Y.O.L.O….So Volunteer and Make it Count For Something!

It has been nearly two months since my ASB: NY experience and now that I reflect back on the experience, I am able to pinpoint lessons that I initially did not even consider. Through ASB: NY, I was made aware of a population that is often forgotten. Our group worked with individuals, left in the shadows because obstacles exist in their lives, which inhibits their ability to stand up for themselves.  They do not have anyone in their corner who can speak on their behalf.   The Bowery Mission and God’s Love We Deliver gave the eleven ladies of ASB: NY (Caitlin, Anda, Maeve, Jenn, Laura, Renee, Stephanie, Hannah, Jess, Sarah, Gabby) and myself an opportunity to represent these individuals for a week.  As a group, we learned that true volunteerism is not often glamorous, and sometimes comes with little or no reward, not even a “Thank You.”  However, it is not about the glamour or the “Thank You.”  It is about the people that we are helping.  It is about the human beings, who are overcoming hurdles every single day just to stay alive. The clients, who benefit from the services of God’s Love We Deliver and The Bowery Mission, overcome personal, health, financial and social barriers that many of us could not even fathom. Thus, it is our duty as fellow members of society to do our part to help them because society cannot just relegate them to the fringes of our community. Throughout the week, each member of our group had an opportunity to reflect on their preconceived perspectives on New York City, its homeless population, and the people that benefit from social programs that operate within the city’s limits. Some learned that a “homeless” person is not necessarily what you see on TV. Others were able to step outside their comfort zone in order to learn the truth about the world. Some even learned how strange it felt to be an outsider in a different community.

We did have moments of fun and hilarity.  These moments came about during the daily recaps when everyone shared stories about their journeys throughout the boroughs of New York City.  I learned that “pesto sauce” and “fish” do work well together.  We all learned that there is a technique when chopping up potatoes and cauliflowers.  Everyone had the technique down by the 4th or 5th bag of 50lbs of potatoes.

Simply put, ASB: NY was a great experience. It was not easy, but at the end of each day, we all played a part in providing a necessity someone else. I hope that through our service, the eleven ladies and I were able to increase awareness about homelessness and terminal illnesses, and continue the great work done by ASB and non-profits like The Bowery Mission and God’s Love We Deliver!

– Kester.

Post trip reflection

Well, we’re back! I already miss Tennessee and am scheming ways to return as soon as possible. A testament to how much our group bonded is shown by the fact that every trip member came together to go out to dinner last night, even after spending an entire week in one cabin together! Now faced with the daunting task of writing about my experiences, I feel overwhelmed. There is so much to say! Firstly, I would like to start with our hosts, Ed and Arleen Decker. They welcomed us into their home, and continued to surprise and inspire us as the week went on. Whether it was Arleen jumping in the lake with us, or the fact that Ed built his house, our cabins and many other buildings on the site with only one other person helping, Ed and Arleen taught us about hard work, having fun and appreciating life and the world around us. The Deckers organized a breakaway experience that included both direct environmental service and more indirect service at places such as the senior center. We also had many opportunities for education, which I absolutely loved. I was able to appreciate things like a conversation with a woman who is able to speak Cherokee much more than I might have, because I knew how few people are still able to speak it. If I really had to pick my most meaningful experience, it would have been meeting a man named Shorty. Shorty is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokees (the tribe that resides in NC and TN; the ones who escaped the trail of tears), and he took time out of his very busy life to talk to us, and teach us the fish game (the most fun game I have EVER played!), refusing to take anything in return. He talked openly and honestly with us about the troubles the tribe is facing. You may not know this, but Cherokee youth receive a very substantial monetary amount either upon graduation from high school, achieving a GED, or turning 21. In Shorty’s case, and many many others, this was wasted on cars, motorcycles etc. It is also true that the tribe will pay for full college tuition, books, a laptop, money for every A, less for every B, and Less for every C and money to go back and forth between home and school for anywhere they are accepted, and few utilize this opportunity. He also told us about problems with electing council, and about drug and alcohol abuse within the Cherokee boundary. However, what was more important than the negative things to me was Shorty’s story, which is about changing your life for the better, which he was able to do much later in life. He told us to just enjoy life, live life giving and not taking, being kind to the Earth and counting our blessings. This had a very strong impact on me, and if I keep nothing else with me as the years go on, I want to remember the Cherokee way of life; every action being from one open heart to another, without selfishness or ulterior motives. I loved every moment of this trip, from the education to the service to the fun things (like seeing a real bluegrass hootenanny, and meeting people I would never have run across above the Mason- Dixon line!), and I think the whole team would agree with me that we owe that to Ed and Arleen, who provided us with a truly special and inspiring spring break in Maryville (Mer-vul) Tennessee.


