By Julia Zagaja Kappa Tau, University of Connecticut
I had been looking forward to the first day of serving in Jamaica since the moment I was chosen to participate in Alpha Chi Omega’s 2015 Global Service Initiative. I have always wanted to take part in a service trip, and I am so glad I was afforded this amazing opportunity. In the few days I’ve spent in Jamaica, so far, I can already tell that this trip will be one I never forget.
We arrived at Church Hill Primary School bright and early this morning, eager to begin our service project and meet the local school children. An elementary education major myself, ‘excited’ does not begin to describe how I felt leading up to our arrival at the school. We met the school principal, who welcomed us with open arms and thanked us in advance for our help and support. Next we entered two classrooms, where the students jumped up and greeted us in unison. At that point, the smile could not be wiped off my face, and I wanted to work as hard as I could to make a difference for these children.
The hard work began once we unpacked our tools and received different tasks to complete at the principal’s cottage, where our work will be focused for the next few days. I gladly volunteered to paint the exterior of the house and got right to work with a few of my sisters. One coat, two coats, three coats later and the difference we had made in one day became extremely apparent. Painting the house was a bonding experience in itself, and a great way to see what a lasting difference you can make in just one day.
My favorite part of the day, hands down, was playing with the school children during their recess time. The kids flooded out of the school as soon as the bell rang and were running up to me for hugs, piggy-back rides and the chance to braid my hair in no time. The hour I was able to spend with the children made my entire trip so far, and I look forward to going back to the site tomorrow and interacting with them again. Kids always have a way of lighting up my day, but these kids in particular inspire me through their appreciation and joy.
It was an absolute pleasure working in a community where any help received is appreciated so genuinely, and I cannot wait to see where the rest of this journey takes us.
By Maura Illing Zeta Upsilon, Case Western Reserve University
Today, our first full day in Jamaica, was full of immersion into the local culture. Our first stop of the day was to a church service. Unlike the typical Catholic mass I’m used to, this service lasts for 7 or 8 hours, although we only stayed for a little more than an hour. I was slightly apprehensive, at first, as to how the members of the church would react to us, especially since we came in after the service started and left before it ended. However, shortly after we were settled in our pews, the pastor gave the signal for offering peace to one another and members of the congregation made a conscious effort to come over and shake our hands, offer their peace and welcome us into their community. This small gesture really made me feel welcome and less like an outsider intruding on a religious service. The rest of the service was filled with singing, clapping and praising. It was empowering to witness so much positive energy in such a small room. I could tell that these people were completely dedicated to their faith and to their community and I was grateful to have been a part of it, even if only for a short time.
After church and lunch, we headed out on a glass bottom boat ride. Although it started out pretty rainy, by the time we got to our destination where we could swim and snorkel, the rain had let up and the sun came out. While stopped, we were able to swim into a cave, use snorkels to explore the water beneath us and just float in the water for a while. I really enjoyed this experience; not only because it was a unique opportunity to swim into a cave and see bats flying everywhere but also because it meant more bonding time with everyone on the trip! The boat ride back was full of singing and dancing and everyone was in good spirits.
Today’s activities were a great way to become more familiar with the Jamaican culture and get to know all the Alpha Chi’s on the trip. We ended the night with traditional Jamaican wish lanterns, which we lit and released over the ocean while making a wish. After my extremely positive experience today, I know my wish for how the rest of the week will go will come true. I can’t wait to start working on a local school tomorrow and forming even stronger bonds with everyone on the trip.
By MacKenzie Miller Delta Omicron, Portland State University
Getting to Jamaica yesterday seemed almost unreal. I have traveled abroad before, but never have I boarded a plane to a foreign country completely alone before. I sighed with relief as I got off the plane in Jamaica alongside five of my other sisters. Even though I had never met these women before, we share a special connection that made walking with them feel like walking with friends I had known for a lifetime!
After spending last night getting to know each other a little better, we spent today getting to know Jamaica. We spent the first part of the day in a church near where we are staying, and that was an incredible experience. So many people were gathered there to devote the entire day to worshiping God and receiving His love. It was an incredible experience that I won’t soon forget. It is things like that, spending even an hour or two in church with people who are so willing to give their worries and struggles over to someone or something else that make me so anxious to spend the next week with my sisters. We will probably struggle with some things at the work site, but I know that I have 17 other women here who I can give those struggles to and know that they will be there with open arms and open hearts to help me face them with grace.
That is what I love most about Alpha Chi Omega. This organization is full of women who will reach out to you when you need help, lift you up when you fall and be there to bask in the glory of the world when you just want to take a moment to take it all in. I can’t wait to start on this work with these women tomorrow and see what amazing things we can accomplish when we put all of our heads, and our hearts, together.
By Joelene Dittman
Delta Tau, Minnesota State University Mankato
My first day in Jamaica has already been quite the adventure! After going through immigration and navigating our way around the Jamaican airport, we knew we were in for quite the cultural experience.
The minute I connected with all of my sisters from across the nation, I could sense the passion, excitement and ambition from each of my sisters. Our adventure of this wonderful culture started with an hour and a half bus ride from the airport to the Whistling Bird Resort. The beach was calling all Alpha Chi’s; there was no doubt that we would take a swim, lay out on the beach and take lots of pictures during the beautiful sunset.
The Jamaican culture already has so much to offer. Dinner was served family-style with coconut chicken, soup and side dishes. It is easy to see the local Jamaicans’ charisma, the passion they have for their culture and how welcoming they are to visitors. Tomorrow we will be going to church, setting out on more adventures and making even more memories. Tonight consisted of a whole-group reflection, in which everyone contributed and discussed their thoughts about this journey so far.
