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Maximizing Your Convention Experience

Colvinby Amy Colvin, Director of Education and Leadership Initiatives
(Beta Phi, Bowling Green State University)

Convention starts in 32 days, not that anyone’s counting… For those of you attending, the next 32 days will surely be filled with a whirlwind of activity, whether you’re still shopping for all the perfect convention outfits or trying to finish all the items on your to-do list before spending a few solid days with hundreds of sisters. As you work on that to-do list, I hope you will add one more item to cross off before departing for convention: “make a plan” for how you will maximize your convention experience.

I, of course, as the director of education and leadership initiatives, am particularly talking about maximizing the educational opportunities, but there are also so many other ways to maximize your experience. As a frequent convention and conference attendee, I’ve learned to, first, make a plan in advance that ensures you are able to take advantage of all the opportunities that exist, and second, to go to everything (even the optional events and activities). Alpha Chi Omega’s convention can be a great professional development opportunity for you no matter if you are a collegian, recent alumna, or longtime Alpha Chi Omega, as long as you are intentional about your time while you’re there.

Your plan should include:

  1. List the educational sessions you would like to attend during each speaker session block.  Speaker session information is online! We have lined up a solid list of outstanding presenters, many of whom are Alpha Chi Omega sisters themselves, to share their knowledge and experiences about a variety of topics that you absolutely do not want to miss. [Pro Tip]: If there are multiple people coming from your collegiate chapter, alumnae chapter, advisory board, local house corporation board, volunteer team, friend group, etc., make a plan to divide the sessions and split up so you can all share what you learned when you return from convention.
  2. Talk with sessions presenters before or after their sessions. Of course, be mindful of their time, but what better way to connect with some inspiring individuals than to make a personal connection. [Pro Tip]: Google the presenters to learn more about them and even consider emailing them in advance to make a connection.
  3. Make a list of new sisters that you would like to meet. Maybe it’s a sister you’ve connected with virtually through social media, or a sister you admire but have never met, or someone from your chapter of initiation whose name you’ve heard multiple times but have never actually gotten the chance to meet in person. [Pro Tip]: To make your list manageable, identify two or three sisters. Make sure you identify a purpose for connecting with them even if it’s just to say thank you or that you admire and look up to them.
  4. Identify the individuals that you’d like to reconnect with, maybe you haven’t seen them in a while or life has been moving so quickly that you haven’t had a chance to catch up lately. [Pro Tip]: Email them in advance and make a plan to share a meal with them.
  5. Follow up. Don’t let convention be the end of your learning and networking. After convention, email individuals you met, add them on Facebook, stay in touch with them. Also, make sure to share the knowledge you learned at convention with your sisters. [Pro Tip]: Give a presentation at your next chapter or board meeting to share all the wonderful information you learned.

 

One thing is for sure, once you arrive in Palm Desert, I hope you have a solid plan to maximize your convention experience. I know I’ll be on the lookout for sisters executing their plans—attending fabulous speaker sessions, meeting new sisters, and reconnecting with sisters from the past. I look forward to seeing you in Palm Desert in July!

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This is to be My Symphony

by Seanne Louvet
(Theta Pi chapter, University of California – Davis)

Seanne Final GSI

Being a sister of Alpha Chi Omega these past 2 years has been an indescribable experience. It has shaped who I am and who I want to be, impacting my life significantly. Alpha Chi has given me everything from life long friends to unforgettable memories. But, the most remarkable thing it has given me was the opportunity to go on this eye-opening, jaw-dropping, inspiring trip. I cannot fully express how truly blessed I feel to have been given this experience.

