Monday, March 25, 2013

Jenna Papotto

I've been home for two days and I don't think I've gone 20 minutes without talking about my trip to Biloxi. I feel extremely bad for my friends and family because it is all I talk about. In only a short week I experienced one of the best times of my life. I will be corny and admit that it changed my life. I now look at everything around me in a different way because  of the trip. The people I met and the experiences I had changed my perspective on life. I never expected that the trip to Mississippi would change me as much as it did. I'm proud of myself and the 29 other people who joined me on the wonderful trip to Biloxi.

         So here's some of the day to day activities I recorded in my journal throughout the trip:

Day 1: The first day after arrival we were assigned to work with Horticulture for Humanity. My first thoughts after finding out what we were doing for the day were: What about the oil spill? Yes, we came down south expecting to help with an oil spill that corrupted the gulf. Little did we know that the south was STILL suffering from Katrina and they needed our help in other places. I was completely content with helping any cause as long as someone or something was getting helped. We worked in the Katrina Sculpture Garden right on the coastline of Biloxi. This was one of the highlights of my trip, the moment we met Martha. Martha taught us about the gardens, Katrina, and about life. The gardens were not just there to look nice, but to restore faith in the people of the south. They were the color when everything around them seemed to be dark. We weeded, trimmed, and cut down bushes to clean up the entire garden. The best part of the garden was the sculptures made from damaged trees from Katrina. They took something damaged and made it beautiful. It's clear that these gardens mean a lot to the people of the south because they thanked us with a honk as they walked by. The gardens were a reminder to the people of Biloxi that that they will recover and their beautiful home will be restored once again.

Day 2: I got in synch with my inner construction worker and worked on a pastors house. In transition for the new pastor to move in, a group of volunteers and a sweet man named Wes worked on completely renovating the four bedroom home next to the church. When we arrived, a lot of the demo was already done. We were assigned to help take out window silts, remove counter tops, take out paneling, and cleaning up the yard. Although they all seem like very little things, the little things add up. That is the biggest lesson I took away from our day of work. Yes we may of just raked leaves and cleaned up inside, but if we didn't help that's an extra day of work they would have had to do. My favorite part of the day was working in the kitchen with Wes. He would begin to take something out or nail something in on his own, and then he would stop himself so I could help. He knew we were eager to help and he was happy to show us. I think he helped us as much as we helped him.

Day 3: Our third day we headed out toward the ice  cold shore line about an hour from camp. Alright, ice cold is a bit of an exaggeration, but it was cold out. We warmed right up the second we started working. This day was such an eye opening day for my. It defiantly consisted of the most physical labor. Our third day we met the kindest and most hard working man in Mississippi, Marty. Marty worked for the Department of Marine Resources and was working on a project solo. Besides the volunteers he received during spring break he was basically a one man team. This just goes to show that one person can really make a huge difference. Marty's project worked on restoring the shore line and preventing erosion along Deer island. The oyster shells we bagged will be nailed to the sea floor and used as a barrier and for fish to use as shelter. In just a few days the volunteers were able to bag over 1000 bags of oysters. This made a huge dent in his progress and it was clear that he appreciated the help. He left us each with a hug and a huge thank you.

 It's people like Marty, Martha, and Wes that truly make the hard work worth it. They give hope for future generations. I learned from each of them and the many people I met through out the week that everyone has a story they want to tell. They all were more than happy to share the personal details of their lives to show us why they work so hard and do the things they do. These people have gone through so much yet we see them stand strong years later because they never gave up. The "little things" they do to help out Mississippi and the gulf really do add up. Raking leaves may seem like an annoying choir like your parents ask you to do, but if you dont't do it who will. From holding open a door to sweeping a floor, these little service add up to something much bigger. Service should be a part of your everyday life and it will sure be a part of mine. This trip taught me so much I can't fit it all into one blog. I made 29 new friends and plenty of new friends down in Mississippi. I wouldn't have wanted to spend my spring break any other way. My experience in Biloxi will be one that I will carry with me throughout my life. I hope to return there one day and once again extend a helping hand. I am so thankful I was given this wonderful experience.

Jenna Papotto
Class of 2014

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