Boston’s first day of service!

We’ve been in Boston for a few days now, but because we arrived on Saturday evening, today (Monday) was our first day of service! We were all up bright and early–whether that was by choice or not–and scooted our way through the frigid Boston monring cold and a few T-stops to our community partner, Community Servings. Community Servings is a volunteer-run nonprofit in Jamaica Plains that prepares and delivers meals to Bostonians who are chronically ill. Its logo of a steamy soup bowl is painted on the outside of the building.

The kitchen buzzed around us, clearly having been in full swing since dawn, but first things first. We sat around a table and within a half an hour were debriefed by Melissa, the volunteer manager, on enough information to pass any food management certification test out there. Since Community Servings’ recipients generally have extremely compromised immune systems, kitchen protocol and hygiene are of utmost importance. We all fit on hairnets, then washed our hands for the strict 20-seconds (at LEAST), then added on our aprons, then non-latex gloves. We looked fantastic. We also were slowly realizing how critical the use of our hands is. Even pushing your glasses up on your nose or rubbing a tiny itch on your face is cause for a hand wash and glove change, starting at square 1. The journey had begun.

Some of us chopped vegetables while others stirred gigantic pots; some worked in swift assembly lines; some manned the packaging machine. The whole kitchen was a well-oiled machine, the staff and more experienced volunteers directing us kindly–but not in a babying way–around our duties. The radio blasted song after song, and no one missed the opportunities to dance as they worked. Side conversations and duets were constantly popping up all over the kitchen. We were amazed and encouraged by how healthy and tailored to each individual’s medical needs each part of each meal was, and by how much and how genuinely the staff cared for every single product going out to recipients. It was pretty inspiring.

The kitchen staff and volunteers themselves were quite the bunch. We felt more and more welcomed by them by the minute. One woman was there because her husband was in treatment and received Community Servings’ foot packages, so she volunteers most days out of the week. Another volunteer spoke mostly Spanish, but that didn’t stop him from joking around with non-Spanish speakers. There were two girls about our own ages who’d been volunteering for a while. A woman who’d worked there for years danced around with everyone around her with the spunkiest energy I’ve ever seen on anyone, made more impressive by her older age and by how much progress in bagging lunches she was accomplishing at the same time.

By 4 pm, we could feel the day spent on our feet, and the rawness of dozens of washes on our hands (the team calculated that we collectively washed our hands 190 times today, or for 3,800 seconds, the equivalent being just over an hour). The subway ride back to Boston International Hostel was a relief to be able to sit down and a triumph in realizing how well the day had gone, and how much we enjoyed the organization with which we’ll be spending the next week. After a dinner of tacos in the hostel cafeteria, we had a great reflection in a circle of couches, we tossed some thoughtful ideas around about the organization and how we are fitting into it. Solid talk. Also a talk tinged with some slight exhaustion-caused delirium from the long day. We settled down into an evening of doing some work and going for a night stroll around the city, but our ridiculously energy-filled group was all snoring away by just after 11 pm so we can wake up tomorrow and do it all over again, and more.

Home from Virginia and missing it a lot!

It’s hard to think about everything of our week in Chesterfield and not want to go back. By the end of just seven days, so much had changed for the better, and I’m really proud of everyone on the team for helping that happen. The thing I think that stood out most was how well our team interacted with and handled situations with the kids and adults, all with various developmental disabilities. The eleven on our team ranged widely in terms of level of prior experience working with this population, but after even just a few days at Camp Baker, those who’d previously had no experience were indistinguishable from those who’d had years.

Just looking around at a teammate pushing a camper laughing uncontrollably on a swing, another teammate sitting on the ground next to a camper lying eyes closed on a slide, three more busying a picnic table full of campers with pipe-cleaner crafts and even more standing in a circle, reaching for the sky in the first of many warm-up stretches—and seeing how everyone (team mates and campers alike) truly wanted to be there, and was so good at truly being there—was a truly inspiring sight (and reoccurred plenty of times every day). The way that the members of our team spoke so fondly about campers and formed such solid friendships, and spoke to and played with them with so much warmth, and the way that many of the campers spoke with and about our team, was a rare and awesome thing–heartwarming even.

Names and faces will be in our heads forever: Ian, who loved Disney; Tyler, who liked to dig holes in gardens, and sometimes sprinkle those around him with the dirt;  Jorge, who loved to dance; Kimberly and Victoria, two sisters who were so cheerful and fun even though they dealt with a lot at home; Brett, who loved to duet with anyone; Brittany, who had the greatest laugh; Sharon, the cutest middle-aged person in the world; Buddy, the most helpful 70-something-year-old leaf-raking enthusiast ever; so many others too.

Other favorite points include how well our team talked and reflected about the day, about serious and lighthearted, positive and negative experiences, about widely-agreed-upon ideas or controversial ones, and during delegated Reflection time and whenever it came up throughout the day. Our collective ready-to-go attitude we usually had even after a long tiring day meant we could make the most out of our time there. This led to unexpected activities like walking around Richmond to visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; finding a little hole-in-the-wall place to eat traditional Southern food; watching “I Am Sam,” a movie based on a true story of an autistic man whose sole custody of his beloved 7-year-old daughter is discovered by the state, and the legal journey that ensues; planning a St. Patrick’s Day gold hunt for the campers and dressing a team-member up as a leprechaun (green top hat, sunglasses, and tie) to announce the game in an Irish accent.

I’m really excited to see what our now more open-minded, tolerant, patient, creative, flexible team can do with what we’ve learned now that we’re back. I don’t think it will end after our required reorientation is officially completed—we’ll continue to be involved and share our experiences for years to come. Hopefully there’s a way we’ll be able to stay in contact with the kids and adults we met at Camp Baker, or even just check in every once in a while to see how they’re doing. We’ll absolutely all stay in touch and never forget that single week. Thanks again team for making it such an amazing week :)


I can’t believe we’re so close to driving down the College Hill and being on our way to Virginia!! I know it’s going to be such an incredible week and can’t wait for it to start. Especially after a long midterms week, the whole team has been really enthusiastic about everything, which is really great. Everyone being hyped up starts an endless chain of hyping everyone else up too, which just makes the trip even more eagerly anticipated! I can’t wait for our group to move into our little cabin, for us to meet the kids we’re going to be working with, for us to start planning the camp carnival, for us to learn more about rural Virginia and explore it, for us to get even closer as a group, and for things that I don’t even know will happen yet. We’ll be taking millions of photos and blogging every night, so feel free to keep checking in! :)