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.

An Educational Week

While in Chicago, I was opened up to a lot of new experiences that I never was currently aware of.  We started the week off with a little bit of sightseeing in Chicago, which helped us bond as a group.  The positivity that we gained as a group touring the city in freezing temperatures only increased as the week went on.

On Monday, our group visited the three campuses of Maryville Academy.  We joined the children at the different campuses in a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. with a prayer service where we joined together in song.  Here, we met a lot of the children at Maryville Academy, and even got to talk to some of the boys about their future plans.  It was a good introduction to Maryville Academy, and allowed us to view where we would be helping out the rest of the week.

The rest of the week continued with us returned to both the Madden and Des Plaines campuses, where we got to know some of the kids better.  We started at Madden, and played card games with some of the girls with children.  This was a rewarding experience because we heard more about what some of the girls were going through.  I also participated in some crafts with some of the girls, while others in my group helped repaint a room in the house.  The craft we did was decorating tiles that would be hung on the wall, and it allowed us to interact with the girls creatively and see what quotes they were passionate about.  At first, it took some of the girls a little bit of time to warm up to us, but eventually they were very open with us.  One of the staff at the Madden home mentioned how one of the girls never talked much and she was really happy that she was opening up to us so much.

We finished the week at the boys campus, Des Plaines.  A group of us helped organize things in the gold warehouse and organize the Thrift Store, while others played basketball with some of the boys.  Even though I was not working hands on with the boys, I knew that the work that I was doing was going to help the boys on the campus.  Overall the week was very rewarding and I was able to learn a lot about the foster care system in Chicago.  I’m hoping that I can continue to bring what I learned in Chicago back to Easton and share what I learned about my social issue with people at Lafayette College.

not made of atoms but of tiny stories.

Yesterday was the last day of the ‘Pards On Wheels service trip, due to the impending snow storm. Following the same routine as always, (group breakfast, subway riding, getting instructions for the deliveries of the day) my partner Chris (AKA the deceitful cop—yes, I’m still livid over this) and I headed out of St. Malachy’s Church and walked toward 62nd street where we began our journey for the day.

Chris and I are also notorious for being the last ones to get back to the church. Hopefully this blog post will explain why.

We delivered meals to two women that really made an impact on our lives. The first was named Danielle. She invited us in, introduced us to her cat named Louis and told us about her amazing life. She studied theater at Carnegie Mellon and was a big advocate for the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. She showed us modeling photos from when she was our age, and boy, she was absolutely gorgeous. She looked at the photos with a hint of melancholic nostalgia in her eyes and told us, “Ah, I remember this girl. She was very pretty but very, very insecure.” Danielle showed us a ton of trinkets she had in her apartment from around the world, ranging from Japanese art to African hand carved wooden ornaments. I checked the time and discovered that we had been talking to Danielle for at least 45 minutes. We were both really upset that we had to leave, but I decided to ask her one piece of life advice she could give us.

She replied, “Never forget to stick up for yourself. You deserve it. Never feel like you don’t.”

She gave us a hug and as we said our goodbyes, her voice shook. I could hear in her voice the sound of tears that were about to surface as we left.


Interacting with the second woman was quite the experience. Her name was Clara. She had an aid and both only knew a few words in English. She invited us in as well! Chris communicated with Clara with broken, high school level Spanish, while I managed to use my knowledge of the Italian language (and Google translate as well, who am I kidding) to communicate. Before we knew it we were talking with Clara and her aid for well over 45 minutes. We knew we were running late on time so Chris and I tried to leave to deliver our remaining meals, however, they had cooked food and literally would not let us leave until we had some. As Clara pushed food onto our plates (even when we were full), she told us of her life in Argentina and her strained relationship with her daughter whom she had not talked to in over 15 years. We learned that all of her family doesn’t visit her because it is too expensive and they dislike New York. This really made me upset; I can’t even begin to fathom how that must make her feel. I checked the time and noticed it was 2PM (sorry, POW members) and told them we really had to leave. We hugged goodbye and were off delivering our last meals of the day. We literally sprinted through the streets of New York and made it back to the church by 2:12PM (on the dot!)


A beautiful thing about being human are the tiny, individual stories that comprise each and every one of us. This ASB trip was not only an opportunity to help those in need, but also an opportunity to hear and appreciate these stories from people who have already done it all. Thank you, Danielle and Clara for sharing your stories with us. I also want to give a big thank you to Matt for organizing this experience and always having a smile on your face. Last but not least, thank you to my wonderful teammates that really made this trip quite the experience. (The distance we walked on this trip was so great it could be comparable to Jupiter’s circumference, and the weather was not at all Lukewarm.) <3

I also want to give a shout out to Chris! Thanks for being my resilient partner and not crying even when all of our bags dropped in the middle of NYC traffic. Thank you for sharing your stories with me as well.

