Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trip of a Lifetime


by Grace Roebuck
Most Valuable Student Scholar

My name is Grace Roebuck and I am a freshman at Vassar College. I’m undecided major wise, but enjoy using art as a medium for social advocacy in humanitarian crises. I’m currently in the process of bringing the “Red Sand Project” by Molly Gocham to Vassar, to raise awareness for human trafficking. My passion for social justice is what led me to apply for the Winter Elks Scholar Service Trip. 

Fourteen hours there, 14.5 hours back. Living in Rhode Island, my travel should have been about 12 hours total, but alas the weather had other plans. That being said, I would do it all over again or even drive to Dallas if I could relive the trip. This trip was one of the single most incredible experiences of my life. The connections I made with the people experiencing poverty and homelessness (our “neighbors”) and the other volunteers were invaluable. 

We are all rich and poor in different ways. Every person you meet has the ability to teach you something, and enriches your life if you allow them. Yet, we unfairly often categorize people by their socioeconomic status, and deem those of a lesser status as lazy, greedy, or undeserving. From this trip and the conversations I had, I can safely refute that grossly incorrect stereotype. When volunteering in the food pantry, I cannot recall one person who took food from every section. When I asked why they didn’t, I got answers like “Oh I have some of that left” or “Oh I don’t want to waste it, someone else can have it.” Not once did I see a glimmer of greed in someone’s eye, nor a hint of unintelligence in their rhetoric. 

At a dinner we hosted for our neighbors, I had the pleasure of meeting three little children who were AMAZING. Full of life, these children loved school and fun. They had big dreams and ambitions, and couldn’t find a school subject they didn’t enjoy. We ended up singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and dancing in the hallway. As we danced, their father came out to watch us. Looking a tad tired, the love in his eyes was clear as he watched his children dance around in pure happiness. Simultaneously, his eyes carried a look of sorrow, as though he knew their happiness was fleeting, existing for this moment, but not guaranteed for many future ones. 

As eye opening and incredible as it was to volunteer, the connections I made with the other scholars were equally priceless. Following our volunteer work, we unpacked each day, slowly delving deeper and deeper into privilege, poverty, and understanding our core self. Yet, these scheduled conversations only encouraged us to go deeper, even after they concluded. Late into the night we discussed theology, education and educational barriers, personal hardships, and passions (typically academic ones). Because of the conversations we had, and the service we did, we ended up forming an unbreakable connection, unique to the incredible group known as #Elksfamily. 

 To read more about the Dallas Elks Scholar Servcie Trip, click here.

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