From July 15 to July 21, 2012 I, along with other students from Saint Ignatius went to Mississippi for a service trip. We stayed in Walls, Mississippi, which is the poorest County in the United States. We worked with the Sacred Heart Southern Missions, which is a foundation that helps families living in poverty get their life back together. The woman who set up all of our service sites was named Ms. Lois and her partner was Ms. Kelly. These women dedicate their lives to doing service and were kind enough to guide us around the streets of Walls to get us to our service sites.
This trip was important to me because it gave me the chance to see a world that is very different from my own. Throughout the trip many of us realized how different the style of living was. I saw first-hand how hard living conditions were for these people. Most of the families did not own a car and the closest person who did was usually about thirty minutes away. This made traveling to other places quite difficult. We built a shed for a family living in a house provided by Sacred Heart because they could not afford to pay for one themselves. Although these families have faced many hardships in their life, it was inspiring to see how welcoming they were towards us.
Throughout this trip we were faced with many problems, but we also had shining moments. A problem we encountered was running out of food. Since there were about twenty-five of us on this trip living under one roof, we constantly needed to go to the grocery store. Our budget was minimal and we were only allowed to buy certain food items. Unfortunately we would run out of food quite often and had to get by with what little we had. Our shining moment was when everyone came together to prepare the meals.
During this trip I learned how important it is to be open-minded. The chaperones on our trip constantly told us that it was important to have a good attitude and “what you put in is what you get out”. This certainly rang true when it was time to put the sealant down on the ramp for Benny; a man we helped. It was a very hot day, 120 degrees, but with our good attitudes and Benny’s stories about his life, and we were able to finish our work in no time. I also learned how to work power tools such as a power drill and a power saw, something I never imagined doing. I built a door with my friend Emma and we were extremely satisfied with our work.
This experience has changed me in that it opened my eyes to the reality of the harsh living conditions that people must live in. I’ve always assumed that only the homeless go to soup kitchens. But what I learned is that poverty doesn’t just apply to the homeless, but to families with children who have homes, yet can’t afford a meal. I also realized how important it is to live simply. I am grateful for what I have. The families I served were less fortunate and yet were the kindest and most caring people I have ever met. At the end of the trip I felt satisfied knowing that I had helped the families in one way or another. It also left me with the feeling that I am capable of doing more service.
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