It’s the end of day three of our Immokalee mission trip and I can honestly say that having the opportunity to bond with our fellow Immokalee-goers has been the most amazing aspect. Prior to our flight to Florida, we were required to meet as a group several times to learn about the CIW and the general purpose of the Immokalee mission. As can be expected though, we were nervous about being around one another and the room was filled with many awkward silences. But within a matter of 72 hours, we really have all blossomed into what I would consider---good friends. The power of traveling together, experiencing Immokalee’s impoverished state, and learning about the devastating flight of the migrant farm workers has brought a special magic to the air.
Tonight at dinner, we sat gathered around our amazing chicken fajitas, homemade guacamole and delicious chocolate and vanilla pudding (yes, I made the desert!:) Giovan, one of our campus ministry leaders, shared this amazing story about how he and his wife first met. Kayla, our enthusiastic and sweet mission trip goer, shared her perspective on what our spirit animals were (check out the end of this blog to find everyone’s out!). Kate, our other campus ministry leader shared her memorable road trip with Father Bill. As an entirety, the atmosphere was so warm, so light-hearted, and in general---magical.
When you think about it, when people are able to experience opportunities such as a mission trip, emotions run a bit haywire. At times, there are periods of extreme joy and happiness. And at others, there are moments of sadness, regret and devastation. Despite the range of emotions---the power of being together at all times within the day has brought us each comfort. This comfort has gradually molded itself---and we have entered our own little “Duquesne Bubble” whilst amidst this mission trip journey.
This bubble, in itself, has not only helped us to form good friendships—but it has created such an eye-opening learning opportunity. Today, our group was split into three areas. Group one went to work with Habitat for Humanity. Group two went to do maintenance with the Immokalee Housing and Family Services. And group three, my section, went to serve food at the Guadalupe Social Services soup kitchen.
I can’t speak on behalf of the other groups, but I can honestly say that at the Guadalupe Social Services, we were completely in awe. First of all, we had the fantastic chance to meet several sweet, older gentlemen who volunteer at the soup kitchen the first Tuesday of every month. They were welcoming, kind, considerate---and so pleased to share the morning with us. We also volunteered with some students from Gannon University and John Carol—who again, were so sweet. While we were setting up the dining area, interacting and being able to hear the life-stories of our fellow volunteer friends was an experience in itself. Having the opportunity to work hand in hand with people who come from all walks of life is a surreal experience.
Following the soup kitchen, we ultimately all ended up meeting at one of the Immokalee Housing and Family Development center. Here, we went into a single family house and helped do general maintenance, from painting walls, to raking countless leaves, to hanging doorknobs. While the work may seem rather basic, I have to say that this again, was a true bonding experience for all of us. Even with the 80 degree heat and rather “hangry” (hungry + angry) humans---we clicked. We giggled, we helped one another and we embraced each other’s company. I also immensely enjoyed talking with Zuzki, one of the two maintenance hero’s for Immokalee housing, talk about why he loves his job and about what his future may hold.
It’s so easy to get swept up in the day-to-day life---and forget to embrace the simple moments. But helping Tony (our “25” year old gentleman) place desserts on trays and helping re-fill the soup bowls of Guadalupe’s diners brought a sense of both laughter and peace to our souls. And this is what this mission trip is really all about. It’s a chance to reach out to those who we wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet in the hustle and bustle of everyday life—and learn. From hearing stories about one’s grandchildren, to stories about how someone reach his or her impoverished state; it’s a matter of listening, accepting, and growing from the experience.
So, with the night coming to an end, I can honestly say that I am so thankful for this experience. Our journey has only just begun---but the memories and the close friendships that we will share at the end of this trip is something we will never forget. Plus, dinners (thanks to Kate and Laura) have been absolutely awesome. Sleeping on the floor is a bit rough---but as I write, Molly and Kelsey are laughing away at today’s adventures, bringing some fun to the air. Plus, we’ve met some really adorable kids so far. Today, I met PJ—who was a fun 3 year-old boy who loved spider man, could do some great pushups, and had this really cool scooter.
At the end of the day---only 72 hours in, I can’t wait to see what the next few days hold. As a soon-to-be college graduate, and spring breaker, this is a true once and a lifetime experience.
Thanks to our fantastic Duquesne group for making this trip so fabulous and eye-opening thus far!
PS: From Kayla, our spirit animals:
Lani, Bambi (Baby Deer)
Aubrey, Caterpillar (soon to be a butterfly)