During March of 2010, I participated in a school mission trip to Alaska. I was tested in ways I had never been before but emerged from this experience a less self-centered individual.
In Alaska, I received the unique opportunity to volunteer at the Iditarod, a race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska, for mushers and teams of 12 to 16 dogs. Nicknamed “The Last Great Race on Earth,” the Iditarod occurs over 10 to 17 days and spans 1150 miles through arctic tundra and jagged mountain ranges. At the site of the race start, which was a frozen lake, my group carried logs and set up fences to mark boundaries. We hiked a mile across the lake to set up orange fencing. This task might sound easy but setting up the orange fence with a group of 20 teenagers, stakes, and a hammer in negative degree weather for the “Last Great Race on Earth” was one of the hardest tasks I have ever completed. After working on the fence for a few hours, my fingers were completely numb, and I felt light headed. I trekked back in my very heavy snow boots to the volunteer cabin across the lake. My classmates inside the cabin could tell that I was not feeling very well and asked me what was wrong. Being an independent person, I sometimes have a hard time receiving help from others. After trying to deal with my problems alone, I broke down in the corner of the cabin with my back turned to my group because I did not want to appear pathetic. At school, I have the reputation of the girl who has it all together with ideal grades and athletic abilities. Due to my pride, I did not want my classmates to see me this feeble. Two boys in my grade, Eric and Josh, began defrosting my hands with hand warmers, gave me warmer gloves, and even made me Ramen. In my time of fatigue, that Ramen was definitely the best I have ever tasted in my life. The rest of that long day went well, and I met many extraordinary people and their dogs. However, the thing which I will always remember is that I cannot always do everything by myself. It is acceptable to appear weak sometimes as everyone is not as strong as the faÃ§ade they erect for themselves.
Another major volunteer project was working and teaching at a Boys and Girls Club in Anchorage. I am a shy person in new situations so interacting with kids I did not know was a challenge for me. One day, a boy named Addison began crying, and I asked him what was wrong. He related how another kid would not let him play on his basketball team. I comforted him by telling him that he was a great player and that no one had the right to say that to him. The next day, Addison gave me a fish which he had made in craft class. I had never had a kid make me anything before, and this small token of his appreciation meant a lot to me. Later, he bestowed upon me a necklace which read “Best Friends Forever.” Addison was only one of many kids who had an influence on me because of their unselfish love. Being a teacher, I thought I was going to do all of the teaching but I was mistaken. Throughout the week, I was not focused on myself and my needs for once. This was tremendously rewarding and because of this experience, I became a less self-centered individual.
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