Sunday, March 16, 2014

In Conclusion

This week changed my life.  I ended the week with life long friends and memories that I will still remember when I am sitting in the nursing home at the ripe old age of ninety!  Also during this trip I learned some incredible things.  I learned that life is always the same.  How you view life though is based on perspective.  This week we saw some very big problems that are occurring here in Springfield.  Next week we will be students at Missouri State University, but all of those people that we interacted with last week will still be dealing with these big problems.  I learned that in order for us to not just turn our eye away we need to understand that this may be just a week to us, but to the rest of the people, this happens every week.

United Way also taught me a lot about what their program does for the community.  The United Way is an agency that touches so many individuals and helps make a positive impact within the community.  One example of this was seen on Friday at the Boys and Girls Town Emergency Shelter.  These kids celebrated a birthday, they celebrated my birthday.  It was great to know that my birthday wouldn't only make my day better, but that all of those kids days would be made.  This brought me the most amount of joy from the trip.  It also caused the best birthday that I have ever had to occur.  

This trip was also a great tool for the United Way to prove to people just how much they impact the community.  I called my dad on my birthday (Friday of the trip) and told him about all of the awesome things that I had gotten to experience while on the trip.  He informed me that he used to donate to the United Way, but stopped because of a scandal that had occurred within the organization in the 80's.  He had lost hope in the United Way.  However, my father informed me that I had convinced him that the organization had turned around.  He was going to start donating again, because he now saw and understands what United Way does for the community.  I love this because my energy and experience could help cause change for a future individual that is involved with United Way!

Jordan Upchurch, Trip Leader

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Met Workers Today

The first destination of our “recycling and sustainability day” of the immersion trip was the Habitat for Humanity (HfH). I liked Tommy’s introductory presentation that followed his warm welcoming words. Tommy is a volunteer coordinator at HfH with long-long-long beard, which has a story, and good sense of humor, which I also liked. After the tour around the office section we began to clean up the trash outside of the Restore construction market. Posing for photos with HfH volunteer T-Shirts we left the location.
Nothing was more exciting for me today than exploring the recycling companies of Springfield. The tour for the Household Chemical Collection (HCC) base guided by its worker named Drew was very calm, in my opinion. It is known, working in HCC requires a lot of patience and, of course, extra caution, because everything that comes there is flammable and always at the risk zone, however, Drew did a very nice job clearly explaining and demonstrating how everything works.
I had a great time watching how the giant excavators smash and crash all those huge old cars and refrigerators, turning them into big blocks of metal. Thanks to the guy who performed this procedure specifically for us. I recorded it. I also wanted to take the picture with Commercial Metal Company (CMC) staff in front of one of their pressed blocks, but they seemed to be so busy that I couldn’t even dare to ask. So we left, letting the workers of CMC do their daily job. All the blocks will eventually be sold, transported, and reused in some productions overseas.
What do we do with old computers? Well, the guys in green shirts with the Computer Recycling Company logo will gladly take every detail of your obsolete PC or Mac. No worries about your personal data, it will be lost forever and ever by physical destruction of the hard drive. Got some old printers? TVs? Bring them there.
Unfortunately, there always will be some leftover trash that can’t be reused. Unrecyclable stuff goes straight to the Springfield Sanitary Landfill, where it is daily pressed and mixed with land in order to properly conserve the environment. The underground methane that thousands pounds of buried trash produce is reused by the City Utilities Company which offers a variety of services including gas provision for residents of the counties nearby.
Overall March 13 of 2014 was full of other highlights including birthday wishes, road congratulations and, finally, delicious ice-cream at Andy’s.  

Samat Mambetshaev, Trip Participant

Sustainability Program ------Fifth day of Alternative Trip

Today is the fifth day of our wonderful trip. Every day is new and challenging. We left for our first destination at 8:30 am. By the way, today is the birthday of Daisia. So on the way we sang happy birthday for her in six different languages in the van. It is the advantage of the diversity in the group. And with the company of these days, we all feel that we are closer with each other. We three foreigners can get involved in their conversations and play jokes with them. We look like a big family and have more tacit understanding with each other, especially during the work.

Our first destination was Habit of Humanity, Springfield. When we got here, their leader presented the background and general information about it. I was shocked and surprised by this amazing organization. After visiting the restore warehouse, we began our volunteer work. I was in charge of packing the used paint cans onto the pallet and wrapping them together, which would be more convenient to deal with for the worker.  And four of our group members were responsible for classifying the good and bad pallets. The others took charge of the trash around the building. We were all enthusiastic with our own jobs. I really learnt a lot from this activity. People donate their extra stuffs to this organization and the workers here help others to build house. Yes, they not only build the house, but also provide a warm home. They bring happiness and convenience for lots of people. I really appreciated that I can contribute my own part to them.

