on Friday, April 24, 2009

I have never been the girl that needs closure when it comes to books or movies. I have always loved being able to create my own little ending in my mind or am just content with never knowing what becomes of the characters that I have invested my time and emotions in. So, I was somewhat shocked with myself by having the huge urge to go back to the many places that I have gone to or to follow up with those that I have met while on my volunteering ventures.

I have had the opportunity to return to New Orleans exactly one year from my first trip. It was the most incredible experience seeing how the city had grown and rebuilt since the last time I was there. I was able to drive past the old houses that my team had previously helped to restore and I was filled with the most content feeling of all. Knowing that things were moving forward in the lives of those that we helped was a huge blessing to see in person.

If I had the opportunity to venture back to Panama and revisit the loved ones that I had established in San Felix, David, and those in the Ngobe villages, I would in a heartbeat. I would love to see what is going on in their lives and find out whether the food sources that we helped to build up and mature have truly helped improve their quality of life and whatnot.

Sometimes I have the biggest urge to jump on a plane and just go, leave my life in the States and continue the work that the group that I went with that summer had started. There is never end end of the need of others and I know that there are few that are willing to go so far to help a few villages in the jungle.

In fiction, I am able to dismiss the need for an ending because those people that I invested my time in was in a very shallow fashion, whereas these trips I have take have led to extremely deep emotion connections and the true desire to know how the lives of these incredible people have turned out to be. I suppose there are some things you devote your time to and never see what the true impact is on those you have tried to effect. Knowing that I have tried to do improve a few lives is enough for me to be satisfied.


on Monday, April 20, 2009

"We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service relationship to humanity."

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Throughout my life, I have never wondered why others have gone out of their way to lend a helping hand to someone in need. It has always felt natural on some level.

In both my Anthropology and Psychology classes, I have been continuously told that humans are social creatures and to develop properly, we must have interaction with other people. I would feel that not only would we need to have social interaction to be stimulated, but that we would need positive interaction, as well, to become balanced person.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, judging our successes in life have always leaned towards what type of wealth we have posessed and whether we have all that we have ever wanted. Our "service relationship to humanity" should have the most powerful impact on how others see us and what we have contributed and truly gained throughout life.

I feel that if you want to truly inspire others, you must reach out and do something for the community. Looking at the lives of Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King, Jr., we can see how great of an impact giving back and trying to better the lives of others can truly have on a community, a nation, and the world.

Bill Clinton once said that "volunteers are vital to enabling this country to live up to the true promise of its heritage." What is truly important to me is to make someone's life a little bit better through the actions that I take and the way I choose to live my life. I hope that one day, I will be seen as someone who has truly given back all of the things that I have been given. I would love to be known as someone who trys not to put herself first and trys to inspire others to do the same.

CIY and International Trips

on Friday, April 17, 2009

As this blog begins to come to a close, I would like to begin to talk about different ways to help others and volunteer your time in a way that can benefit the lives of those in other countries, as well as our own.

Through my experiences, I have almost always sought out these different venues through my church or other Christian organizations. I was able to go to the country of Panama for a month through an organization called Christ in Youth (CIY) or I have heard of others finding mission/service work through YouthWorks.

These different programs help find different opportunities in the area where you would want to volunteer your time and help to layout your trip, helping to find different resources to create a more efficient, helpful, and fun experience for everyone involved. Once you get everything in line, most of your trip can be planned out for you.

For my Panama trip, I was able to reach my destination of David, Panama, and after that, the different villages were prepared for our arrival and we were able to help them in as many ways as possible within our time frame. Everything ran extremely smoothly and we were able to help these people in so many different ways.

If this is something that you would really want to do, there is no stopping you from achieving your goal of helping someone in need. There is no need to feel intimidated by a large, international trip because there are so many people that are there to help out and plan these trips for you.

Life After Death: Organ Donation

on Monday, April 13, 2009

With all of the medical shows now scattered all of the TV, I have began to wonder what will become of my things after I get old and pass away. My possessions? I'm not sure what to do with or who to leave certain things to. What I have always known that I want to do for sure, no questions asked, is donate my organs.

I have always been a supporter of organ donation because even if my life could not be saved, one or several lives could be. When there are over 101,000 different people waiting for specific organs, I feel as if we need to step up and take on the responsibility and duty of being a donor.

What is really great is that there is no age limit to become a donor. There are instances where a 60-year old's heart could be much healthier than a 20-year old's. Anyone can be a donor, even if you have a disease. Where this disease may affect one of the possible organs, there others that could still save lives.

Helping people has always been my life, whether it is something extremely small like giving a smile or going on a service trip to a foreign country. Why would I not want my final step out of this world benefit someone who is in desperate need. Their time is not up and I feel like it would be my responsibility to help them stay alive and healthy as long and as soon as possible.

What I found out while I was in the process of writing this article is that there is a program that is promoting itself to colleges and universities specifically, called "2009 National Donation Campus Challenge." Their goal is to register 60,000 new organ donors by November. On OrganDonor.Gov, in regard to this Campus Challenge, they say, "The 2009 National Donation Campus Challenge promotes partnerships between organ and tissue donation organizations and colleges, universities, and other post-secondary institutions. Working together to register 60,000 new organ donors by November 30, 2009. You can be the one who gets administrators, staff, faculty, students, alumni — the whole campus community — to join in and sign up. "

Ending World Hunger with Vocab?

on Friday, April 10, 2009

What I discovered during the first semester of my senior year of high school, and subsequently donating countless hours to, is a website called

This site is a way to help feed the wold—one vocabulary word at a time! When visiting the site, you are prompted with a word and four possible meanings of that word. When you correctly answer one of these questions, the site, and its advertisers, will donate ten grains of rice.