It has been over a month since my team and I have arrived home from Haiti. The eleven day trip was very enriching. I now have a better sense of how fortunate I am to have a plethora of opportunities and resources at my disposal in comparison to the Haitian community. Furthermore, I feel as if I am now an even more understanding person having had this experience.

The trip was overall very emotional for me. I felt immense joy when the house that we built was completed and while participating in the ceremony that dedicated the home to the homeowner. Hearing the struggles that the homeowner endured over the last two years made all the hard work, sweat, and muscle-aches worth it! To give the man, who previously felt helpless, a home was very gratifying. I am fortunate enough to have been a part of that moment when a new and positive chapter began in his life.

While there were many instances in which I felt satisfaction and bliss while I was in Haiti, there were many instances when I felt the opposite. Sorrow was often what I felt when I looked around and saw the unhealthy living conditions of many of the people living in Jacmel. People would be bathing in a river while others, only a few meters away, would be washing their cars and urinating in the water. Similarly, their was little consideration for trash disposal and trash could be seen everywhere, often with pigs digging through it for a meal. Having an interest in the medical field, it seemed like almost everywhere I looked, I could see the negative medical implications that could potentially result from the conditions.

Haiti, looking past the rubble/garbage, is a beautiful country. I have never seen such natural blue water like I saw when we hiked into the mountains. For the sake of preserving the country’s beautiful surroundings and protecting the welcoming Haitian people, it is my sincere hope that the country can manage itself more effectively in the future.

I went into this experience realizing that I would not be able to help every single Haitian. My goal, instead, was to make a positive difference in the life of at least one individual. Looking back, I realize I have exceeded my goal. My team and I have not only made a difference in the life of the homeowner, but for all of the children we played with at the four orphanages we visited and the individuals that received our water filtration systems. My team and I made an undeniable difference in the lives of many that we encountered in Haiti. What more could we have asked for?

Our first couple of days…

    So, we’ve settled in nicely here at Camp Baker. It’s just beautiful, with lots of land to play on with the campers. All of the staff members have been incredibly kind and helpful, especially in letting us raid their pantry for food to make.

    On Sunday we had the pleasure of hanging out with the kids who were spending a weekend respit at Camp Baker. These weekends away allow their caretakers some much-needed free time, as one can imagine how hard it is to take care of someone with developmental disabilities every day. It was really rewarding to be able to connect with these kids. At first, many of them were difficult to understand because of their disabilities. You could tell they were trying to express themselves, so we tried really hard to figure out what they were saying. When we finally did, it was an amazing feeling for us and the kids.

    I think one of the more difficult aspects we faced was dealing with the non-verbal kids and adults. They’re mostly unable to speak, but they’re still very much cognitivelyt aware of their surroundings. It’s like their stuck in their own minds. However, when we were able to communicate through hand motions and visual cues, it was incredible. Suddenly it became obvious as to what they wanted, and we were usually happy to oblige.

    Today, we worked with the adult day support program. We were all apprehensive because none of us had much experience with adults with disabilities. It ended up being a really great time, making crafts and doing aerobic stretches with them. I look forward to working with them again throughout the week and getting to know them better. I feel like we can develop great relationships with them, and they will open up and let us make even more developmetal advances with them. Even if they’re small victories, it will still be great for all involved.

    We spent the evening in beautiful Richmond, walking around and eating some authentic southern food. It gave us a chance to bond as a team and learn some new things about each other. We also saw other ARC (the parent organization of Camp Baker) facilities, and saw disabled individuals preparing to live in the community, which was fantastic to see. They have the opportunity to work for wage, something many disabled people have not been afforded in the past.

    We’re all incredibly excited for the coming week! We’ll continue to interact with both the kids and the adults, and at the end we get to organize a carnival. I personally cannot wait, and I know my team feels the same way.

