So as its the day before we leave on our DC adventure, i am very excited to see how this experience is going to play out. The only other ASB trip i have been on is to the Dominican Republic and i am excited to experience the differences ad similarities that DC holds. I haven’t been to DC since i was younger and while i am excited to explore and see the sights one expects to see when visiting the city i am most excited to work with CSM and meet those who live and work in the area. i think that is one of the most amazing things that this experience offers, engaging in and with the community and those that live there. i think that hunger and homelessness is an issue that is often over looked. we often think about these issues as ones that plague people who live abroad and don’t pay enough attention to the people who need our help in our own country. I am also exited that we are working with a group like CSM, after being educated about their goals and the work they do i believe the ASB goals match up with theirs and i am glad we have them to open us up to their contacts and a city they are very familiar with. there may be people and experiences we would not have if we didn’t have the opportunity to work with this organization.

This must be the place

Sitting in our car outside of my brother’s apartment in Philadelphia, I saw a man made shack no bigger than the size of a restroom stall. Coated with what might be considered useless garbage to us, it was a home. Fervently decorated in blue tarp, tattered blankets, the ground was made soft by old newspaper, the walls of the confine made durable by cardboard and crate material. Hidden between a metal beam supporting the bridge overhead, and a rusted chain link fence towards the rear, the home was an image imprinted into my consciousness. From within my car, I pondered a homeless lifestyle, while the heat blasted from the fans around me, and music and texting poured from my electronic devices. Eating an orange at the time, I wondered how the person inside found themselves in such a circumstance. I wondered when the last time they ate was, or whether they were warm, or whether anyone even cared that they were out there. I sat there, my eyes fixed on the faded blue tarp, and red blanket, that seemed to be the only protection the poor soul had from the bitterness of winter… and of the concrete world surrounding.   Lost in a fiscal exile, the person most likely was alone. Words from my brother’s girlfriend when they finally arrived to the car indicated that the man indeed had a friend, a homeless friend just across the street. Unlike him however, the friend lost his shelter the week prior from the ravaging of participants in the “Occupy” riots nearby.  Why was he the one that had to endure this? Hasn’t he been through enough? Undercover of darkness, the friend’s shelter was destroyed.  However, our friend’s remained. A week later, we returned from the shore to drop my brother off at the apartment again, to return to his life, and us to ours.  But a glance out the car window revealed the remaining shack. Not yet torn down from angry protesters or police officers, it stood, tired from the unceasing wind, and the constant battle against the cold.  Minor rennovations to the outside confirmed that a person indeed is living inside, a person seeking his role in this world. This must be the place.

Before D.C.

This is my first time ever doing an immersive community service trip.

I’ve done community service before, but never has it consisted of more than several hours a day working a stone’s throw away from the Hill. The project we are about to undertake is an entirely different story. I am about to embark on what I hope to be an intensive journey with a group of people I hope to soon call good friends. Working and living in Washington, D.C. for an entire week, we will help the ‘Hungry and Homeless’ in the streets of the city. I am not sure what to expect from this type of community service.

On the one hand, I know this is going to be a huge learning experience for me. Anyone who has done any Community Service knows the emotional and spiritual growth it brings, as well as the stories you hear from people of all walks of life.

But on the other hand, I am going to be in a completely alien environment for a week working for a mission ingrained in a faith I don’t follow. I don’t care about the religious affiliation of the trip, I just don’t know how isolated or unsure that will make me feel about it.

All in all I’m extremely excited about the upcoming week, and hope to grow a lot from it.


I am about to leave for JFK Airport with Jacmel, Haiti as my final destination.  This will be my third ASB trip and my first time as a team leader.  My first two trips were to Ecuador and to a small town in Appalachia, Virginia.  What I learned from both trips was that each one had a significant and profound, yet different affect on me.  Ecuador opened my eyes culturally, while Appalachia had a more personal connection to the family that we helped.  Although I do not know what Haiti holds for me, I am confident that it while have a much larger affect on my life than any other ASB trip I have done.  Our work promises to led to cultural and personal interactions with the people of Haiti.  Despite the nerves that have been building as the trip has drawn closer, I know that they are a result of the challenges that my team and I will encounter and overcome together, while also rising to our own struggles.