To see beauty even in the common things of life.
Traveling to a new place surrounded by strangers was a step way out of my comfort zone. I had to quickly forget all worries and inhibitions and just jump-in full-throttle. Being uncomfortable became the norm (especially with the heat and those darn bugs!) So, I found tremendous appreciation for the little things; the things that made me feel more at home or comfortable in this new setting. Whether it was a cold shower after a long day of working, the breath-taking ocean view at Taino Cove, the new foods we indulged in, a smile from a stranger, a comfortable bed or wearing my favorite Alpha Chi jacket, I am thankful for every single thing this trip provided me, even the “common things”.

To shed the light of love and friendship round me.
I never thought that in seven days, I could get so close with a group of women. We started out as total strangers from across the country, and quickly became a tight-nit family. Being with these 17 amazing women, I recognized the strength within the bond of Alpha Chi Omega and the amazing qualities each sister brings. Each of the women I met were so full of life, passionate, determined, genuine, down-to-earth, driven, smart, and the list goes on. Not to mention they all could make me laugh until my stomach hurt! Each one impacted me in a different way and they have all inspired me to continue to strive to be the best version of myself.

To keep my life in tune with the world, that I shall make no discords in the harmony of life.
One of my favorite things about this trip was our nightly reflections. I value the importance of reflecting upon and learning from your actions, and our reflections helped me understand the ‘why’ in what we were doing. I enjoyed getting to know everyone on a level below the surface, by sharing not only our experiences there but our individual experiences. I did everything in my power to be fully invested and present in every moment, soaking in the time I had with those amazing people in that amazing place.

To strike on the lyre of the universe only the notes of happiness, of joy, of peace.
I was so taken-aback by the compassion, kindness and pure joy exerted by every person I met on this trip. Our bus drive Merritt always had a smile on his face. Our boat Captain and crew were utterly high-on-life, with all their dancing, laughing and singing. They taught me to be in the present and not to worry about what the future holds. Winnie, Denise and Amina are probably the strongest, most interesting women I have ever met. I indulged in their every story and soaked in their ounces of wisdom, determination and strength.

To appreciate every little service rendered.
This trip taught me the difference between “helping” and “service”. Service is a relationship between equals. The 21 of us worked tremendously hard this week serving the students and teachers of the school. But the hard-labor didn’t go unnoticed. The children of the schools served us in more ways than they know. The kids loved abundantly and were so joyful and carefree that they kept us energized and determined to finish. They sang to us in our bucket lines and gave us the strength to keep going.

And to let my lyre send forth the chords of love, unselfishness, sincerity.
This whole trip was an act of “love, unselfishness and sincerity”. And the gratification you get after a week like this one is unreal. I have discovered my role to continue to give graciously and serve others. The love and selflessness the 17 women had on this trip was unbelievable and I have no doubt in my mind that they will continue making a difference in the lives of others.

This past week has been a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forgot. The love, encouragement and support I felt from my 17 new sisters this past week was overwhelming and I could not be more grateful. This week allowed me to grow as an individual, and I believe I am now one step closer to discovering my passions, and pursuing my dreams and aspirations. This week I learned the power of one, realizing that it only takes one to make a difference. I have the power to return to my school and community and make a positive impact, and this trip has given my the courage and strength to do so. -This is to be my symphony.

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An Opportunity of a Lifetime

by Stephanie Miranda
(Gamma Phi chapter, Lamar University)

AXOGSI14

When I first heard about the GSI trip and applied for it, I wasn’t sure if I would get it or not. I was just really proud of myself for even stepping out of my comfort zone and applying for it. It’s my last year as a collegiate and I figured what a more perfect way to give back my last year as an active. When I received the email notifying me that I had been chosen, the feeling I had was indescribable. I was ready to take on Jamaica, serve others and to see what it had in store for me.

I had heard everyone’s opinions on Jamaica and how they perceived the country, little did I know that going there would completely change me. I was expecting to go to Jamaica and meet new sisters from across the country and together serve the communities. I was expecting a country who wasn’t as advanced as we were, a country who needed our help, a country who was basically fending for themselves. Well, the time came when it was finally my time to depart for Jamaica, and I said my “goodbye’s” and “farewell’s” and boarded the plane.