A new feature that they have added onto the site has been the option to change the subject of the words. FreeRice used to just give the viewer English Vocabulary words and called it a day, but now they are allowing you to change the language of the vocab, specifically for studying the new languages and beginning vocabulary of Italian, French, German, and Spanish, along with the new options of being tested on geography, country capitals, chemical symbols, English grammar, and famous paintings.

What I found really helpful was that during the time that I came across this website, it was around SAT time and I was able to study vocab while still helping to contribute to the war on hunger.

There is an extensive variety of continuous tests on the site, so one can spend anywhere from five seconds to hours on FreeRice and still help to make a difference for the world. To date, FreeRice has been able to donate 62,622,922,890 grains of rice after starting on October 7, 2007.

FreeRice is a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Program. They partner with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. This site has two goals, as taken from their website, to provide education to everyone for free and to help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

I took the opportunity of coming across this website and told my fall semester senior English class. My teacher was an extremely relaxed teacher at my high school, especially because this was a senior course and was seen as a blow-off class. While working in the computer lab on a paper, my teacher would let us only visit FreeRice on the Internet after finishing our projects and papers. It doesn't really seem as if FreeRice would be any fun whatsoever, but everyone in that class, which happened to be a hodgepodge of every group of seniors in my school, became quite attached to the little game and would spend all of our free time trying to get ten more grains of free rice.

I would definitely encourage anyone to check out this website, even for just a minute, it would really help and it is completely painless and actually beneficial to you and your vocabulary.

Reaching to Uganda, Africa

on Thursday, April 9, 2009

I am currently taking an Anthropology class entitled, “Global Perspectives on Health.” In this course, my class has been able to look into the certain diseases that affect different countries and why they manifest themselves so differently from culture to culture and area to area.

In my class on Monday, we began to discuss the different epidemics of infectious diseases that have surfaced in different areas. One that we touched on that is extremely well-known and attention-getting, is HIV/AIDS.

After we danced through the not-so-happy discussion of the symptoms, causes, and lack of a cure, we began speaking of the Africa-specific issues that have been going on lately. Dr. Sharon Williams, the professor of this course on global health, was rattling off the names of countries that have the largest infection rate for the HIV virus.

As she was naming these countries, I could only think of one of my closest friends, Emily, who has had the opportunity to spend over 6 months of her life within an orphanage in Uganda, Africa, which was on that list. Emily has devoted so much of her time and love to these children at the Amani Baby Cottage in the capital city of Jinja, Uganda.

During class, we were talking about the immense number of children that have been orphaned by the death of their parents due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. There are literal missing generations within some of the villages in Africa, simply due to this disease that has been such a terrible dark cloud the country of Uganda.

While telling me of her visit and work in Uganda, Emily would talk about how close to all of the children within the orphanage had lost their parents to AIDS and a large portion of them actually had contracted the disease themselves through their birth.

Hearing these stories from Emily has truly intensified my sadness for these kids and the situations that life has left for them. I cannot believe what a sad time it would be to lose one or both of your parents to AIDS.

Emily was able to instill some hope and love into these lonely children in the Amani Baby Cottage. The six months that she has spent there was broken up into two separate trips, and she is about to venture to Africa again this May. When she did return for the second time, the children that she was able to take care of the previous summer remembered her so well and their relationships grew stronger and their lives grew closer.

I can see it in Emily's eyes whenever she is talking about another Amani story or Ugandan child—she is absolutely in love with these kids. Her heart is in Africa and she has devoted so much of her life to loving these children who have lost so much.

I hope that so many people can draw from her life and experiences, knowing that going out on a limb and sacrificing some of your time for a cause that you believe so much in, truly will be rewarding.

Relay For Life 2009

on Friday, April 3, 2009

Relay for Life
has always been an incredible way to reach out to the community, stand up for a cause, and show love to those going through a truly rough time. This organization is a one-day event in an area that is held by the American Cancer Society.

Every year, this signature event brings more than 3.5 million people from 4,900 communities across the country together each year to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against a disease that takes too much.

Relay for Life is an overnight event that helps to fight cancer by raising money for the American Cancer Society through the participation of millions of people across the United States. I have personally participated at my high school, and it was a great experience that was not only helpful to the American Cancer Society, but also a way to show that these people that are fighting or have fought this disease have not been forgotten.

Teams of people camp out at local high schools, parks, or fairgrounds and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Different teams use their individual fund raising ideas to help raise money for the organization as well as the option of being sponsored by a business.

This Saturday, April 4th, is the annual Purdue Relay for Life. It is being held at the Armory and parents, students, faculty, and neighbors are all more than welcome to come out to the festivities. There will be plenty to do and see. While still having the main focus on the action on the teams and members walking to support the American Cancer Society, there will be many other activities and competitions to be watched, including the Miss Relay Pageant. There will also be awards given out for: Top Fund Raising Team, Top Fund Raising Individual, Best On-site Activity, and Most Spirited Team.

Come out and enjoy the fun at the Armory!

