This past spring break, I had the privilege of going on an alternative spring break with my peers at Naz through the Center of Civic Engagement and Center for Spirituality. Alternative breaks are trips offeerd over spring break and a few other school breaks where undergrad and grad students travel to participate in some kind of community service. I went to Deep Roots at Clairvaux Farm in Earleville, Maryland. This is a place for transitional housing for homeless families with children. One of the biggest goals Deep Roots has is for children to envision a brighter future while sustaining healthy relationships and to grow in social and personal responsibility.
I went to Clairvaux with a few of my friends, other undergraduate and graduate students from Naz, and our fantastic Protestant and Catholic Chaplains. I had an incredible time getting to know each and every person that came on the trip with me through reflecting about the work we were doing, having hysterical inside jokes, and of course our 6+ hour drive to and from Maryland.
While we were at Clairvaux as volunteers, we helped to fully paint, clean, and furnish an apartment, create a new patio, take down an old fence and put a new one up, paint porches and fences, and more. It was such an incredible experience to know that what we were doing was going to help the families that were presently there and families that would be coming to stay at the farm. I spent most of my week helping in the apartment. When we arrived at the farm, there was plenty to do. The job I chose to do was to help renovate an apartment-like living space for a family that would soon live there and move in a few days after we would leave. That was probably the best feeling for me, knowing that what we were doing and putting all of our hard work into is going to directly help a family.
My favorite memories of the trip had to be playing with the kids after they came home from school, exploring the farm with my new friends, and going to Washington D.C. for a day.
In D.C. we visited monuments and museums, saw the White House, and met up and had dinner and a group reflection with another Naz alternative spring break group that was in D.C. We also went to the National Coalition for the Homeless where we heard stories from two very strong women and their personal struggle with homelessness. It was such an eye opening experience for me because I did not know some of the legislation, or lack thereof, helping the homeless community. The women told us that some businesses can deny service to someone who is homeless, just because they are homeless. Hearing these facts from people living in this situation was astonishing.
Thanks to this trip,I learned so much about homelessness and the homelessness population in Rochester. I now know that although I am only one person, I can still make a difference by showing support in volunteering to help in any way. Naz has many different ways of going out into the local community and making a difference. I hope next year to go back to Clairvaux and learn even more about the ways I can help and support this population.