When I finally arrived in Jamaica I proceeded to find my ride, who welcomed me with open arms and a smile. Glenn was his name; he was my driver to my destination. Glenn was just the sweetest man, and he made me feel so welcomed and at home. We went on and on about our home countries and he educated me on Jamaica, and I asked about what dishes I should try while I was there and so forth. It was raining on our way to The Whistling Bird, the resort I would be staying at, and he explained to me how their drainage system works and how it all just flows back into the sea, as opposed to ours that doesn’t. That was something I found that was really interesting to me. When I finally arrived at the Whistling Bird, I got to meet all of the girls I would be rooming with and let me tell you, they could not have paired up a better group of girls to room together. Every single one of those girls greeted me like I was their best friend it was so amazing to see how strong our bond is even if we are from different states. We all had gone to Jamaica for a purpose and that was to serve others. The one thing that had brought us all together was the one thing that would make our bond stronger that week.

Our time came to start on our first project, Ketto Early Childhood Institute, where we would paint and help rebuild part of the school in just a matter of two days. The moment I stepped on the school grounds was the moment I knew my life would change forever, because I saw the children running towards us with such excitement in their hearts to see us. They hugged us like we were family and my heart just melted and tears almost came strolling down my face when they hugged me. That was the moment I realized that I was going to work harder than I ever had in my entire life, and it was all for them. Never again will I think anything is impossible, because in those two days we were able to finish a project that would have taken weeks for them to do. 20 girls were able to paint that school and rebuild part of it, 20 Real Strong Women. My love for Alpha Chi Omega grew so much stronger those days. It was so incredible to see how we all came together and worked our hearts out for those kids to have a better learning environment. It was such an awesome experience for all of us. The next couple of days we worked at Pedro Plains and yet again we had to paint various rooms and do various tasks, and again we were able to finish it all in a matter of two days.

Overall, my experience in Jamaica was indescribable and I could not be more thankful to have had the opportunity to attend the trip. I went to Jamaica thinking I was going to make a change, but really they changed me. Every single person I met whether it was my sisters, or the people of Jamaica, just had a huge impact in my life. The locals were always so positive and happy even though they didn’t have much, but they were happy to just be alive. They made me appreciate everything I had and they made me see that you don’t need expensive materialistic things to make you happy, you just need to be happy to be alive. I learned that there are “no problems, just situations.” I loved learning about the culture and the history of Jamaica. It was so amazing to see how 20 girls could make such a big change in the world, and that our work there did not go unnoticed. I loved getting to know my sisters and how different our personalities were, but at the same time how alike we were. The bond that I got to share with those girls that week was far beyond more than words can describe. They reminded me of why I joined Alpha Chi in the first place. How amazing was it to have something that was so hard to say “goodbye” to?

I really could not have had a more rewarding experience before I go alum than this one. We definitely lived up to our motto that week, “Together let us seek the heights.” To my GSI sisters I leave you with this… “We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.”- Sonia Johnson

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Seeing Ritual in the Starz

Ally and Teamby Ally Hirst
(Theta Sigma, University of North Florida)

“G-O LET’S GO STARZ, G-O LET’S GO!” are some of my favorite words to hear each week. They may be in hushed tones from some of our more shy cheerleaders, or not as fully articulated as some of the teams we compete against, but they sound even more beautiful to me. Did I mention the Starz is the cheerleading team for the Down Syndrome Association of Jacksonville? Working with the Starz over this past year has brought new meaning to living our Ritual, specifically that of achievement.

Bragging about our two first place titles is definitely fun, but regardless of their awards, these girls have created a new place in my heart. Seeing them achieve so much throughout the season is inspiring: at the beginning of the season they barely make the steps in the right order, and forget about being in sync! But eventually, they perform like pros in front of crowds, smiling from ear to ear. Performing like they have practiced every night brings new light to achievement. We do many more performances than just our two competitions. In fact, we did one almost every week of the season. No matter the stakes, these girls rock the crowd every time.