The Schedule of Events is as follows:
Survivor Dinner - 5:00 PM
Opening Ceremony - 6:15 PM
Survivor Lap - 6:30 PM
Luminaria Ceremony - 9:00 PM
Fight Back Ceremony - 12:00 AM
Tug-of-War - 1:00 AM
Miss Relay Pageant - 2:00 A.M.
Limbo - 4:00 AM
Musical Chairs- 5:00 AM
Closing Ceremony - 5:30 AM
For more information, contact Jessica Dunten, Relay Chair -

A 820-Mile Walk for Katrina Relief

>An 820-mile walk prefaced Ball State Junior, Ben Poor's July of 2008. Talk about walking for a purpose. He was taking on this tremendous walk to New Orleans, Louisiana to help raise money for Katrina relief. When he eventually reached the end of his walk to this city in need, he was greeted by over 100 supporters who had heard of the challenge he took on, along with a New Orleans traditional brass band.

He walked for 45 days to get to New Orleans, and within that time, he was able to raise over $11,000 to help with the relief of the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

While in Louisiana, Poor, far right, met Kevin Singh, a Ball State graduate who rode his bike from California to South Carolina to raise $10,000 for cancer awareness.

“During a family vacation in Europe, Poor said he was inspired to walk for a cause. The particulars eventually followed, and Poor prepared by setting up his route to New Orleans and calling churches for a place to stay along the way,” says the article courtesy of Ball State University.

"I can't even explain it," Poor said. "New Orleans really had a place in my heart ever since the hurricane hit, and I really felt like God was telling me to do this."

I truly felt drawn to this article when I first heard about it last summer, and it still has been drawing me in. I have felt quite similarly to Ben Poor in the past, in the sense of feeling drawn to the destroyed city of New Orleans and the people there. I had been able to spend two separate weeks in the past dedicating my time and energy into gutting the homes there and still I felt as if I was not doing enough for these wonderful people that have lost every material thing valuable in their lives.

I love to hear about stories of college students that take some time out of there extremely busy lives to help out those in need—and finding so many interesting and fresh ways to do so. Its a beautiful thing to see people helping others and inconveniencing themselves to help realize a bigger need than their own agenda.

Crisis Pregnancy Center

on Friday, March 27, 2009

During my junior year of high school, aside from school and my part-time job, I was able to volunteer for a short time at the Crisis Pregnancy Center in downtown Indianapolis. Mostly, I was standing at the reception desk, helping the women that came in with whatever kind of help that they came into the center for.

The Crisis Pregnancy Center offers so many different services to the women that enter the facility. Everything at the center is free—from pregnancy tests, to ultrasounds, to counseling and referrals. There are professional doctors and psychiatrists on site so that these women can help cope with the massive amount of emotion that they are experiencing at this time in their lives.

So many women feel alone when they are going through these types of scares, when their worst fear at this time in their life is realized, but these counselors are able to redefine their confidence in themselves and help them understand their options as a mother. They can talk to them about anything and everything, asking for any type of help that they need. The center can also help them locate a job to help promote some financial security in their lives and find some stability emotionally and economically.

Being one of the most life-changing experiences through volunteering that I have ever been a part of, the Crisis Pregnancy Center holds a dear place in my life. This center helps extremely lost and scared women through what could be one of the most monumental experiences of their lives.

It was so sad to see most of the women enter the center without anyone by their side, and through talking with some of them, they truly felt all alone in this situation. The center, and its incredible employees, were able to give them hope for what was to come—no matter what outcome was in store for them.

I cannot begin to explain what this type of experience can do for someone, challenging your beliefs on some issues, while strengthening your ideals in other aspects. The incredible people that I have encountered, both fellow volunteers and the women entering the facility, have been extreme influences on my beliefs and my character.

Middle School Mentoring

As I would walk into my home church in Indianapolis every Sunday morning, I could hear all the hello's resounding in my direction from the 5th and 6th graders that I would mentor. I had the wonderful opportunity to have been asked by the middle school pastor to spend time with many of the different students within our church community that needed some love and understanding. These students had been going through so many rough times in their lives and needed someone to listen and give some advice on how to cope with these problems.

Every week, I could see the light in their eyes during our short amount of time together just because someone was there for them and wanted to see how they were doing. Going back to one of my previous entries, I believe that volunteering is about so much more than money—its about the love, time, and talents that you devote to others and your community. These kids in need weren't looking for someone to hand them money—they were looking for an open heart to pour their issues out on to regain some of the childhood innocence that they had lost.

I feel as if I have made some very real bonds with these 5th and 6th graders that I have devoted so much time to. We still keep in great contact while I am studying at Purdue University and make plans to spend time together when I return to my hometown. They know that someone is always out there, ready to listen to them whenever they feel the need to call on someone.

I have been privileged to work with these kids 3 of my high school years and they are now entering their own years in a high school atmosphere. I am so excited for their lives and I know that these hardships that they have faced will be character strengtheners and not inhibit their dreams and ambitions. Each of them have incredible hearts and I love every moment that I have spent with them.

Passport Panic!

on Friday, March 13, 2009

Before my trip to Panama, I had never ventured out of the United States and had never needed the use of a passport, so I had to apply to get one which was a very long and expensive process.

At this time, I was told that the agency that gives out and legalizes passports had been overwhelmed by the amount that had been applied for this summer and they were unsure of whether I would be able to get my passport in time.

As my date of departure came closer and closer, I was becoming continually more and more nervous that my passport was not going to get to me in time for my trip. I had visited the post office several times and they had no information available for me as to when it would arrive at my door.

