Spring Breakaway: A trip to Portland that changed my life
Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 18:03
A group of 11 students, staff, and faculty went to Portland, Oregon on the Spring Breakaway trip over Spring Break from March 18 to March 22 to immerse themselves in the communities and help those in need.
I was one of the students who participated in the trip. Upon signing up to go, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I knew that I wanted to make a difference and I felt a strong need to give back to my community.
My main reason for going on the trip was that I will be graduating this spring, and in my time here at UW Tacoma I didn’t feel I had done enough to give back to the community that has given so much to me. We have several students, staff, and faculty here on campus that give to the community regularly, and I want to become a part of that group.
My mind always flicks back to Pavlov’s hierarchy of needs whenever I think of how I got here. When you feel safe, loved, confident, and have all your basic physiological needs met, you can begin to really help solve the problems of others.
When I first started at UW Tacoma, I was very close to living on the street myself, and would have likely ended up there if I didn’t have such supportive parents. I was a single mom, and when my son was born, I was laid off from my job with no real hope of finding another one, so I decided to revisit my education.
I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to pursue my education as a Husky Promise student, and I feel a call to action now, to help others realize their potential and to give them hope.
Student Kylie Lanthorn coordinated the Spring Breakaway trip this year. The amount of detailed planning put into this trip was very thorough and well organized. There were two different trips that volunteers could choose to go on; one to Vancouver and one to Portland, but both groups slept in Portland. Professor Thea Drescher, and two staff members, Michelle Harper and Jenn Magofna attended the trip along with the group of UWT students.
I went on Trip One along with Ray Luu, Dahabo Guyo, Cheri Hans, Kylie Lanthorn, and instructor Thea Drescher, and we volunteered at St. André Bisette Downtown Chapel and at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, both in Portland.
Volunteers on Trip Two included Jamila Carroll, Tyler Bjork, Gladys Mondragon, Michelle Harper, and Jenn Magofna. They volunteered with Catholic Community Services and Northwest Impact, where they went out to homes of elderly adults and helped with chores and yard work and shared meaningful conversations with the people they met.
Before the trip began we had a couple of meetings to get everyone prepared. At the first meeting we were each given a journal and we filled out a questionnaire to find out what colors our personalities were. I’m a blue, and then green, meaning I enjoy helping others, I like to analyze information, and I have a variety of interests, to name a few blue and green qualities.
From this activity I learned that I needed energy and insight from others, and that I needed to become a better listener. We also did a value sorting activity. I found out that my top values before the trip were: life, love, and happiness.
My top value was life.
On the first day we met Father Ron at St. André Besette, where we would all be sleeping in what could be described as a dining or gathering room, on the cement floor. Father Ron’s calming and collected presence was more alleviating than anyone I had ever met before.
He described how working at St. André Besette has really changed his life. He also believed that by the end of our trip we would have similar life-changing experiences.
He said that this experience was about allowing yourself to, “be welcomed,” and letting others serve you, which seemed paradox to what we thought we were doing there.
That evening, we got lost trying to find the restaurant where we were going to eat dinner. This seemed impossible since Kylie had an encyclopedia of directions carefully laid out. I took the time to get to know Tyler better. He had been in my philosophy class last quarter along with about 80 other students. We started a survivor log for the journey to find the restaurant. It went something like, “Day one, still no sight of the restaurant.”
On the trip we shared dinners with the entire group, but during the day we had lunches with our trip groups, because Trip Two was volunteering in Vancouver, Washington.
We played a hand tapping game that evening before bed as a group, which made everyone giggle and helped to further break the ice. Fair warning: Kylie is a hand tapping pro not to be rivaled with.
The church was wedged in next to the Star Theater downtown, so that night we heard a free performance through the walls of the Urban Sub All Stars and the Acoustic Minds until 2 a.m.
This would have been a point of complaint, but the music was beautiful. The All Stars included: Redwood Son (http://www.myspace.com/redwoodson), Tony Smiley, Wil Kinky, Laura Ivancie (http://www.myspace.com/lauraivancie), Chris Foster, and NRG.
The church was named after St. André Besette who was a poor orphan and the doorman for the Congregation of the Holy Cross. People experienced healing in their lives because of Brother André. He was the first male Canadian-born Saint, known as God’s doorman, and St. André is also a symbol for those who serve at the Church today, providing acts of hospitality and welcome, which have the power to heal people.
Monday morning I worked with a volunteer named Rosemary in the art room at St. André Besette. She was a very talented artist herself, and showed me her sketch book filled with beautiful sketches she had captured with colored pencils and photographs she was using to make cards. One was a beautiful pink flower.