Don’t let my bubbly post mislead you to think that it’s easy coaching 15 young women with Down Syndrome. They are just like any other kid. They have their moments of not wanting to practice, not wanting to listen, but we work through it, just like any other coach would. I spend a decent amount of practice bringing our wanderers back to the floor, helping up the “wet noodles” (as I like to playfully call them when they decide to melt to the floor and no longer want to dance), and supervising bathroom runs. However, getting hugs over and over from each and every smiling face has me anxiously awaiting practice every Tuesday night.

Whether we’re in a special teams category, or competing against the most decorated teams in the state, these cheerleaders truly embody achievement. They work hard every day to prove that they can do anything anyone else can do. They show me that putting your mind to something can definitely make your dreams come true. And most importantly, they prove to me just how real our Ritual is. Seeing these girls work hard towards achievements, both big and small, is inspiring. Thanks to the Starz for reminding me of Alpha Chi Omega’s Ritual and challenging me to live it every day.

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Power of Impact

by Angie Accorti
(Kappa Xi, University of West Florida)

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“Some of the most beautiful things in life can not be seen or heard, but felt with the heart”. This quote is the best way to describe how I felt with not just today, but throughout my entire week here in Jamaica. Today was Jamaica’s national holiday celebration of Labor Day. Labor Day in Jamaica is celebrated much more differently than the way we celebrate it in America. Instead of taking the day off to relax, drink, and have a bbq, the people of Jamaica take their day off the serve their communities. This year they focused on helping serve local schools, and police stations. We were all really excited to go back to Pedro Plains Primary School because we knew a lot of the children’s family was coming to help along with the children and community members. As we got to the school we went straight to work  on finishing all that needed to be done. It was fulfilling to see all of our hard work getting paid off, and seeing the smiling faces of parents and children was just a constant reminder of why we are here. Once we were done with the projects at the school, I went around to every room and just was in awe of all that we accomplished in just two days. I also took a step back to appreciate the Jamaican community. There were parents and students there helping us clean, paint, and mop the entire school on their day off. I think it is so special how much dedication and love the Jamaicans have for not just their community, but for their country. They are willing to help people in need in order to see their community succeed.

The staff at Taino Cove made us a wonderful last dinner and we were all excited to be  with our guest speaker, Amina. Amina works for the ministry of education for Jamaica so it was truly an honor to have her come and speak with us. She is world famous story teller, and she showed us her talents by telling us stories of Jamaica to help us fully understand the country. She talked about the history of Jamaica culture, songs, dance, food, and education. She is by far the most inspirational woman I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She spoke with such compassion and drive, that gave me such hope in my future and all that I want to do in life. One of the best things she said was that anything we are destined to be will happen. I believe that with a full heart. Even just being on this trip, I know I was destined to be here, and I have never felt more sure that I am where I am supposed to be.  I’m just truly thankful that I got to be here with my sisters from all over the country by my side.

Once Amina was done speaking with us, Winnie (the woman who owns Taino Cove) came up and just thanked us for all the hard work we done. It was also very special that the principal from the school came to give us all another thanks for all the time and effort we put in these past two days. Tonight was the night that made me so proud to be an Alpha Chi Omega and to be here serving the people of Jamaica. It was touching to hear them use our motto “Real Strong Woman” to individually describe us, and give us encouragement in all of our goals in life. They gave me a sense of drive that I have never felt to reassure me to keep working hard toward my goals and everything will turn out the way it’s supposed to. The power of impact is so great, and all the people I met this week have left such an imprint on me that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Reflection was probably the hardest part of tonight since it’s our last night together. I am just truly thankful to be a part of such a strong sisterhood, and to be given this opportunity to come here. All these women are amazing in their own way, and have each impacted me. They inspire me to be a better  woman, philanthropist, and Alpha Chi and I don’t know how I can ever thank them enough. From the moment I got off the plane till now I have never felt the bond more strongly in my entire Alpha Chi experience. It’s awesome knowing that sisters from all over all have the same goals, and are there to support you no matter what.  I’m proud to say I went with this group and made everlasting friendships, and memories that I will cherish forever.