Costa Rica 2012: Pre-Trip Thoughts

Costa Rica 2012: Pre-Trip Thoughts

It is the Winter after my Sophomore year of college, I’ve been very busy and time is flying by without me even realizing it at times. As I tell my friends and family that I am going to Costa Rica for a school trip there are two phases of responses. The first phase goes something like this “Wow! I heard Costa Rica is beautiful I’ve always wanted to go! You are so lucky, what are you doing there?!” I respond with something along the lines of “Yeah! I’m really excited it was kind of a spontaneous decision for me, we are working on sustainable agriculture!” After the words sustainable agriculture come out of my mouth that’s when the second response phase occurs: “Oh that sounds interesting!” it is not the tourist attraction most were expecting to hear; nonetheless I expect this trip to be a great experience that I will certainly never forget for a number of reasons.  

First off, it is the first time I am traveling without my family on an airline. Also, it is the first time
I traveling outside of the country other than Greece and Cyprus. I have never been to this part of the world before and I am looking forward to learning more about the culture and lifestyle of the people living in Jthese parts and having a more worldly view. This definitely marks a point in my life where I feel more independent and have the ability to make decisions that I know are best for me. This is one of the reasons why I applied to the ASB program. I am
also very motivated to do something good and be active in service. I haven’t really participated in that much volunteering since high school and it is something that I truly value and wish to continue throughout my lifetime.  Perhaps this marks the point where I begin to have a more active role in the community. 

I am currently writing this blogpost in the airport at 4am after I started packing only a few hours prior, I did not give this trip a lot of thought before departing but my attitude is that it will add to the excitement of the experience. I don’t know what to expect but I am up for anything and am eager to learn and do and that is what I’m looking forward to!

-Andrew Kamilaris

The Countdown From Newark Airport Begins

After completing my externship, it just hit me. I’m going to Costa Rica! In a few hours from now, I’ll be leaving from a flight out of here.

I really do not want to make any assumptions of our trip because as I have learned from a previous internship to Honduras two summers ago, I tend to over generalize. I’m ready to learn, meet new people, become closer to our team, and bring these new ideas and apply them to our campus.

I’m looking forward to learning more about Costa Rican culture and traditions. I even focused my Latin American history project on Costa Rica’s brief civil war. Finally, I want to continue to learn more about sustainable practices in different Latin American countries.


Off to Haiti

In the true spirit of procrastination, I’m posting my pre-trip reflection the day we fly out to Haiti. I don’t think the fact that I’m going to Haiti has hit me yet. When I’ve traveled out of the country in the past, I usually don’t get the “wow, I’m going to be in another country” feeling until the plane is close to landing. I am confident, though, that I will experience that moment later today when we approach the landing strip in Haiti.

Nonetheless, I’m incredibly excited to actually get started on our service work. Our team was unsure of what exactly we were going to be doing up until about a month ago. I can’t wait to make our impact in Jacmel, Haiti by working on a home to house those still homeless from the January 2010 earthquake. While I’ve done my fair share of traveling, I have never been on a service trip before. I look forward to being able to make an impact in the Jacmel community and help Haitians. Other than leaving a physical mark, I’m excited to interact with people throughout the ten days, from just having a conversation with a local to visiting an orphanage. The fact that the country we’re doing service in is Haiti does not really phase me at all. When it comes to traveling, I have very few reservations, probably due to the fact that the first time I went to India was when I was three years old. To me, Haiti is just another country in need of help from compassionate people like each member of our group.

Well, I am all packed and ready to head to JFK tomorrow. Though I’ll miss being at home for the remainder of the break, I consider myself so lucky to have the opportunity to participate in this ASB trip to Jacmel and I cannot think of a better way to spend time off from school.

Who’s really helping Haiti?

Tomorrow my team and I will be on a plane bound for Port-au-Prince. Probably the only country in the world which has a notorious last name: the poorest country in the western hemisphere. If in the past Haiti was the glory of the French colonies and the first independent nation in Latin America in 1804, nowadays the country faces the challenge of rebuilding a shattered and impoverished nation.

We can all remember how the response to the January 2010 earthquake was sluggish, chaotic and insufficient. Since then many countries around the world have pledged to assist Haiti, but the lack of coordination has so far halted the so-called transformation of the country and the establishment of a functioning and efficient government.

