When I first learned about this trip to Phoenix, I was apprehensive and nervous about working with refugees. I had gone on many mission trips in high school to help rebuild homes, but I have never gone somewhere to work directly with people. The Lost Boys of Sudan and those of the Catholic Charities have witnessed and endured some things I could not even begin to fathom. Will I, a small privileged girl from Virginia, really make any difference to these survivors? I complain about filling my car up with gas or that my iPhone dies too quickly. I almost have feelings of guilt about going to meet the refugees and act like I have any idea of their past situations.
I believe that some people who choose to go on community service trips have an underlying thought process that they are in someway “above” those they are helping. They go to volunteer the less fortunate in hopes to gain insight. However, I have completely different thoughts about what I think this trip will be like. While they have gone through unimaginable circumstances, they have so many qualities I wish I possessed. Seeing the good in all circumstances and not giving up when the going gets tough. I deal with so many personal issues and I often have moments of complete despair. From this trip, I know it should not be about me, but I hope to realize that no matter what circumstance you are in you CAN be happy, to embrace life and the surroundings and to be grateful for every little thing.
Happiness is something that means a lot to me. I take happiness very personally because it is something I deal with. Making someone smile, in my opinion, is one of the best things you could ever do for someone. I hope that during this trip, we as a team can make someone smile. I want to remind them that they have never and will never be forgotten. Refugees should be more than embraced in our society and should always feel a sense of certainty in their new lives in the United States.
In terms of successful service learning trips, I am very proud to say I am taking part in JMU’s ASB program. The way our system has ensured education on the topics, having amazing group leaders, and adequately preparing us for our trips is amazing. In order to really help others, we have to be educated on them, their situation and their environment. I am grateful to be taking a class alongside preparing for the trip because I know that it is only going to make helping the refugees more meaningful and more successful.
While it is natural to be nervous or have questions, I feel so much better knowing that we are not being “thrown” into any situations and will not be disrupting any program when we get to Phoenix. I cannot express enough how wonderful I believe this program is and how lucky I am to have the opportunity to live with others for a week to make, even a small, difference to someone. While it may be selfish to say that I am hoping to gain perspective, I am hoping far more to give to the refugees and remind them that they are thought of and are cared about in the US.