Monday, March 27, 2017

Final Day Before Going Home

Today, in the morning, we are going to the Harvest Hope for the second time after having shower. We are packing and stacking boxes, then we pack some foods that are going to be distributed to several houses. After we have worked for about 2 hours, we are having our lunch.
In the afternoon, we separated into two groups.  One group put cans into plastic bags.  The kinds of the cans were peaches, tunas, beans and .  Plastic bags were very fragile, but they may be okay for just holding the four cans.  We noticed that they had some sugar in each can, so it is not very healthy.  I wonder who gets those just four kinds of cans, because the boxes that we made earlier included some cans too.  Maybe it's some emergency products for people.
The other groups are packing the vegetables in plastic bags. We are packing 2 types of vegetables, one of those is a tomato. We are packing the vegetables together with the 3 students from the University of South Carolina. All the vegetables are going to be distributed to several homes on the next day.
At the evening we have our best dinner in grill marks

-Ran and Brian

The Post Where Alyssa and Isaac Use Emojiis

Alyssa and Isaac
We started the day at Southeastern Middle School. We met Jay and Allison from Edventure and learned about the “Maker Space” Project in schools in impoverished areas of Columbia, SC. The purpose is to introduce students to various fields of science and technical areas to see what interests the kids have. Jay is working on putting 3D printers in classrooms to enhance the potential of the classrooms, among other projects.
Our job today was working on the communal garden in the atrium of the school, where the gardening club grows fresh vegetables to sell at a local farmers market. The wooden framework of the garden plots hadn’t been replaced since 2007, so they were falling apart and needed to be replaced. So first we broke down and removed the framework from the plots. We also removed sticks and debris to beautify the area. Then we hacked at the weeds that were growing on the plants which had been preventing vegetables from taking root.
After lots of raking and hoe-swinging, we had removed most of the weeds and turned over the soil so the kids could place a fresh layer of soil and plant a new crop of vegetables without doing so much manual labor themselves. Before leaving, Jay informed us on the demographics of the school, that it is nearly 100% African American and that every student gets free or reduced lunch. We passed a bulletin board that reflected test scores which showed that the students were often below average in math and reading areas. This helped us understand why it was important for us to come in and make any contribution we can make to help them enjoy their gardening more, which is good exercise and supports a healthy lifestyle, as well as helping them enjoy their studies more.
            We went to Edventure at 2 and Allison gave us a tour. She informed us that most of the kids who go there are relatively poor, so this facility gives a safe place for them to explore and learn. There were a variety of differently themed rooms, with many age-appropriate books, a grocery store simulation, which helped familiarize them with healthy foods to buy when shopping. There was a pizza themed room which allowed the kids to work on their math skills, as well as a science and engineering exhibit.
The main attraction was a four-story tall child named “Eddy”. It was a huge jungle gym in the form of a boy that allowed explorers to learn about anatomy while moving and playing inside his organs. It was even fun for us college kids so the children must be having a great time, especially if the kids don’t have access to playgrounds.
Overall it was a very effective learning environment cleverly disguised as an amusement park for children of all backgrounds.
After that we took a quick trip to the zoo and had a group dinner and a(nother) game of mafia J

Were excited to go back to harvest hope tomorrow and help however we can!

Meron Gets Reflective

Today, March 22nd, we started off the day by visiting the McKissick museum. The first exhibit was all about the history of medicine. I loved how it touched base on the origins of medicine. In addition, I loved how they talked about Western Medicine and African American Medicine. In my opinion, I felt like the museum did a very good job of covering a wide range of material. From the origins of medicine, to the holocaust and gems, they did a good job of bringing light to every topic. After the museum we took a tour of USC. The campus is beautiful but I still like UMD more. 

Lastly, we went to Eat Smart, Move More. Personally, to me it brought back good memories! I loved how the staff knew the students very well. I noticed how the center was strong on religion. During their meal they said grace first. Also, in the classroom, there were multiple things on the wall that said God. In Maryland, you don't usually see that. After helping the students with there work we talked to the facilitator. She explained that the community is a majority low income area. In addition, she shared with us how the local grocery store was closed. Being that the community is struggling, the fact that they closed down the store makes it worse! How are people supposed to eat healthy and purchase food if they have to travel long distances! Its really unfair! 