Three days before my trip, my passport had still not made it to my house and, as friends and family can attest, I was a complete wreck! I was so nervous, my father and I decided that it would be best and the most reliable to travel to Chicago, Illinois and meet with the agency's office because they have a service where, if you wait long enough, you can get your passport in one day.

We left that night, woke up the following morning, and got in line at 4:30 a.m., and I was still the 23rd person in line. After another hour had passed, there was a line winding around the entire city block. At 8 o'clock, we were all told to enter the building and they would begin the process of verifying whether we were able to receive our passports.

We were shuffled into the line of people that had already applied for passports and waited in this new room for quite some time. I had to state nearly every bit of information about myself that I knew, handing over three forms of identification, two pieces of mail with my current address, along with my birth certificate.

Those working at the agency had us, along with the thousands of others who were hoping to receive their passports that day, were moved from room to room, line to line. By the time 6:30 p.m. rolled around, I was completely and utterly exhausted but people were beginning to be called into a different room and would walk out with that beautiful blue passport that I have been slaving to get for the past 14 hours. My name was then called around a half an hour later and I was able to drive home knowing that I would be able to fly to Panama in two days with no problems.

The day after I left for Panama, I was told upon my return, that my passport had landed on my front doorstep. So now, I sit at home and look at the two separate passports that I have and always think of that insanely stressful time in my life and how I spent an entire 16 hours of my life in hopes of ensuring my trip.

Costs of Volunteering

One of the most challenging things that a volunteer has to try and do once they have decided to venture out of the country for a mission or service trip is to raise the amount of money that it takes to get and stay there. The amount of money that must go into heading out into other countries is astonishing. Not only are there the costs of purchasing the plane ticket along with lodging and food, but one must take into account that you must prepare different clothes for that climate along with bedding, other materials, different immunizations, and your passport.

When heading out to Panama for a month in the summer of 2007, I was quick to learn before I left that Panama is consistently 90 degrees in their winter (our summer). They call this “winter” solely because to them winter means rainy season. It will be pure sunshine and seem like the most beautiful day there and, in a matter of seconds, there will be a downpour of rain for about twenty minutes and then return to the gorgeous day it had just previously been.

While trying to prepare some clothes for that weather, I was told from my team leaders that were helping us prep for the trip, that we were required to wear jeans or long pants on the job site because of the danger from hiking and other safety reasons while we would be building.

These clothing suggestions were extremely varied throughout the types of activities we would be participating in. We were not going to be able to reach any sort of area where we could clean our clothes, so packing lightly was definitely needed, especially due to the fact that we were only able to have our suitcase weight 50 pounds according to our flight restrictions.

While preparing for the trip, we were informed that we would only be staying with our selected host family for part of the month that we were in Panama. The other portion of the time would be spent in various villages and that they will be letting us sleep in some of the huts in the village. We were suggested to bring a self inflatable mattress that would fill up to be around two inches thick—which was definitely better than nothing on those cold dirt floors!

Along with these physical materials needed to make the trip successful, one of the other areas that rarely gets pointed out, but is very expensive (and painful) is the need for different immunizations specific to the region you are headed. Specifically for Panama, I was required to get a Typhoid shot, a Hepatitis B shot, a Polio vaccination, and take Malaria pills. Each of these ranged from around $20 for the Polio vaccine to $150 for the Typhoid shot and Malaria pills, along with the $30 doctor visit fee.

Each of these items that were needed continually added financial stress to the trip along with the initial $3000 that was required to get myself to Panama. I never once have questioned whether that trip was worth the monetary struggle it took to get myself there because it was the best experience of my entire life and I would never take back a single one of the experiences that I had while I was down there. To me, money truly means very little in my life and I would give up some financial security any day to help someone else out that needs it more than I do.

Panamanian Foods and Culture

on Friday, March 6, 2009

As a continuation of my previous article, I will outright say that I am an extremely picky eater. Traveling has been an issues with this food issues that I cannot seem to get a handle on. Panama, especially, was really hard to cope with, food-wise. I went with a group from my church in Indianapolis, and we were extremely focused on not interrupting the lives and homes of each of our host families. We were told, which I have seen to be true, that if you are a guest, Panamanians will feed you as if it is your last meal, treating you to every kind of food that they know and love and expect every person to have the appetite of a football player...including me.

We were introduced to so many different types of foods, not knowing what each food we were given was, due to the fact that only two of our team members actually spoke Spanish fluently. For me, this was extremely difficult to get past. Most of the time, we would eat in a dimly lit area , not allowing me to inspect the meal as I tend to do with every food here, and the food would have a texture that I was not used to tasting—two of the most difficult things for me to get past.

When we were in the populated cities, or at my host family's home, the food that I ate was challenging to stomach. We were given so many different forms of red meat (which, as stated in a previous post—I do not eat) and different foods that were, in my mind, not quite done being cooked. I was grateful for the food nonetheless because they were the kindest people, taking complete strangers under their roof, feeding me, taking me to their church, and allowing me to feel a part of their family. Food has always been the most difficult area to compartmentalize and just put mind over matter and “get over it.” It was a struggle, but it took every ounce of will to just put that in the back of my mind and eat the food.

