Posts tagged mexico mission

Back from Mexico

After 10 of some of the most exhausting, fun, and rewarding days of my life, I find myself back in Eugene, sitting in front of my computer, feeling a little overwhelmed at the prospect of jumping back into the blogosphere after an almost completely internet and technology-free week and a half.

Mexico was amazing. Never before have I been honored to help lead such a remarkable group of high school students and adults. The kids this year were truly unique. To be honest, I think high school and college comprise periods in our life in which we are possibly the most self-centered and oblivious to the thoughts and needs of others. I don’t mean this to sound as bad as it does. I just mean that in my experience, ESPECIALLY in college, we are taught to think primarily about ourselves – who we are as individuals, what it is we want to do with our lives, and what we must do to achieve our own personal goals. We don’t yet have spouses or families to be responsible to; nor do we own homes or hold steady jobs. We don’t HAVE to think about anyone above ourself. In some ways, that’s good. It’s important to discover and establish ourselves in the world. Putting yourself first isn’t always wrong.

But on the trip this year, the collection of selfless, compassionate, accepting and respectful souls blew me away. Despite it being a group of nearly 50 high schoolers, I didn’t see any cliques! No alienation or social ostracism. Everyone genuinely seemed to engage with everyone else. And everyone benefited from that.

My role on the trip this year was also a step up from the past. It was my first year as a “site foreman,” which means I was responsible for the construction of a standard Amor home (11′ x 22′, 2 windows, 1 door). I was the second female site leader and the youngest ever in our group’s 20 year history of doing the trip. As such, I had high expectations for myself; I wanted to prove to myself that I had the gumption, leadership, and expertise to do a good job. I’m proud to say we finished it, with time to spare! In 4 years we haven’t finished a home, but this year 3 of the 4 site leaders finished. A testament to our group I think. As a site leader, I was surprised by how mentally exhausting the process was, but also surprised by how naturally much of it came to me. I’m glad I accepted the invitation to serve the group this way.

With regards to my professional interest in events and relationship management, I think I learned a lot from this experience. Too much to relate here. But here a few quick tidbits:

  • Engaging in hands-on activities is great for building relationships. The necessity of cooperation and teamwork allows individuals to interact positively in pursuit of a common goal. Students and adults who might not have spoken to one another otherwise developed friendships through challenges like building a wall together.
  • Be honest and open about setbacks. When our bus broke down on the trip down through California, the students were less put-out by the inconvenience of it than by the leaders’ lack of communication about the problem. Admitting a mistake garners respect; hiding it hurts trust.
  • Put faith in others (but don’t be afraid to check-in, advise, and supervise). I was nervous about trusting the completion of certain elements of building the house to students; then I reminded myself that as a high school student I was capable of many of these tasks. I was not disappointed in the work of the students under my supervision but under their own leadership. The finished house looked great!
  • Love conquers all. Okay this one’s pretty cheesy. But all I mean is that, at the end of the day, it’s who we are as people that matters. If we are loving, ultimately we will do good. The talent, the brains, the experience – that’s all important. But the first, last, and most important quality we must have, in order to truly succeed, is love. Love to make us understanding of others, responsive to their needs, patient and respectful, and invested in their personal outcome.

I think that’s enough for now. Stay tuned for my updates on the job search. Hint: it’s most definitely still on.

Here are some more beautiful images from the trip, courtesy of Spencer Mason Roberts:

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Taking a (spring) break

 

I am leaving tomorrow to head down to Mexico on my annual mission trip with my church to build houses for impoverished families. Amor Ministries is the nonprofit organization that organizes these trips, and my church has been doing this for about 15 years I think. This is my 8th year; I started my freshman year of high school (the first time I was old enough to go) and have been going ever since.

This year, I’ve been asked to be a site leader, which entails the additional responsibility (beyond being an adult leader, as I have been for the previous 3 years) of leading a team of approximately 20-25 high school students and adults in constructing a home. Yikes! I was reluctant to accept but decided I was ready to step up and challenge myself. I know how to swing a hammer, but I’m no toolman, so I’m a bit nervous! How do I tell other people what to do when I’m still not sure myself much of the time? I trust the judgment of the trip leaders – I figure they wouldn’t ask me if they didn’t think I couldn’t do it. But it’s still intimidating – the other 3 sites leaders for our group of 60+ are all men twice my age with a lot of experience. Not only do I feel as though I’m still just a kid, I wasn’t born with that Y-chromosome that makes me know how to tinker with stuff like my dad can.

