I’ve been back on campus for about 3 days and all I want to do is go back to Tennessee. This trip really opened my eyes and exposed me to so many things I would never have seen or done. Our direct service consisted of removing invasive plant species, building 2/7th of a deck, burning dead wood, stripping bark and litter cleanup in a national forest. However, I learnt much more from all of the educational programs we were a part of in TN. Having the opportunity to talk to members of the Snowbird Cherokee community, I realized just how lucky I am to never have been taken advantage of. Most of the stories we heard from Ed and Arleen Decker (our hosts for the week), Shorty (our direct contact with the Snowbird Cherokee community and the coordinator of the fish game) and Archie (a military veteran and member of the Cherokee warrior tribe) mentioned the intolerance the Cherokee have had to face in the past and how the community is still struggling to recover from all those years of hardship and pain. What struck me most during these conversations was that in spite of everything they have been through, members of the Cherokee community have an extremely positive attitude about life. As Shorty mentioned to us on numerous occasions, “You kids need to enjoy and live life every day.”
I don’t this trip would have been so successful if it weren’t for the wonderful team that I worked with. Jason, Joss, Andrew, Jen, Liana, Dena, Kara, Caroline, Ryan C, Megan and Mary…you guys were amazing. I’m a little bummed because I will no longer be going on any more service trips but the lessons I have learnt in my week in TN and over the past 4 years at Lafayette have really prepared to take an active role in changing the world for the better.
In a few days, I will be embarking upon my third ASB trip, this time to Maryville, Tennessee. My previous two trips (Gulf Coast, 2009 and Ecuador, 2011) put me on the path to becoming an active citizen and I hope to continue my transformation this year. So far, I love my team members and I am sure that we will only get closer to each other as the trip progresses.
The aspect of the trip I am most looking forward to is having the opportunity to interact with members of the Cherokee community. One of the highlights of my ASB trip to Ecuador was being able to interact with the local Shuar community. I am also excited because we will be engaging in many different areas of service – physical labor, environmental work, working with senior citizens and even working with young children in the community. My previous ASB experience has taught me to always be flexible in every way. Things don’t always run smoothly and it is important to always have a positive attitude. As a returning ASBer and an exec board member, I know how hard it can be to motivate yourself to work when things are difficult. But I have complete faith in my team and I know we can overcome everything in our way.
Today we went back to the house we visited yesterday with the same crew we had + 3 united way volunteers. We finally finished the wall that we left incomplete from the day the water pipe broke !! Looks awesome…would love to see it after it has a coat of paint on. We hit a few snags on the way but nothing we didn’t expect… placing the boards in the right spot, putting up insulation, tolerating zoe for 8 hours :p.
Today I spent 45 minutes crawling around in an attic pulling nails out of the floor and walls and while up there I could see lines where the water level had risen to during the Hurricane. I couldn’t stop staring at those marks almost 12 feet above ground level, still there 4 years later.
When Ed (the home owner) stopped by today around 11.30, he stared at the half finished wall for almost a minute and said, “You guys have done an awesome job.” Just one sentence but it had such an impact on us and pumped us up some more. At the CCC meeting today evening, Michael (the volunteer coordinator) told all of us the we may be just one drop but without us the ocean would be one drop less. Those two incidents really inspired me and convinced me that this was worth it. Flying across the country, choosing to spend my spring break in this way is not a sacrifice of any kind but an experience I don’t ever want to forget.
Overall : finished wall + using a big mechanical saw + mother teresa quotes + mac and cheese + spades + failed ice cream run + clarence and christy taking funny pictures of my foot = awesome day :D