After that, we ended our day by heading back to the church. At the church we got the chance to have dinner with the locals and attend a service. I found the service to being moving and great! The pastor was very welcoming and engaging! Overall, the community is very welcoming and you can definitely see the southern hospitality in Columbia! 

The Mafia Starts To Take Over Our Lives

Today we woke up rather early due to the fact that we were volunteering at “Harvest Hope”. Harvest Hope is a local food bank that serves 20 of the 46 counties in South Carolina. There are many programs that this food bank has and we focused on the “mobile pantry” program. This program is awesome because Harvest Hope teams up with local churches that deliver supplementary food boxes to families in need around South Carolina. Our first task was to assemble what it seemed a billion boxes that the families in need would receive their food. Most of us grabbed a buddy and in no time those billion boxes were assembled.
After our box assembly was done, we all got in a line around a conveyor belt where we each were responsible for pitting a food item inside the box. I have to admit that I was a little scared to due this due to the fact that I was thinking about the “I Love Lucy” episode where she had to work in front of a conveyor belt. If you have seen that episode you know what I'm talking about, and if you haven't, let's just say that it doesn't end well.
            After a while we all got a rhythm going and we were knocking boxes out super fast. We even had to stop a few times to assemble more boxes! In the end we assembled 774 boxes in total. I really hope that what we did today impacted those 774 families because from experience I know that anything helps.
When we returned we were treated to dinner at Villa Tronco by Kirk Litton, the sole owner of Triple M Broadcasting and UMD alum! Villa Tronco is the oldest local Italian restaurant in the area, going back three generations, and the food was amazing- especially the tiramisu, gelato, and bread pudding for dessert! When we got back we had our reflection session. The first part of our reflection focused on the purpose of AB, why we chose to go on the trip, and what service really means. First we discussed the difference between volunteering and service. We decided that volunteering simply refers to an unpaid position, whereas service alludes to actually impacting the community in need. We also discussed the difference between a trip and experience; a trip is something more short-term-- you go somewhere for a period of time, come back home, and that’s that. An experience is more meaningful and often life-changing, not just limited to the trip.
In terms of why we do AB, we listed 14 reasons as a group, ranging from learning more about nutrition and food insecurity, to meeting more service-oriented people, to aiding the issues related to childhood obesity in SC. Jessica then asked, “How many of those benefit you (the volunteers) and how many benefit the community?”-- we realized that an overwhelming majority were for the benefit of the volunteers, and only 2 directly involved benefiting the community. It should be noted, however, that some of the “selfish” ones were things like “learning more about the causes of childhood obesity”-- technically this is for our benefit, and if we did not use this information it would be selfish. However, if we apply this knowledge to helping our community back home in MD, it’s certainly not a bad thing.
We also continued our discussion on voluntourism from yesterday. At Harvest Hope, a lot of us noticed that the food we were packing was not very healthy at all. In fact, my station was putting in the "assorted meals," which comprised of Skittles, chocolate pudding, and Nutrigrain bars. I was towards the end of the belt, and was often putting these packages in boxes already filled with Velveeta, loaded mashed potatoes, Bisquick or fried chicken batter mix, and Ramen. Rebecca (the volunteer organizer at Harvest Hope) had warned us of this, and explained that junk food is still better than no food at all, but regardless it still hurt a little putting such unhealthy food in the boxes, especially because sugary things wouldn’t even help satiate hunger. However, the boxes weren’t the only things the families were getting (they also got produce and vegetables that we didn’t see), which definitely made us feel better too. As did the fact that this organization helps hundreds of thousands of people a year!

After these discussions, we played a few (many more) great rounds of Mafia, pretty much killing Ryan every round because of his habit of giggling and blushing any time anyone accuses him and always being confused by Ran’s unvarying response, “It’s not me, because I’m not the mafia.” Pumped for Eat Smart, Move More tomorrow! :) 