-Elizabeth (sorry this was so long lol)

1/19 McAllen: The Reality of Immigration

McAllen has already surprised our team in many ways. First, we were greeted by plam trees and warm weather after a cloudy flight. We settled in to St. Peter’s, our home base for the week. Not only have we experienced hospitality within the school and our community partner, Alyssa; we have experienced the work of an immigrant assistance program. It was incredible to see how many people are served within a small community. I did not fully understand the process of immigration, the difficulties of getting into the country, separation of family members, detention centers, the role of the cartel and coyotes, and sponsors. It was a truly remarkable experience to work directly with families that traversed the Rio Grande. Though they have been through so much to reach this point and thought they have such a challenging journey ahead, they have maintained incredible spirit. Despite all the hardship, these families were able to smile. We played such a small part in there journey but we witnessed the beginning of a fresh start in the US – a shower, soup, clean clothes, toiletries and a backpack, a nap in a cot. We fumbled with our limited spanish language skills to assist families to the best of our ability. All we could say as they left to catch their buses was “buena suerte.” I hope these people and the many families we did not have the pleasure of meeting can find peace and happiness. I am eager to move forward with service – to meet students and faculty of IDEA schools and uncover how the issues of immigration and education coalesce here in McAllen.


Today started with a 7 a.m. ride from Laf to the Philly airport. When we all met at the airport, our craving for a cup of coffee took over and we passed the security right away. After we bonded over coffee and other relevant (and irrelevant) topics, we proceeded with our flight and arrived to Chicago.
From there, we took the train and although Alex (our team leader) had a small heart attack when she realized that she forgot her wallet in the train, we made it to the hostel safely and in one piece. (Don’t worry she was able to get it before the door was closed). The hostel is very pretty and clean which was not anticipated by anyone of us -lucky us! Anyways, we, then, divided into 2 groups and found our rooms to settle in. As everyone was moderately tired at that point, we have decided to stay in the hostel to watch a movie about foster care. The movie initiated a comprehensive discussion about the foster care system and the effect of abuse, domestic violence etc. on the children. It also left us with many question which was also furthered when we couldn’t decide on what to eat. Finally, we all agreed on the safe choice -ordering Chinese- and that we wanted to deepen those questions during reflection.
In a nutshell, today was a great start for the Foster Hope and “bonding” could not have been any better. For me, it was promising to see that we tried and found a way to make each one of us pleased. The kids or teenagers that we will work with throughout the week have already been through approxiametly 10 losses. I believe that our best shot for this trip to be meaningful and beneficial is through our positive energy and unity. And, I am thrilled to announce that we have it…

At the Immigration Center

Today was our first day of service on our trip, and it couldn’t have been more rewarding! Even though the past few days have been really fun, including a team trip to the beach and bonding during a game of laser tag, this has been my favorite day so far. We spent most of today in an immigration center helping families get clean clothes, their first shower in in days, warm food and medical care. These families had traveled up from countries like Guatemala and El Salvador, hundreds of miles from McAllen TX and even further from their final destinations around the US.


Seeing the the joy on the faces of these families at an opportunity to feel safe, comfortable and clean. Interacting with them throughout this experience in order to help find what they needed was difficult due to the language barrier but ultimately the most rewarding part of the day. I am so grateful to have been able to help this amazing organization even if it was only for today. I’m also so looking forward to the service we’re about to embark on at the IDEA school in the following days and the ways that these issues will continue to be a part of the service we do.

Day Two, I Guess?

It’s most definitely 9:30am right now. Most certainly. But since we are in Texas, I guess that doesn’t count – it’s an hour behind over here. After getting off of our flights (plural) to McAllen, we’ve explored a few things so far; and to me, it feels like nothing has really changed – except the water and the weather! And who knew there would be Mexican Coke (as in the soda, guys!)?

Anyway, we are beginning our first official day in Texas as a team, but working in a school means we have to wait until the school opens for the week. Can’t wait to begin!


After an early morning of airport lines and traveling our team finally made it to Chicago! We are so excited to be here and to finally be putting all our semester long work into action. We spent the day planning the logistics for the week, not forgetting which night we are going to have Chicago deep dish pizza, of course. We also saved some time for some more learning. We watched a documentary on wards of the state that was very moving.

I believe our group is very prepared for our week of service, but I also know that there is a lot more to be learned. I hope we all keep open minds and try to absorb as much information as we can so we can further our own knowledge and make this truly an unforgettable experience.

I know this group has the right passion, heart, and work ethic to not only make a difference in Chicago, but to take what we learn and make a difference back home too, and that is what I hope we are able to accomplish.