I had the opportunity to venture out into the jungle with the rest of my team for two of the three weeks, and we were able to visit three separate villages that allowed us to help them establish a more consistent food source for their families. These mountainous and jungle villagers love the use of chicken in every dish. I was extremely hesitant of what was to come because of what I had been eating back in the capital city of David with my host family.

After a long day's work, we were all gathered around the hut that several villagers had been all day preparing the meal for us. As I walked in to get my share, I was astonished that my mouth began watering just at the smell of the food, the second I walked through the door. To this day, I can still remember the taste of that glorious chicken and rice that I partook in that night, and every other night that I stayed in these villages.

Food will always be an issues for me, trying to find a type in any area that I will enjoy—or at least keep down. After certain experiences, I have found myself unwilling to branch out and try new foods, but several times, I have been pleasantly surprised at what I have found to enjoy.

Slim Pickin's

If I were a betting woman, I would without a doubt put some money on the fact that I will be and will remain one of the pickiest eaters that you will have ever met. I eat only bland foods, with very few exceptions, and my friends comment on a regular basis that everything I eat is some shade of tan. My favorite food is some form of chicken, but I don't like anything on it—no tomatoes, no sauces, nothing. And when I head to a friends house, I feel like I need to inform them that I don't eat hamburger, other beef, or just red meat in general. Most people say I am just stubborn, but I honestly cannot stomach most foods.

Being such a difficult eater has led to so many issues with me, specifically when it comes to traveling at all. In a smaller scale, as I stated above, history has shown that my friends' families feel the need to cook around my specific palate of food. This has truly led to some instances where I have felt like an extreme inconvenience to my friends and their families. Also, just as Meg Ryan's character in “When Harry met Sally,” “on-the-side” is a very big thing for me; either on-the-side or completely left off is the way to go for me.

In an even more personal note, this picky eating that I can't seem to control, has made it truly difficult when I travel to different regions, such as New Orleans, or the different country that I have been able to spend three weeks in, Panama. New Orleans was very easy to deal with because of the fact that the team that I was with would eat at the church, which had packaged, bland foods, and when went out into the city, we would mostly eat at restaurants that would serve to order.

Being picky is not a real choice for me, I do not have much control over it. It has caused several different obstacles when I travel and it is a unique way to slow down someone or cause them to be a little hesitant to go to a certain area because of the intimidating foods that will await them.

Culture of New Orleans

on Friday, February 27, 2009

I wanted to take a little bit of time to talk about the amount and quality of different local cultures I have been able to take in while working and volunteering in different areas either within the United States or overseas. I feel like it is always important to take a while to explain the reasons why I feel the volunteering is so important for everyone involved, but taking a minute or two to explain some fun aspects that you don’t normally think about at first can be a fun thing to share about.

I will mention that I am an Anthropology major here at Purdue University, which focuses on the looks at cultures from a completely holistic perspective, allowing you to look at completely different aspects of an area, trying to tie everything together and appreciating their culture. Looking at the differences within or between cultures has always been an interest of mine, even long before I even knew that the anthropological field existed.

When I was able to travel to New Orleans, Louisiana in both 2006 and 2007, the group I was working with had the pleasure of taking a day to see the sights and sounds (and tastes!) of the French Quarter which is the more economically developed area of New Orleans but that also was not as substantially affected by hurricane Katrina.

We were able to walk around the city, taking in everything from the live bands playing and leaving their souls on the cobblestone street to the relaxing splash of the water hitting the shore. The air was filled with laughter and the smell of authentic seafood which seemed to be the norm of what to expect around this area. The French Quarter is this gorgeous area that is lined with shops and restaurants, above which are lovely town homes that have flower boxes and balconies, while above the cobblestone roads. It is an atmosphere like none other, with a large city benefits intersecting with the a small, old town feel of safety and community.

While on site, we had to pack lunches, which were drab--filled with dry sandwiches and Hooah! nutrition bars (which tasted like a combination of cereal and charcoal)--and for dinner, we were fed by the church that was housing us, which consisted of solely red beans and rice…every day. Needless to say, meals that were provided for our team were less than desirable, so when we had the opportunity to branch out and purchase our own food, we seized the opportunity as if we hadn’t eaten in an entire month.

My savior of foods that week is called a Beignet which is a pastry covered in powdered sugar. Simple, but pure delight. After a week of drab food, we were able to munch on these wonderful, pretty cheap treats! We sat at the restaurant, Café du Monde, for quite some time, just relaxing and eating and when we decided to venture out into the rest of the city, we purchased some to-go. These to-go beignets were placed in a paper bag, with what seemed like a pound of powdered sugar at the bottom!

These little moments seem to be crucial to what ends up being my whole experience in a certain area, understanding the background and lives of those that I have been able to help and make an impact with.

Soup Anyone?

It seems like everyone has the feel that volunteering is nothing more than feeding and clothing the needy. I would love to challenge each one of you to reach out into the local community and do some of these activities that some may not see as rewarding for you at all. I have been able to immerse myself in several different situations that have led to, what I truly feel, the betterment of myself and my character. So many of these instances have stemmed from volunteering in general, but specifically through simply spending just a few hours of my day helping out at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. I wanted to let you know about an opportunity that I recently found that is here in Lafayette, Indiana. The St. Ann’s Church of Lafayette has a soup kitchen and I am sure would never turn away a helping hand. Not only would you have the opportunity to be helping out our direct community here in Tippecanoe county, but you would also be able to spend some time with those that I’m sure would love to share their stories with you. No matter who you are and who you are with, I certainly feel like there is always something to be learned from each human being. While growing up in the suburbs of Indianapolis, I was able to go to a number of organizations that helped out homeless and struggling people of the city and provided the basic needs of food and shelter that they had currently not been able to afford or find. These little offerings of time and effort by those that are extremely fortunate, can help to extend some love and hope into individuals that have been struggling for quite some time. I have been blessed with what I have been given and I love to share the joy I have in my heart with those that can’t seem to find it. You should think about doing the same with some of your time.