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Simon Says

by Mary Catherine Connors
(Alpha Upsilon chapter, University of Alabama)

Sadly, this was our last full day 004in Jamaica. Yet, today definitely included the most inspiring and influential moments of our entire experience. This morning, we returned to Pedro Plains Primary School to finish up some last minute painting in the classrooms. By the end of lunch, the rooms were painted a happy yellow, which brightened up the entire school. All of the girls, including myself, are very excited for the schoolchildren to see the rooms and finish up the rest of their school year on a great note.

Today was also Labor Day in Jamaica! Kaye informed the group that Labor Day in Jamaica is about volunteerism, and people from all over the country will take the time to volunteer and help their local community in any way possible. As the bus arrived at Pedro Plains, it was very heartwarming to see many parents and children were already at the school ready to volunteer and finish the project at the school. Throughout the day, the girls were able to interact with many parents and speak to some of the children that attend the school as well. The most exciting part of the afternoon occurred when Kristin and Seanne started a game of ‘Simon Says’ and ‘Red Light Green Light’ with the kids. We even joined in for a photo op with the kids and practiced our very best model poses. Not only did the kids have a blast running around the schoolyard playing games, but all of the volunteers enjoyed watching the fun and laughing together! Everyone felt a little sad when we said goodbye to the school, but we knew that being covered in paint hopefully meant that we had made a lasting impact on the community.

This evening, I had the opportunity to speak with the owner of our hotel, Winnie. She stood by our table at dinner and asked us various questions about where we were from and how we were enjoying our experience in Jamaica. Until tonight, I was focused on learning about Jamaican culture. However, Winnie pointed out something very important. She told us that not only should we try to soak in as much Jamaican culture as possible, but we should also understand that we ourselves come from different cultures in our states. I have realized that this opportunity has allowed me to experience both Jamaican customs and traditions, as well as talk to girls from other parts of the country.

After dinner, we had a special surprise (besides the awesome ice cream on the bus, thanks guys!). We were able to listen to the insightful words and storytelling of Anima, who works in the Ministry of Education and Culture in Jamaica. By the end of the night and a few tears later, I know that all of the group members are sad to leave Jamaica tomorrow. However, I am positive that the invaluable lessons and time we have spent in Jamaica will help us to grow in both our lives and Alpha Chi Omega! Most of all, I am excited to have experienced lasting friendships and know that all of the girls will do amazing things in their lives!

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Beneath the Same Sky

by Allison Haindfi020eld
(Xi chapter, University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Today we began our work day at the Pedro Plains Primary School in Treasure Beach. This primary school had been worked on and repainted in the past few weeks and we were planning to repaint the insides of the classrooms with a vibrant yellow. Many of us had brought along school supplies that we wished to donate as well and we set them in a corner until there was a more permanent place for them. All of us set off on our given job either scraping, painting, rolling, organizing, or cleaning. There was much work to be done but the time quickly flew by as we enjoyed the company of our sisters and the other Jamaican school workers who had joined us for the day. Once I had entered the last room that I would paint that day, I looked around at all the work that had been accomplished already and felt a great sense of contentment knowing that, when Monday came, the kids would return to a beautifully redone school.

Once we packed up and left Pedro Plains, we returned to Taino Cove to enjoy the sun and the beach before dinner. I walked along the beach with Ashley and Emily and couldn’t help but wonder at how all eighteen of us girls had come together and gotten along so well. We came here from all over the United States and we seemed to fit together exactly like a puzzle. We had a great understanding of each other and we all shared a great passion for service and for becoming an excellent global citizen. I was deeply saddened by the fact that, within only two days, we would be leaving each other to return to our separate lives back home.

