Under the intense heat of the afternoon sun, I delicately layered coats of brown paint on an old wooden bench. It wasn’t much to look at before I got my hands on it, and I was determined to completely transform it. The entire week had been devoted to painting an expansive mural that wrapped around a daycare center in Leesburg, Florida. Forty Arcadia students and alumni worked together to help revitalize the community that we became apart of during spring break. While most of the volunteers worked on an expansive underwater scene, I crouched on the front lawn, focused on painting gold doubloons and glittering gemstones. Dipping my fingers in black paint, I created streaks over the brown wood, as if it had aged at the bottom of the ocean. My efforts were rewarded with gasps of glee from the children as they poured out of the front door. My bench-turned-treasure-chest was a hit.
Since finding Arcadia’s Community Service Office (CSO), I’ve realized that service is something I’m incredibly passionate about. An integral part of that service has been the annual Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip, a weeklong service trip organized by CSO. During my sophomore and junior year, I traveled to LaPlace, Louisiana, to do demolition work of hurricane affected homes, and recently I went to Leesburg, Florida, to paint the aforementioned mural. During each trip, I’ve found fulfillment in getting my hands dirty and directly helping people in need. My bench was only one example of such an opportunity. However, this year my experience on alternative spring break was a little different.
For ASB 2015, a group of 38 Arcadia students and alumni traveled to New Iberia, Louisiana, with the goal of assisting Envision da Berry, a non-profit organization working to revitalize the local community and create sustainable change. As New Iberia is considered a food desert (limited access to nutritious foods like fresh fruits and vegetables), a large portion of Envision’s work has been building a community garden.
During our week in New Iberia, we were able to accomplish quite a bit. We moved limestone, built two sets of stairs and a ramp, painted two buildings, patched a roof, painted a parking lot, helped serve a meal to the community, and more. While I dabbled in most of these projects, I wasn’t able to fully commit to any of them. As the student coordinator of the trip, I was otherwise occupied in traveling between service sites, the lumber store, the tool shed, and the kitchen, helping to make sure that my volunteers were well equipped, fed and hydrated.
As I said previously, I really enjoy hands-on work. Give me a shovel and I’ll happily move rocks for hours. Doing something that requires minimal thought is relaxing to me, and the feeling I get after seeing a project completed is exhilarating. But, instead of shoveling, I had other responsibilities.
If I was asked before the trip if I would have been satisfied with less hands-on work, I’m not sure what my answer would have been. But, having done just that for a week, I’ve realized that it was just as fulfilling. Truly coordinating service—enabling others to experience the rush of tearing down a porch or working on a roof—came with a rush of its own.