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An Alternative Spring Break Experience

April 2, 2012

By Megan L.

The experience that most stood out for me during an Alternative Spring Break Trip to Schenectady, NY, was meeting a young man and his four young children at a community dinner at the City Mission.

All the girls were under the age of 10, and were out for “a date night with daddy.”  At one point during the meal, all of the volunteers were lined up against the wall, waiting for the next task to do, and one of the girls pointed to us and asked her father, “Why are those people wearing those aprons and stuff?” The father looked at us and said, “Those girls are helping people, and one day you will, too.”

We later learned that the father was entering the Freedom Academy program that City Mission runs to help people get out and stay out of poverty.  I was overcome with a feeling of hope. Here was a young man, setting aside his pride to go and ask for the help that he needs to provide a better life for himself and his daughters.

During the week we worked alongside the residents who live in the shelter associated with the City Mission, and performed many different tasks.  We worked at the distribution center, which is where all the clothing donations are sorted.  At the distribution center we sorted through hundreds, if not thousands, of shoes. Please, next time you donate a pair of shoes, make sure they are matched together.

We also attended a class that helps residents bridge the gap out of poverty.  In this class we learned about the importance of communication and education.  This was put to the test just a few hours later, when we learned that one of the ladies from the community is deaf.  One of the other students, who knows some basic signing, went over and talked to her and then taught some other volunteers how to say a few things.  The woman had the biggest smile on her face when she saw us trying to sign.  Smiley, one of the residents/staff members, came over and was explaining us that communication isn’t when you talk down to somebody; communication is when you talk with somebody.  It’s all about not being afraid to be on the same level. We made this woman’s night, simply because we went out of our comfort zone and were trying to communicate with her.

Throughout the week it dawned on me that many of these people have very few people, or nobody else, who they can rely on.  Many of the people may be struggling with addictions and no longer have contact with their children.  One of the men said to me that although many groups volunteer with City Mission, this was the first time that he felt truly cared for by a volunteer group.

I know that for me personally, I went on this trip with an attitude of giving. I was not really expecting anything in return (with the exception of personal growth). I went to help and serve a community in need, and in return I have gained a family. 

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.

Matthew 25:40

Megan is a student at Misericordia University, a Mercy-founded university in Dallas, PA.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Dennis permalink
    April 2, 2012 7:58 pm

    This was an amazing piece of writing at its finest. And to think it was written by a college student who devoted her own time to help others over her spring break. I love to see pieces like this written. Way to go Megan.

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