We arrived at Jack Sprat for dinner, which was an incredibly delicious pizza place. All of us immediately ran down to the beach at the restaurant to capture pictures of the breathtaking sunset and of course to take pictures with each other throwing up our Alpha Chi hand sign. Alessia had mentioned that, “It looked just like Bid Day out on that beach.” We ate and watched the movie that played in the background as I fed my leftovers to a dog that had accompanied my table. Sadly, the time had passed us by and it was again time to leave.

Once we returned to Taino Cove, we all rushed outside to take a better look at the night sky that surrounded the island. I had never seen so many stars before. There were always too many lights back home, even in the country, to see such constellations. Although we were so far from home, the sky was familiar. It’s comforting to know that wherever we are, we look up at the same sky. When it comes time to leave this beautiful island and my newfound family, I will always remember when I stood side by side with my sisters admiring the beauty that surrounded us. Wherever we end up in our lives, no matter how far these girls and I veer apart, we will always look up at the same sky. I take great comfort in knowing that we will always have that moment under the stars and that we will never be truly alone. I have a new love for Jamaica after having this experience and it has a very special place in my heart. I am now a part of it, and it will forever be a part of me.

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In Over My Head, I Want To Be

by Caroline Quintanilla
(Iota chapter, University of Illinois – Champaign Urbana)

AXO GSI Day 6
Well, first off, I have to point out how unbelievably blessed I am to be here with 19 of the most beautiful and thoughtful women I have ever met (special thanks to my caring parents for letting me come on this trip). This past week has been a whirlwind of emotions, and I have to say I have felt every emotion in the book in the short time that we’ve been here. I am so in awe at the beauty of Jamaica… its scenery, people, and even the dialect.  It is absolutely unreal to me.  Hearing the stories of multiple Jamaican citizens and spending time with the children and working to accomplish our goals… things like restoring the foundation of Ketto school in Negril and painting almost every room in Pedro Plains primary school (what we did today).

Today was a flood of emotions as we worked alongside one another to paint Pedro Plains’ classrooms. Grades 1 through 6. It was an intense feeling of nostalgia as I looked through the textbooks and admired the chalkboards and posters that pointed out things that we (as college students) had learned a long time ago. I couldn’t help but feel excitement for the Jamaican students. I am so thrilled that most of them  have the opportunity to gain an education, and I truly believe that their futures will be just as bright as the ones  we have had, even if it might not be from traditional American standards. The Jamaican culture seems to value happiness and freedom with a more intense passion than anything I have ever seen. I can’t help but admire that.

Lastly, I have to comment on what might be my favorite part of the trip; the value that I’ve come to place on Alpha Chi as more than just a sorority and a houseful of girls to call “sisters.” It is truly a bond unlike any other, a link between hearts, and a place to call home. I have never felt so at ease with a group of girls as I have this past week. To be honest, the thought of leaving them has made my heart break in a way that I have never experienced before. What’s the most magical about my experience with them was the fact that we are so similar, and our hearts lie in such similar places. The blatant love and appreciation for Alpha Chi Omega, the tenderness of heart for doing service and loving on others, and the willingness to learn more about ourselves and the world around us is absolutely humbling and I can’t help but be awestruck at how alike we are even though we call all areas of the United States our homes.

All in all, this may have been the most beautiful experience I have ever had, and I couldn’t be more blessed to have the opportunity to experience Jamaica as a place of promise, culture, and beauty, as well as embracing the passion and intensity behind the bond of Alpha Chi Omega. Together we’ll just always be seeking the heights.