ASB Tennessee in T-30 minutes

ASB Tennessee is leaving in just a few hours! Yet I still can’t believe that it’s already spring break and that I am leaving Lafayette with my team in less than an hour. Last night I finally had some time to actually think about this trip but I was left with the feeling that I really have no idea what to expect. I know we are going to do different kinds of service projects, some with the Cherokee, some about conservation in the mountains, sometimes with other school groups and other times on our own. Our schedule sounds like it will be pretty packed and I’m just ready for anything. It’s kind of nice going into this trip without any specific expectations because that means I can’t get disappointed and everything will be wonderful! Last year I went on an ASB trip to Jonesville in southern Virginia, actually only about an hour from Tennessee. Driving home (since we had about 9 hours to kill) we talked about ASB trips that would be really cool to go on. One idea that really excited me was possibly working with Native Americans because I basically know nothing about any of the different cultures besides what you learn in elementary school which is practically nothing. So then this year when I found out about the trip to Once Upon A Time in Appalachia I knew this was my chance. So here we are about to embark on this journey and I think I am going into this trip with an open mind and a ready attitude and I am more than ready to see what happens!!

One hour until departure

After a super busy week and a crazy amount of last minute errands, I’m finally ready to get to Tennessee (which is good because we are leaving in an hour!). I am so excited to get down there! The weather should be wonderful, (aside from a few thunderstorms here and there) and we are going to be doing so many awesome things. Out of all of the activities that we will be doing, I am most excited to learn the Cherokee Ball Game and to talk to tribe members. I am extremely curious to see what the land looks like in Tennessee. We are going to be in the mountains, so it will probably be beautiful, which will make all of our work in the forests even more fun. Most of all though, I’m excited to bond with my fellow Team Tennessee members as we work together and learn about an issue that we are all passionate about. Here we go!

The Morning of Tennessee!

Hey everyone! So it’s the morning of the big day – we’re going to Tennessee. I have just finished packing and will probably eat something yummy soon. I am so incredibly excited to be able to go on this trip. This is a great way to get involved, make new friends and do something super cool over spring break and there’s no better way to do it, then to go to Tennessee! The thing I am most excited for is to be out there with no lights, no noise, no distractions. Also, I’m not gonna lie that I’m excited to see what hikes we can do. I have a nerdy confession – I’m excited to see the geology because I’m a weirdo geology major so hopefully there’s some cool formations out there near the Great Smokey Mountains (actually, this is probably what I’m most excited for). The Cherokee culture seems very interesting and I want to learn more about them and their lifestyle. I like to immerse myself in other cultures and then compare them to the one I am used to. In addition, I’m excited to spend time in the forests doing whichever projects they need. I love being outdoors and think that this trip is the best combination of service and the outdoors. You really couldn’t ask for anything better. Well, I’m off to wrap up a few things and I can’t wait to see you all at WAC! :)

Virginia here we come!

I applied for this trip in the middle of September. I had been on College Hill for less than a month and had begun to realize that while you may know someone on the surface, but until you know their past, you might not fully understand their present. When asked about my trip preference (there is another ASB trip going to Tennessee over spring break), this is what I responded:


During a diversity workshop during Orientation, one classmate responded that while many Lafayette students might wear Sperry Topsiders, JCrew, and North Face, there is no typical Lafayette student—everyone has a unique story. Furthermore, these unique stories often time include hardships unknown to most people. What I did not know at the time is that this classmate, now one of my closest friends at Lafayette, struggles with ADD.  After having reflected on the different excerpts from the diversity presentation and having spoken with this friend, I realize that there is so much more to each person than that is seen on the surface. I particularly want to work with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities so that I cannot only show compassion, but also so that I can learn how the disabilities affect their lives. With this new knowledge, I would like to help educate the Lafayette community about people living with disabilities so that they, too, have a better understanding of these daily struggles. It is my hope that with this knowledge, both students at Lafayette and I think twice about how we judge people—that we get to know each individual thoroughly before making assumptions about why they act the way they do.  


Now fast forward to this past week. By the time Sunday, March 4th came around, I had been at Lafayette for almost a semester and a half. Everything had been going smoothly all year: classes, soccer, friendships, etc. Every once and a while, I would learn something about one of my friend’s past hardships, which briefly reminded me how easy my childhood was in comparison. Anyhoo, everyone had warned me that I would inevitably hit a freshman wall, and this past week definitely was my freshman wall.


Sunday night, my freshman wall began to form when I went to the McKelvy dinner discussion (everyone should go to at least one during their 4 years!) and loved it. Immediately following the discussion, I had to go to the freshman housing discussion. Long story short, everything started being turned upside down in regards my perspective on housing for next year. Ultimately, by the end of the discussion, I had realized that I wanted to apply to McKelvy, and I had my teammates’ support. The two-hour discussion between the eight of us had been somewhat long and awkward and it was inevitable that feelings would be hurt. It was slightly draining emotionally, but this little bump in the road was a good test for everyone’s friendships because as the saying goes, “true friendship isn’t about being there when it’s convenient; it’s about being there when it’s not.