August 29, 2005

on Friday, February 20, 2009

As the eye of Hurricane Katrina passed over the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, this devastating storm was considered a Category 5 hurricane. After the storm had passed, over 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded--some points over 15 feet of water. These massive amounts of water that fell upon this city caused one of the most disastrous engineering faults in the history of the United States of America—more than 50 breaches in the canal levees helped to destroy most of the city.

“Ninety percent of the residents of southeast Louisiana were evacuated in the most successful evacuation of a major urban area in the nation's history. Despite this, many remained (mainly the elderly and poor). The Louisiana Superdome was used as a designated "refuge of last resort" for those who remained in the city,” says Wikipedia.

The city flooded due primarily to the failure of the federally built levee system. Many who remained in their homes had to swim for their lives, wade through deep water, or remain trapped in their attics or on their rooftops. So many rescue and search teams found incredible amounts of civilians trapped in their homes or on top of their houses.

Many American along with International groups helped to aid the victims of this terrible storm. Even months and months after the hurricane, so many areas have still been left abandoned—along with possessions and homes of the residents that fled and could not bear to return to the devastation.

Katrina 2006

on Monday, February 16, 2009

I spent two of my high school spring breaks in the little ol' town of New Orleans, Louisiana, helping out Katrina victims gut out their houses all over the city. Okay, so it’s not a little ol' town, but it was extremely devastated by that intense hurricane.

During my first trip down to New Orleans, it was April 2006--only 8 months after Katrina had hit the Bahamas, Southern Florida, Cuba, and Louisiana, especially the Greater New Orleans area. It was an extreme shock to me that after so much time had gone by, citizens of New Orleans would head back to their homes and try and move on with their lives--either in the city or not. In this respect, I was absolutely shocked by the amount of houses that were not returned to and just rotting, inside and out, due to water damage and neglect meeting.

From home to home, you can see more and more devastation and the lives that people built together lost. Nothing is the same there and you can feel that in the air. It is hard to stomach the loss felt at times, and there are certain sights and smells that can take me back to my experience there in a moment.

There are three separate stages that encompass the process of what we were doing to help these residents. The people that we are helping are survivors that have come back and contacted the church we were staying at for help. They were able to escape the harsh winds and floods and then decided to return to where they once called home.

The first step in the gutting process is to clear out all of the personal belongings of these individuals out of the house. Even after only 8 months, our entire team was required to wear rubber boots, long sleeves, goggles, and respirators to protect any type of mold from touching our bodies or entering our lungs or eyes. We went into the houses with full knowledge that we would most likely run into several different types of rodents, bugs, or some other type of animal. With wheel barrows and a team of 20 per house, we were able to gut out an entire house in a single day.

Our team, after entering each room, filled with belongings thrown everywhere and furniture collapsing from the extensive water damage, we would search for any items that could be dried out, sterilized, and returned to the owner as to restore any bit of the life that they had worked years and years for. If photos were firmly pressed together when the water hit, saving those were our best bet. Any sort of memorabilia was icing on the cake to the owners of the houses.

The second step in gutting is to tear down all of the drywall from the interior of the house and then strip the walls and posts of all the nails that held it up. Also being done at this time would be the taking down of all electrical wiring that had been stapled within the walls. This process is daunting due to the fact that every time I would turn around, I would find another 50 nails in the wall and begin ripping them out, one by one.

The final step is to power wash every last part of that house, trying to get out as much of the stench and mold as possible, to make the house even close to livable. This part of the day was definitely surreal for me, in every last house, because we would be looking at the skeleton of this house that was once being built and now we were trying to repair and save it at all costs in our respirators and boots—just like the construction crew that had been there years ago.

Just a Little Note

on Friday, February 13, 2009

As a bit of a follow-up to my last post, I received a sweet little note in the mail yesterday from one of my friends that I had somewhat lost contact with since busy college life has commenced. She went out of her way to find my address from my family and sent me a charming card to my little (normally empty!) Purdue mailbox.

I have been having a pretty rough week, having been sick for the past two weeks and then one of my family members being sent to the hospital. I feel as if Pam, the girl who wrote me that note, is one of those friends that just know that something is wrong even if you never speak a single word of it to them. She has always been there to listen when I had important things to talk about and get off my chest and this little note proved, once again, that she is a truly wonderful person in my life.

These little acts of kindness really spread so much love. Especially at a college that is much further away from the friends and family that you want to see, I feel like these notes and reminders of people thinking of you can go such an extremely long way.

What I have done several times, is write letters to soldiers that are in Iraq. I have been told that when they get letters from civilians, it helps revive their spirits and makes them realize again why they are putting their lives in danger. It takes so little time but things like this that are unexpected treats, mean so much to both those receiving them and also, those that are giving or sending the encouragement.