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Experiences We Will Never Forget

033by Taylor Fitzgerald
(Epsilon Phi chapter, Georgia Institute of Technology)

This morning was full of mixed feelings as we had to say a bittersweet farewell to the Whistling Bird in Negril and depart for new adventures at Treasure Beach. Driving anywhere in Jamaica is always quite the experience because you get to admire the beautiful nature and you get a glimpse into their culture. Not to mention, their traffic rules and the state of their roads are extremely different from what you see back in the United States. One experience that really stood out to us was today when a big work truck that was playing loud music passed by us and, what we thought at first glance, was having a party. However, we learned that it was actually a funeral service. I just thought that was so cool to have a celebration for someone’s life and it was something so different from what we are used to in our culture.

After driving for a few hours, we finally reached YS Falls. Here, we were given an opportunity to go zip lining over waterfalls on the property. Being the real, strong, adventurous women that we are, we all decided to go, even if it meant conquering a fear of heights for some people. It was awesome and exhilarating to be able to experience Jamaica from a whole new perspective. After the zip lining, some of us even hiked back up the waterfall to rope swing into the waterfall!

On the road once again, we soon stopped at Juici Patties, equivalent to one of our fast food restaurants, and got to try some of their food. Finally we reached our destination, Taino Cove at Treasure Beach. We were blown away by how cool our new lodgings were. We spent the next few hours hanging out by the pool, talking to the inspiring people who work here, and exploring around the beach. After dinner we got to watch part of a movie called Life and Debt and even had the owner of the place we’re staying at give us more insight into the story that explained some of the history and struggles that Jamaica has been through and is still in the middle of. We left the movie more knowledgeable about the conditions and problems that their economy is facing and also filled with a renewed passion to go out and serve the people here in any way we can.

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No Problems, Only Situations

by Haley Johnson
(Beta Omega chapter, University of Toledo)
GSI Day 5
Before coming to Jamaica on the Alpha Chi Omega Global Service Initiative trip, I wasn’t sure what to expect on what I would encounter on this journey.  At the start of the week, we discussed the difference between “helping” and “serving”.  I initially thought we were heading to Jamaica to “help” those in need, when really we were “serving” these wonderful people.  I have found that helping is a one-way street, and serving is getting back something that you’re giving as well, without expecting it.

On our second day, we went to a local church, and got to experience their worship.  The people at the church were so open to us coming in, and the children ran right up to sit with us.  They encouraged us to dance and sing along, as best we could, to share in the worship of the Lord.

The next few days, we spent time serving the teachers and children at Ketto Early Childhood Institute, painting the school building and tearing down part of the foundation, to rebuild it the next day.  We spent a little downtime with the children and teachers, learning about their culture and their lives.  Having the chance to learn and talk with them has given me such a rewarding feeling knowing that I’m serving this school and learning in the process.

Today we got a rest day from working hard the last two days.  We left Negril, Jamaica, with 21 people’s luggage in tow, to travel to YS Falls to go ziplining over the waterfall.  The guides on the ziplines were amazing, and joking around with all of us, while still ensuring that we were safe.  The break was much needed and great to have a fun day before heading back to work at the next school near Treasure Beach, Jamaica.  Some of the girls even decided to ride the rope swing into the waterfall, while the rest of us relaxed in a pool before taking off to the next stop.

Throughout the week, we not only were experiencing the local culture of the island, but we also have had a chance to try real Jamaican food.  We tried many Jamaican favorites, like “Juici Patties”, which are similar to Hot-Pockets, and a form of Jerk Chicken.  However, getting the chance to try real Jamaican foods are certainly a great experience that I never thought I’d get the chance to encounter.

I’ve always done service throughout my life, but I never differentiated “helping” and “serving”.  After this experience, I can tell that serving is doing something good, without expecting anything in return, but leaving with a rewarding feeling that can’t be fabricated.  The people I have met on this trip are so happy with everything, and make me realize that we should all have this mentality.  One man told us “There are no problems, only situations”, which I feel like many of us, including myself, see the problems in life, instead of finding the way to work through it.  This trip has taught me so much in only a few short days, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week has in store for me and my sisters.

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