The next day I was able to begin my application to the McKelvy. Mid-morning there was a bit of a health scare in my family. Unable to get a hold of my parents to find out what was going on, I was stressed out and scared. Throughout the day, friends, faculty, and staff at Lafayette continually supported me when I needed help. By the end of the day, I had learned that my sister was sick, but was going to be okay. Tuesday went well, although I was tired from everything. That night, however, I could not fall asleep. With two hours of sleep and having gone through a tough few days (respectively speaking), I finally left my own pity party Wednesday morning when I realized how truly great and blessed my life is. It took me until I wrote down all the good things in my life to fully realize how ridiculous I was behaving given the circumstances. I was worried about housing at that point. My sister was going to be okay, so I didn’t need to worry about that. Here’s an excerpt:


What is good in my life right now:

-I’m at the school I love.

-The people at Lafayette are great.

-Some important people in my life have stepped up and been there for me.

-My parents are healthy, supportive, and love me.

-My family is healthy (for the most part).

-The housing issue is trivial. Worst case? In a shitty dorm at the school I love.

-Cosmic Cup is always open when I need it.

There were many more bullet points on the list to remind me how great my life is. On the other side of the list, I put a poem that kept popping up in my mind this week. I had read it in Honors American Literature in high school, but found that it is applicable in college.


Richard Cory

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean-favoured and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good Morning!” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine — we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head.

At the bottom of the poem, I wrote, “You don’t know everyone’s story. People definitely have it worse. Pull it together because you are only dealing with trivial issues in the grand scheme of things. What does not kill you makes you stronger. #firstworldproblems. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

Essentially, I had come to the same conclusion that I wrote about in my ASB application. I had once again realized that I don’t know everyone’s story, but I know my own and I have been so lucky.

This week I have become more grateful, become closer friends with people because we faced adversity together, and got to enjoy one of the prettiest 70 degree winter March days Easton, PA has ever seen. All and all, I’d say that it was the perfect week to lead up to ASB Virginia.

In September, I had answer why I wanted to participate in ASB and what I hoped to gain. Here is my response:

First and foremost, I want to help people. I do not have as much time as I would like to volunteer during school because of the time commitment required of being a Division 1 soccer player. I have, however, a break from soccer during spring break. Secondly, after having spent a week in New Orleans for a service trip during my junior year of high school, I learned the importance of showing solidarity with those in need. Prior to the trip, I had pictured myself building houses; instead I was assigned to assist with much smaller projects such as helping seventh graders learn about the bayou and doing yard work at a house abandoned after the hurricane. I felt that I was not really doing much until I met Miss Madeline, an older woman whose house was destroyed by Katrina. When she returned to New Orleans, Miss Madeline sought volunteers to help rebuild her house and community. She was proactive and full of hope, even after all of the devastation. She taught me that even the smallest acts count to others and that just by being in New Orleans, I was helping the people’s hope and spirit. This message carries over to all acts of service. Thus I want to participate in Alternative School Break to not only help improve people’s physical environments, but also show solidarity. Ultimately, I hope to gain a better understanding about living life with a disability or living in rural Appalachia. 


My response still remains the same. I want to help people, show solidarity, but also see how people who face real adversity respond and keep such a positive outlook on life. As the Zac Brown Band sings it, “It’s funny how it’s the little things in life/That mean the most/Not where you live or what you drive/Or the price tag on your clothes/There’s no dollar sign on a piece of mind/This I’ve come to know.”

So with that, I’m off to Cosmic so I can start the trip with a tall Mexican hot chocolate with a shot of espresso and a bialy with strawberry jam! I hope everyone has a wonderful spring break!

Abby Williams, Class of 2015

It’s so soon!

I have been looking forward to this trip for so long and now that it is finally here it does not seem real!  This is my first trip with the Alternative School Break Club and I am very privileged to be able to have this experience.  I have never been to Tennessee and I am very excited to be enriched in Cherokee culture.  Although I am not sure what exactly to expect, I know that I am going to have the opportunity to meet a lot of people whose lives are very different from mine.  I can not wait to talk to them and hear all of their stories and ideas!  I am excited to be away from my fast-paced life style of being in school.  I want to take the time to experience everything at its fullest- without cell phones and internet, and learn some things that can only be taught through experience.  I hope that by the end of this trip, I will have a good appreciation for the Cherokee culture and will have had the honor of talking to the many people we will meet there.