Now Let's Donate Some Encouragement

I feel as if, as much as many may say that they don't care a bit about what people think about them... they are lying. I don't believe a single word of it! We are such extremely social individuals that we are programmed to be able to relate to other people at a much greater extent than any other animal on the face of this earth. It's in our biology to have the urge to spend time together and share our thoughts and feelings together, so why not make this a positive experience?

One thing that I hadn't quite thought about was the idea that so many people want to help out others but don't have a single bit of time to go all out and do the big events, but from experience, I would have to disagree that those have more of an impact. I have learned so many things about myself by doing simple tasks for people that I do (or don't) love to be nice to. I'll put it this way—putting yourself out there and helping in small ways means more than most realize.

I feel that so many people are extremely negative towards what life experiences have happened to them or what kind of situations they, their family, or their country are in, which is pretty understandable. When I begin to think of all of these different problems in our society, I get pretty bummed out and start to resent the track that our world is on right now. I find there are few ways to truly pull me out of the funk that thinking of these issues puts me in.

One thing I would love to draw some attention to is the idea of encouragement. When I am extremely down—whether it be something at school or work stressing me out or having arguments with my family or friends—I get so much more out of tiny words of encouragement than I would ever have thought possible.

Encouragement, I feel, can come in different forms—like believing in someone or listening to a friend in need. I had a friend senior year who was struggling with the fact that she was heading across the country to New York City to start school. She was afraid of what was to come for her and what would happen if she failed school or couldn't find the money for rent or couldn't find a great group of friends to click with. She needed someone to listen and give a little reassurance that everything would turn out fine for her. We talked for a while and I told her the faith that I had in her that she would do a fantastic job all the way in New York.

I will never forget the letter she sent me from school that ended with the phrase “I could never say 'Thanks' enough.” She needed a little encouragement through the hard times that she was facing and I was able to donate a little time and a little encouragement to help her regain that confidence that she had in her that had been covered by fear and doubt. And, as suspected, she went out to NYC and has been succeeding in both her academic and personal life.

I feel like we have a responsibility, as I have expressed before, to ourselves and others, to help enrich the quality of life around us. Everyone deserves to live their live to the fullest and a little bit of encouragement can go so very far. Helping others isn't some cheesy topic that is reserved only for people with agendas—it truly is just bringing a bit of love into the lives of others.


on Thursday, February 5, 2009

Searching through the 600+ we have available at the ready here at Purdue University, I ran across an extremely interesting club that I feel like I must share with you!

It is called the Boiler Volunteer Network.

This is a place where an impressive amount of people from the Lafayette-Purdue area and post different events or areas that need help and attention. Their purpose, as stated on their website, is “to provide a  volunteer clearinghouse on campus to connect Purdue University students, faculty, staff, and retirees with community service and campus volunteer opportunities and to create and implement a variety of service experiences.” They truly want to strengthen the bond between Purdue University and Greater Lafayette communities.

This group of different agencies and organizations that need volunteers desperately are sent to the Boiler Volunteer Network (BVN) and are sent to different service student organizations or other campus groups that they feel would step in and help out. Purdue retirees also take a part in this network to help out, along with Purdue students and staff.

Partners of BVN are Greater Lafayette Volunteer Bureau, Purdue Memorial Union, Purdue Diversity Resource Office, Purdue Residence Halls, Indiana Campus Compact, and National Campus Compact, who all come together to truly create an interesting group of organizations that can help reach out in unique ways to different types of people.

Purdue University has recognized several organizations as being part of the BVN and whose primary purpose is community service. These include Alpha Phi Omega (a national coed service fraternity), Big Brothers Big Sisters, Circle K, College Mentors for Kids, Habitat for Humanity, and Tomahawk. These groups have prided themselves on their service to the community and their volunteer work that has never ceased. Each organization has a different purpose that helps enrich the lives of those in need of help.

If you're looking for an opportunity, the possibilities are truly endless! Check out one of these groups or search through the Boiler Volunteer Network to use your time and talents in an incredible way.

Clubs Galore!

Being a freshman at Purdue, everyday I hear about a new club offered at the university! There are countless amounts of clubs and activities that one can join. My interests are so wide-spread that I don't seem to have enough time or energy to devote to all of the clubs that I would love to be a part of. Sadly, there are not enough hours in the day or days in the week, so I must pick and choose my clubs of choice. Last semester, I participated in an extreme variety of activities and as I find out about more and more opportunities, I want to join everything available!

Whatever your interests, there are people out there that share them with you! I find it so stimulating that, due to the large size of our university, with a little bit of searching, anyone can find another with similar interests. We have over 600 clubs at Purdue and if you don't find one you're interested in, it just takes one other person and if you don't find one you're interested in, it just takes one other person and a supervisor to create any club of your choice.

The prevalence of volunteering clubs is quite exciting as well as the amount of opportunities that every other organization offers to promote the well-being of the community as well as Lafayette and Indiana as a whole. We all need to see these opportunities as ways we can help out others. I personally feel that through volunteering, we can begin to change the sad view of humanity that many are beginning to take.

Helping others can come is so many different forms—by donating everything from money, to your time, and your talents. Habitat for Humanity International is an extremely prevalent organization and club at Purdue University that helps those in America that have no place to rest their head at night, no home to call their own. So many in the United States and all over the globe have become a part of this organization and have given their time and effort to putting over 300,000 houses up around the world.

