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.