After a quick lunch, we went moved on for our schedule today. The stops were the Household Chemical Collection Center, Computer Recycling Center, Commercial Metals, and Landfill. We visited their work place and listened to the explanation about their specific work. Actually, these organizations are the real behind- the- scenes. As an international student and a foreigner, I came to the United States and usually see the good, nice and bright aspects, but this is not the real America, or the overall America. These sustainability programs do provide another aspect for me. If a city wants to develop well and provide the high-quality life for their citizens, it should cooperate well between all different kinds of organizations. Although the work there is hard, dirty and somewhat tedious at times, the workers stick to years and years and do their best for the good life. When we visited the Landfill, I was really surprised by the lots of trash. I think if each of us can pay attention to garbage classification and recycle, it could help them a lot and lessen their workload.

This really reminds me of the situation in my home country.  We are only enjoying the life that they provide us, but do not know the real situation behind that. We live in the city and should consider and care for the city. How does China deal with these kinds of things? Hope I can care about these behind the scenes later and contribute my own part to my country’s development.
-Jin Zhang, trip participant. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Today was such an eye opening day! As a trip leader, I knew I was going to be leading a group of students and introducing them to new organizations and experiences. However, I did not account for the new experiences I would have myself. I have lived in Springfield for nearly 5 years now; what else was
there for me to see?

We visited the ESL (English as a Second Language) program at OTC. I was taken back from the amount of students who are in need of learning English. In the room of 30 advances ESL students there were 24 countries represented, including Russia, Brazil, and China. One of the first students to speak up was from Guatemala. She explained that coming to America was like becoming a mute. She could not even order food at a restaurant. The class collectively told us that they often lack confidence in learning and practicing their English because they are afraid of messing up.

This was my awh-ha moment! I still can't shake how these students must feel. I can't imagine how I would feel going to a foreign country not being able to communicate with anyone or even take care of myself. I feel that this definitely a program I want to get involved with after our trip is over. No one should feel so intimidated that they are afraid to communicate with others for fear of being thought less of. I think Missouri State should really pair each international student up with an American mentor. This will not only help with learning English, but also learning about American culture as a whole.  

I am so happy that I am making these connections and really getting to know the other students on the trip. They are teaching me so much and I just hope that they are learning a little bit as well.

Katie Brady, Team Leader

Fun All In One Day

Today was a very packed day. We had the opportunity to volunteer with many different organizations. We started the day by visiting the OTC Campus. Here, we learned about different opportunities for high school students. I was able to sit in and learn about the English as a Second Language Class. There were around 30 students in this class from 26 different countries. They shared their experiences with language barriers and their overall experience with their time in America. It really opened my eyes to different perspectives, and allowed me to see how native speakers can assist those who do not speak English as a first language. I really enjoyed this presentation and would like to help out with this kind of program in the future.

The rest of the day was spent at the Salvation Army and Rare Breed. For the Salvation Army, we helped serve people meals at lunchtime. The biggest thing that impacted me was when I saw families-especially children-go through the line. When you are in Springfield, attending the university, you do not think about those that are hungry. I have access to a dining center at almost every hour during the day. Growing up, I never worried about food. So, to see others in need really changed my view and allowed me to see that there is a real need to help the hungry population in Springfield. Rare Breed was another organization we visited. This was an awesome organization helping the youth in Springfield. They provide food and many other services to the youth. It was a great opportunity to see how they help teens and see what we could do to help.
Lauren, Trip Participant

Three in One

It's the 4th day of our awesome trip, and probably the most busy day (which means I have a lot to say about it). After a really quick breakfast at 8, we headed for the first station: OTC. I've heard about OTC for a thousand times since I came here but I never know what they do. So I was really impressive when they introduce the middle collage program. They are helping students to find their career preferences.  I think they are doing a wonderful thing because for me, the biggest insecure in life is totally unsure about the future plan. We also had a nice talk with their ESL students. As a international student, I totally understand their struggle and I am ready to help them when I finish the trip. At noon, we went to the Salvation Army where hungry people can get free food monthly. We packed food from government, organizations and personal donation. The fulfillment is incredible when watched them take the food away.

We finish our work in Rare Breed( shelter for homeless teenager). By saying that we didn't actually have much work. We just eat with them and chat with them, but you'll never know what the accompany means for them.

Before I took this trip, I was doubted whether what I do will make a difference or will I really helped anyone. But after these days, I realize that it's just the beginning. Knowing their existence is the very first step of being helpful. It was excited to tell myself that there are awesome people out there doing awesome things! (yes, It took me 4 days to figure out what we've been told at the first day)
-Lee, Trip Participant

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A day at the zoo...

I woke up this morning knowing it would be the last morning at Camp Arrowhead. After breakfast, we completed our last service project for Josh and Jared. We then said our goodbyes and piled into the van where we headed back to Springfield. It was such a lovely day today and the weather was perfect for a picnic which we had at a park right outside of the zoo.  While trying to stick closely to the schedule, we arrived at the zoo right on time for our "Behind the Scenes" tour. Talking to the zookeepers of different units was such a great experience. Just being able to see what a regular day at the zoo was like for both the animals and the zookeepers gave me a greater sense of appreciation for the animals and the people that take care of them. I was extremely impressed with the medical facility for the animals and was excited to know that the caretakers go through great lengths to make sure the animals are well. As the day came to an end, we finally arrived at Arc of the Ozarks, our new home for the rest of the week.

Participant Daisia Baker