing pickup basketball (I really need to practice more :o ) to just chilling and playing “catch phrase” where I could swear Amanda, Ayari and Alyssa had this weird connection….suspicious …… But Jammy’s passion and vigorous participation bested the other team.

Last minute shout out to everyone on the team for being as amazing as they are and staying pumped especially those of  us not feeling well. Oh and thanks to Mr T(im) for staying up and letting me distract him from his reading.