I hope to empower others like I have been empowered.

I hope to give and grow as a result of this trip. In our first class one my classmates said, “In life we are programed to take and seldom give to others”. After class I thought about what she had said and how it applied to my everyday life. I realized that I am guilty of doing this. I take all that life gives me.

From the time I was young, I was given everything I needed and majority of what I wanted. When I did not get what I wanted, I would work hard until I could get it. Whether that was persuading my parents or doing extra chores around the house. However I never gave back to them or the community that built me.

Once my classmate posed a thought that challenged my prior thinking. I started to realize that I needed to make a change in my lifestyle. I want to impact the communities I am apart of by giving them what they need rather than taking what I believe I need. From this started to think about what I will be bringing on this trip.

When I started the process of being a trip leader and going through the training with James Madison University’s Alternative Spring Break Program, I went in with the expectation that I would gain new leadership skills. I did not know if I would gain much more. The program has a retreat for all of the trip leaders in the fall. In which, we tell of the story of our self, unpack our identity and learn about race and privilege. All of these were concepts I have never been asked to talk about before. No one has ever asked me to explain to them what makes up my identity, or explained to me what privilege was. I wonder how many people have been asked that question.

Needless to say after the retreat I felt empowered, I felt understood and I felt challenged. I understood concepts that were just words on paper to me. I wanted to recreate this experience with others; I wanted them to feel as enlightened as I had. I wanted to share with everyone what I just had learned.

What I learned during this retreat was, I have privilege and the power to bring privilege to others who do not have the privileges I have. I should not feel guilty for having privilege but, I should be an ally for those who do not. I should advocate for those who do not have the privileges I have and I should educate others on the social issues we are faced with. I should learn about the root causes about these social issues so I can make an impact on the community I am trying to work with because social issues have different root causes in different areas. I should not be afraid to speak my truth and listen to others while they are speaking theirs

Throughout my training, I have been made aware that sometimes community service can be more harm than good. Sometimes the group that is going to do service has this idea that they are “saviors” and they view the community that they are working with as beneath them. Sometimes the community they are serving does not give the group a lot of work to do so the volunteers are more disruptive than helpful because the agency is babysitting the volunteers for the week. Or, the volunteers are not educated on the social issue and they end up not helping the community at all and participate in “voluntourism”.

With this trip to Phoenix I hope to do none of the above. I hope to bring a level of community awareness. I know with the class I am taking I will be knowledgeable of the social issue we are working with, but I will have to be cognizant of what the community wants.

When volunteering, the idea service learning is used simultaneously. I have recently been asked is it better to do service learning or to partake in learning service? I immediately thought service learning because that is what I have been programed to believe. However, when we look at service as an experience only the volunteers’ gain something from it could cause the savior complex or a power imbalance. With the idea of learning service we see service as an equal opportunity to gain something and to give something. On our trip I would like to be a steward of learning service.

I started off this reflection by stating I would like to grow as a result of this trip. Which is true, but growth is two way street. As you grow you are influencing those around you to do the same, you could be growing together, or their progress might have inspired a change within you. As we take this next step to Erase Indifference, we need to remember that we are inspiring growth in others and we are going to grow as people. We are not going to on this trip to cultivate our own life experiences, yet to enrich the lives of those around us.

– Sam Shepherd

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