I’m excited for the opportunity to lead the group this way, and I have high aspirations for my team. I think we can build a really good, strong home for a deserving family and have a fun, safe experience doing it.

Please, please wish me luck!! I’ll be back in two weeks with the outcome!

Image courtesy of Amor Ministries on Flickr.com

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It’s shake and bake, and I helped!

Bake sale

 The Valentine’s Bake Sale is over. Whew! It’s surprising how intense a tiny little church fundraiser can get for a few hours (hence the “shake” in the title). It’s like a flash flood. Before it began, I had a few goals in mind: 

  • Expand the product offerings – in other words, avoid the usual downpour of chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, and brownies.
  • Reduce waste (from saran wrap, zip-locks, etc.).
  • Introduce a standardized pricing guide to eliminate price discrepancies.
  • Raise money – preferably more than last year.

By all these accounts, I think the event was a success. A few of the goodies arrived individually wrapped (some quite smartly), but overall I think we ‘done good’. And more so, I hope it will get the ball rolling on people considering alternatives to plastic packaging and implementing greener practices in the future. We also raised about $680, which, if I recall the figures correctly, is about a 25% increase over last year. For that, I can’t take credit – it could just be that more sweet-tooths showed up this year than last, or that the kids brought more tantalizing treats.

Speaking of tantalizing treats, we had the most creative year yet! In addition to the standard fair, we had homemade jam, sweet honey BBQ sauce, and HANDMADE TAMALES! The tamales went in about 3 seconds. I didn’t even see them get sold; I just turned around and they were all gone! Warmed my little heart.

 

Sure, most of the treats weren’t as designer as some of the beautiful store-bought goodies. But I bet you can’t find something more endearing than a 15-year old football player showing up with a plate of slightly smushed and sloppily frosted cupcakes that he baked all by himself. That, my friend, takes the cake.

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Old-fashioned fundraising tastes delicious

 As I’ve mentioned before, I participate in my church’s annual mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico. We build houses (this year we’re doing 4 with a group of approximately 40-50 high school students and 30 adult leaders) for families through the nonprofit organization Amor Ministries. This is my eighth year! I went all through high school and have returned every year since as a leader.

Every year, I try to expand my involvement and look for new ways to engage the group and improve our experience. It’s usually little things, like offering to help lead our campfire singing or volunteering to coordinate thanking our financial supporters. This year I am excited to be in charge (at my age, it’s still exciting to be put in charge of almost anything) of the Valentine’s Bake Sale fundraiser. Okay, so maybe a church bake sale is not the same as a star-studded, $100-a-ticket gala. But dang it, it’s still an event and I am proud to be trusted with its success.

So, I’ve been trying to brainstorm new ways to reinvigorate the bake sale. Last year, I expanded beyond the typical cookie contribution and made adorable hand-made valentines. Considering that older individuals (like the majority of my church’s  congregation) sometimes have health concerns that prevent them from going hog-wild on brownies (not too mention the reality that most everyone is on some kind of diet these days), I came up with the idea to offer an alternative. I really wish I had saved one my favorite styles – a handpainted kitten in pink metallic paint on a brown circle with “I think you’re the cat’s meow” written in cursive, all tucked in a coordinating envelope. The finishing touch was a dab of glitter in each eye to bring the kitty to life. I sold them at $5 a piece. They went like hotcakes.

This year, I’m encouraging the kids to likewise think outside the bakery case. I’m also developing a standardized pricing guide; each year we struggle with determining whether Matt’s brownies, which are slightly larger that Julia’s, should be equally priced or not. I’d hate to insult someone’s culinary skills by pricing their masterpiece too subjectively. Also in the works is a strategy to lower our waste – all the saran wrap and plastic bags aren’t any better for the earth’s health than the rice crispies are for ours.

The bake sale is this Sunday. I’m looking forward to see what the kids turn out this year. I think as long as it’s not pre-packaged generic sugar cookies, I’ll be satisfied. But if I can also help increase our profits over last year, streamline the process, and reduce our environmental impact, I’ll be happier than a kid in a candy store.

Image courtesy of www.hostessblog.com

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