Within other clubs that are not volunteer specific, there are other volunteering opportunities that help the community and help to get out the beliefs and causes that are directly related to the club that you are involved in. I was a member and a chairperson of the Art History Student Organization (AHSO) and we had several different opportunities to get involved with separate organizations throughout Indiana and Lafayette. We connected with the Great Lafayette Museum of Art and helped them with an event that they were planning for Christmas time to both collect donated art from around the city being sold to the public. This money was then donate to an children's organization within Tippecanoe county.

I feel that through volunteering and donating something like your time and talents goes so much further than money alone. As human beings, we can help restore the notion that people can be extremely caring creatures and that they can be caring, compassionate, and kind as well. So many people have been dealt a bad hand in life and just need someone to come along and reach out to them. I feel as if the physically, monetarily, or socially fortunate individuals have a certain responsibility to take some matters into their own hands and begin to restore the lives of those in need.

Not only does volunteering personally look great on a resume and gains so much knowledge and experiences from spending your time with other types of people, but as a whole, you can contribute to the well-being of individuals or a community by using some of your free-time on someone else rather than other frivolous activities. As a college age individual, many people that I try and help and come into contact with, are shocked and love that someone of my age would take the time to help someone.

Just remember the smile that someone donated to you when you were having a rough day. That joy of knowing that humankind can raise spirits by these tiny actions that seem so ordinary, given to the right people in their time and need can mean the world and help enrich their quality of life.

"The Way I See It"

on Thursday, January 29, 2009

"People need to see that, from being an obstacle, the world's diversity of languages, religions and traditions is a great treasure, affording us precious opportunities to recognize ourselves in others." -Youssou N'Dour, Musician

I found this quote on the side of my Starbucks coffee cup during the "The Way I See It" campaign which is promoting free speech and diversity. Being an anthropology major, I am so excited for these quotes that challenge and provoke thought to reach the public. We still seem to see each other in different lights, where we truly need to start working through certain barriers--not only language, but also trying to seek out similarities of thought, background, and what else makes us unique individuals.

I grew up in a booming suburb of Indianapolis, Indiana. This area would be deemed "successful" by the vast majority of Americans with its large houses, good education, and crime that is hardly ever dangerous. That may all be well and good, but what many do not do is take a closer look at the absolute lack of diversity that our area has brought to the table. So many days have gone by where I see absolutely no faces other than white when I am home. At my high school, we had less than 3% diversity and I would definitely argue that it was much closer to 1%.

In no way does that prepare anyone for the real world. While I was in school, I sought out activities that would contain other people than what I was used to. I can't help where I am from but I know that I have absolute control over what my attitude is and how I embrace opportunities to experience other things. I will go out of my way to meet new people, hear their stories and try and understand why such prejudice have existed in the past. When I speak with different people with different thoughts and views on the world, I am only challenged to think differently, not put off by our differences of lifestyles or opinions that don't seem to mesh quite perfectly.

Anthropology is the study of human similarites and differences across cultures and it looks at humans in a completely holistic way--which means taking in every aspect, every clue--to understand as to why certain people act the way that they do and how they have generated these certain traditions and social norms. Anthropology has four sub-fields of Biological, Linguistic, and Socio-cultural Anthropology, as well as Archaeology. Through each of these different areas, people have broken out of the standard way of living to reach out into different cultures to see how they operate.

Socio-cultural anthropologists dedicate their lives, normally to one single project/area, and live with another culture, studying everything from their language to economic system to social interactions and so many other factors that affect the way that they live their lives.

I spent several weeks in the country of Panama two summers ago and was blown away by the amount of knowledge not only that I gained about Panamanian life and why they act the way that they do and their customs, but also what traveling and living in a different country and living there, however short a time, helped me understand what the United States is doing both right and wrong.

Along with several souvenirs that I purchased, I brought home a different view of the world and opportunities that I had along with the thought of being just a small part in the giant puzzle that makes up a culture.

Breaking Down Barriers

on Monday, January 26, 2009

Venturing to Panama and other areas of the country have been the most beautiful and enriching times in my life. I was able to meet incredible people, see incredible sights and to make a difference in the lives and communities that I have traveled to.

One of the most rewarding experiences, I feel, is the breaking down of stereotypes that can happen while one unexpectedly helps another.

The mountainous jungles of Panama was where I spent 3 weeks of my summer of 2007. I was blessed with the opportunity to help 3 struggling villages of Panama begin to establish a reliable food source. Each of these villages are remote and must travel a hundred miles or so just to find a doctor or if they need certain supplies to get by.

A few selected members of the tribe in the remote area of San Felix, called the Gnobe tribe, would reach these much more developed cities and they would not know how to work certain types of technology or how to relate to this culture that they were not a part of. They are treated like very uncivilized people and are extremely rude and demeaning to this tribe. Its disturbing to see how terribly they are treated in certain situations just because one group thinks they are much better and more "civilized" than another group.

One of the men that I had the pleasure of meeting in La Torre in Panama, Menalco, was very standoffish and extremely wary of white people due to this unfair treatment within the larger cities that they had to visit. La Torre is a completely different world than the city of David or Panama City and I feel as if it is quite unfair to treat someone as if they are in a lower social class than you are. It is like we've stumbled back into the "Medieval nobles and peasants" stage of our ancestors.

Through the volunteer work that our 18-person group, helping these areas with their need for a stable source of food, we were able to break down the barriers that they have justifiably put up towards those that they find more educated and “privileged.” It was a beautiful experience to see them slowly put their guards down while they opened both their homes and their hearts to us.