It has been two years since the earthquake, but I feel that little has changed in Haiti for the better although I’ve never been there. As I read and learn more about the history of the country, I realize that by no means this is the first tragedy that the country has ever faced. I was astonished to know that for almost 30 years, until 1986, the Haitian population suffered under a brutal dictatorship which greatly contributed to the impoverishment of Haiti. On top of that, I realized that the rampant poverty of Haiti has been one of the best funding sources of its elite and corrupt government.  They transformed the misery of the slums of Port-au-Prince into their best exporting product, managing to get millions of dollars from several governments around the word. This happened in the past and certainly is happening right now, in the aftermath of the earthquake. I believe that the government has not done much with all the money it got, and it seems that Haiti is solely run by the hundreds and hundreds of NGOs scattered all over the country. Sometimes, they might be no better than the government: there is corruption, and lack of coordination and planning.

Realizing this harsh reality, I wonder:  so, after all, is it worth donating money to Haii? Traveling there? Is it possible to change anything at all? The only answer I can find is yes, it is indeed possible to change something if we decide to do our best to make a difference. NGOs might not be perfect organizations, but I’m sure that right now there are thousands of people honestly concerned about the harsh reality of the Haitian population. They are willing to sacrifice and work hard not to teach Haiti what it should do, but instead temporarily assist its development to strengthen the self-empowerment of Haiti’s government, public institutions, and above all, its people. This is how I see our trip to Haiti: more than building houses, this is a unique opportunity to meet and interact with Haitians, forming bonds of friendship, cooperation and learning. I’m really looking forward to travelling to Haiti on Wednesday, and I have been doing my best to get there prepared: besides studying French, I’ve been trying to learn a few sentences in Haitian Creole. A great start to an unforgettable experience down in Jacmel, Haiti!!

Pre-Trip Post

Less than two days until my trip and I am honestly more nervous that excited. Don’t get me wrong, my first time traveling to a different country other than the Dominican Republic is bound to make me excited. However, since I don’t know what to expect or how to fully prepare, that clouds my excitement. I barely know my team so that definitely adds to the nervousness. Anyone else who applies to ASB, I will definitely try to make them come to the meetings so they can feel a little more comfortable around their team. I would also do all I can do find out why they aren’t coming to meetings. I digress. All this worrying is for nothing but I’m so used to worrying that I don’t know what else to do. Not to mention that I don’t come from the most supportive place. Whatever. That’s never stopped me before, I’ll have fun, even by myself.

On a different note, I don’t have expectations. I want to go in this trip with no preconceived notions or judgments. Let’s do this.

I think this trip will be one of moments in my life I’d probably never forget. Even though I don’t know my team as well as I should and they don’t know me, they will be people that I will always remember and associate with my time in Costa Rica. I’m grateful that although my team leader and I don’t have the best relationship, I’m still a part of the group. Okay well I’m done blabbing right now. See you in a couple weeks! God Bless.

Pre-service Goals

I am getting more excited about the wonderful experiences that our team will have at La Gran Vista, a sustainable organic farm, each day we get closer to our departure. As a team, we’ve had a few months to get to know each other, learn more about Costa Rica, and individually think about what want to accomplish on our service trip. I imagine that each of us value certain elements of the trip differently. Before I leave, I want to reflect on the parts of the trip that I value personally and identify my personal goals for the upcoming service trip.

I spent much of the last few years learning about the environment and becoming a more informed citizen. Through my studies and the service work in which I participated in recent years, I learned much about the immediate problems facing the environment. I feel like have a slightly better understanding of the world as compared to when I first became interested in the environment; however, my picture of the world is incomplete, still developing, and constantly changing. I am excited to have a direct positive impact on the environment and to learn more about sustainable agriculture and the region of Costa Rica we will be traveling to.

It is a great privilege to be able to share the upcoming week with knowledgeable and interesting people who have similar values as myself, but as I have learned over the past few months, all come from different backgrounds and have unique experiences. I am really looking forward to learning more about my teammates not only during the trip, but also during the upcoming semester as we continue our service experience back in the Lafayette community.

Rather than looking at the work we do in Costa Rica as insignificant or something that will have a small impact on the world, I see nothing insignificant about this upcoming experience. This trip is a meaningful service learning opportunity that will help me shape my personal view of the world, and although I am off-campus for the direct service component of the trip, it will partially define how I remember my time at Lafayette. I am very much looking forward to my ASB trip to Costa Rica, and I look forward to sharing my expereince when I return.

Until then,