Jerry and Hannah Get Deep

Jerry’s 20th Birthday Adventure
The first thing we did today was visit the South Carolina State Museum. There were many interesting exhibits made up of four floors. However, it was not necessarily the content that was intriguing, but the presentation of the information. For example, they organized South Carolina’s civil history on the fourth floor, which implied the lack of emphasis on that exhibit. On the fourth floor, we noticed that several key pieces of information about the Civil War and secession were either omitted or very brief and condensed. One experience I had was when a group of kids and a parent chaperone were looking at the display case containing the Confederate flags that were on display in government buildings. One of the kids asked the parent why they took down the flag, and the parent clearly avoided the question and gave a vague answer. This struck a chord with us because it made us realize that U.S. history is taught very differently in the South. Also, the museum’s coverage of slavery was very underwhelming, which reflected that most Southerners did not learn the significance of slavery in the Civil War.
At the next event, we visited the USC School of Medicine where we attended a seminar on End of Life Care. Unfortunately, we were late to the seminar due to miscommunication. Overall, we discussed the importance of understanding the many factors of end of life care. In discussion groups, we debated the importance of preventative measures impacting emergency situations relating to end of life care. In addition, we talked about the many different factors that need considerations when ending a patient’s life. Specifically, the patient’s families’ opinion, patient safety, patient’s comfort and considerations must also be considered. We also had the opportunity to discuss the idea of medicine with an M4 student who recently just matched. She answered questions relating to passion for medicine, classroom curriculum for pre-med students, useful study tips and tricks, and residency after med school.
We also reflected about the current situation that many people in South Carolina are experiencing. In particular, we talked about the policy making process and how many people’s opinions are not accurately represented by the politicians in D.C. In addition, we talked about possible solutions for this issue. Two possible solutions we came up with are public outreach and political efficacy. We look forward to the rest of the trip!
Best Regards,

Jerry and Hannah and frens J

Maria and Rebecca Tell All!!

Today we spent a large portion of our day at the Palmetto Children’s Shelter in Columbia. We split up into two groups and one group played with the kids while the other group cooked a dinner that we all shared with members of the shelter later that night. The younger kids were elementary-school age and they were super energetic and excited to see us. We spent most of the time running around outside with them until the older kids came back from watching a movie. It was very inspiring to see all the children / teenagers bond together and get along so well. The cooking group later informed us that the shelter did not have very many cooking supplies – no cutting board and a very old knife that wasn’t great for cutting – making us think that there isn’t a lot of home-cooked food at the shelter typically. The dinner went very well and it was great to see everyone enjoying the food. The night ended in a giant dance party with us, the younger kids, and some of the older kids in the main room.

When reflecting on today, I couldn’t stop thinking about how going to one place for one day doesn’t necessarily make a lasting impact in and of itself, you must learn from it and apply it in your every day life in order to make a difference. For example, after going back to College Park we could get involved in mentorship programs for kids in the community. While what we did today did help the shelter, I think it’s more about what we do afterwards that counts. Many of us revealed, during reflection, that our expectations did not exactly meet what we saw. A lot of us expected everyone to be more shy and reserved but they were actually super welcoming and excited to play games with us. That was a great surprise and playing games and eating dinner with them was a great way to end the night.

A Conversation Between Leaders- Travel Day

Jessica: So, people walked into my room at 5:40 in the morning to wish me Happy Birthday. This is how this trip started for me.
Dahlia: I made you brownies!
Jessica: Yes, very fudgy brownies that Jerry decided were also his birthday brownies
Dahlia: And then we all got in the car, had some bagels and bananas and set off! The drive went by pretty fast
Jessica: Besides the traffic accident that we got into in the last 10 minutes….
Dahlia: And there was great music (Shout-out to Jerry’s Spotify!)
Jessica: We met the guy
Dahlia: Andrew?
Jessica: Yeah, him.
Dahlia: He’s awesome. We got to borrow his Wii
Jessica: Always a positive. And we got a spacious basement with a kitchen-
Dahlia: SO Spacious.  A TV and an activity place and everything but a shower but it’s cool
Jessica: What did we do after that? I have short term memory.
Dahlia: Then we did the name game and sneetches.
Jessica: What’d you think about it?
Dahlia: I think it went well; was a good way to break the ice and know each other’s names
Jessica: Yeah, I got more of a feel for everyone’s personality and dynamic and set out to change reflections based on that to get maximum interaction from everyone, so that’ll be a challenge in the future. 
Dahlia: We went grocery shopping. We’ve gone grocery shopping every day, god dang.
Jessica: We like food, what can I say?