We have come to a consensus: this Global Service Project will not only help us become global citizens but will also help us view people and places in a new perspective, as well as form a new sisterhood that will result in making an impact on an area that is in such need. I am far beyond blessed to be a part of this endeavor and could not ask for a better group of girls and trip advisors to help us seek the heights and accomplish so much.
By Camilla Cluett; Alpha Gamma, The University of New Mexico
Each part of my experience with the Global Service Initiative so far has been surprising. The first surprise came when I was on the shuttle from campus to my apartment and received the email, which I thought might be one of rejection, but said I was selected to come on this trip.
The second came when I left the airport and found our project coordinator standing on her seat, smiling and waving frantically to get my attention. My first steps in Jamaica, and I already felt welcomed and at home.
The third surprise was when everyone learned that it was my birthday, which many might give credit to the fact that it was the wi-fi password. Then, once everyone arrived in Negril, we swam for about three whole hours before dinner. I was quite surprised at how easily the conversations flowed and, more so, at how great of friends we were becoming within hours of meeting.
The very last (and my favorite) surprise was the spectacular sunset which wrapped up our first day in Jamaica. It just so happened to be the first sunset here in weeks. I like to think it was Mother Nature’s way of welcoming us and giving us a glimpse into how beautiful this trip will turn out to be. I know that there will be many more fun and exciting surprises to come on this trip, and I look forward to experiencing all of them with my sisters, and friends, by my side!
Physics, snow and cold weather. These things aren’t an unusual combination when you go to Allegheny College, a small liberal arts college in Northwestern Pennsylvania. In an attempt to distract myself from a tough problem on collisions, I pulled out my phone and checked my email. As the feed refreshed I saw I received a message from Alpha Chi Omega headquarters.
“Oh my gosh,” I exclaimed, as I opened the email! I sat in disbelief, excitement and utter happiness as I read the email explaining that I was chosen to take part in Alpha Chi Omega’s Global Service Initiative to Jamaica. My physics lab partners exchanged confused glances with one another as I continued to freak out for another five minutes or so. May 16th, the day we will depart for Jamaica, couldn’t come soon enough!
From the moment I received my acceptance to AXO’s Global Service Initiative, I have been waiting for the day I leave for Jamaica with great anticipation. Now, the trip is just a couple of days away and I couldn’t be happier that I applied!
One of the main reasons I decided to apply is the wonderful opportunity to do service and help others. Service has been important to me since high school. Then, I volunteered at a hospital one summer, completed service projects with National Honor Society and taught a child with autism through a program at my local church. In college, I feared that I wouldn’t be able to balance my course load while taking on other responsibilities such as volunteering. But after I joined Alpha Chi Omega, and volunteered more frequently with my sisters, I realized that it was still something I loved and wanted to continue doing.
Over the past year, I have become more involved in the Meadville community. I helped out at Make a Difference Day, Service Saturday and Women’s Services. Each of these opportunities gave me a chance to give back in some way to the community and to help to those who needed it the most. Although volunteering, itself, was a satisfying experience, lending a helping hand with my sisters made the experience more memorable and worthwhile. I can’t wait to put in some hard work with my sisters from across the nation and see the tasks that we can accomplish as a team! I am also excited to meet all of the sisters with whom I have been interacting before the trip. They all seem like wonderful women, and I can’t wait to bond with them!
Another reason I applied is because I wanted to make the most of my time as an Alpha Chi. I have received life-long friendships, a support system and love from Delta chapter at Allegheny College. So far, being a member of my chapter has been an honor and a privilege. It would mean so much to me to give back in whatever way I can. By taking part in the Global Service Initiative, I will gain another perspective on the world, and on volunteering, for that matter. I can share these new perspectives with the women in my chapter, with hopes that they too might be able to take-away something from my experience.
Finally, I am also so excited to experience what Jamaica has to offer! Within the first few days of the trip we will rehabilitate a principal’s cottage and then, in the days to follow, we will paint and do other small jobs at a school. I can’t wait to interact with the students there and give them the school supplies I collected before the trip. I think it will be interesting to see what schooling is like for them because I feel that I too often take my own education for granted. Also, I am eager to learn more about the Jamaican culture. Due to the fact that Jamaica gained its independence only 52 years ago, it will be neat to compare and contrast American culture to their own.
This trip is going to be a once in a lifetime, unforgettable opportunity for sure, and I am very grateful to be chosen as a participant in the 2015 Alpha Chi Omega Global Service Initiative. I cannot wait to delve into the adventures of the trip, take away what I can and most importantly help others!
By Vivian Neilley; Theta Lambda, Clemson University
When I found out I had been selected for the 2015 Collegiate Global Service Initiative trip, I could not believe it. I’m not just using that cliché, I honestly didn’t; in fact, I started screaming when I found out. On the bus. How on earth did they choose the small town girl whose application consisted mainly of an in-depth comparison of herself to Amy Pohler? Then I thought: this is why I love Alpha Chi Omega. They chose the girl who went outside of the box. We were all selected so that we can make a difference somewhere, outside of the “box,” or our comfort zone, in uncharted waters. Now Alpha Chi is blessing me with another opportunity to venture outside of the box – and out of the country – beyond the borders of sweet, safe America. I, along with 17 of my sisters, will be travelling out to make waves in Jamaica.
This will not be the first service trip I have attended; however, it will be the first one on which I can truly reflect, now that I am old enough to do so.
In the upcoming weeks, you will read about my sisters’ and soon-to-be friends’ blogs sharing our adventures and time in Jamaica. I hope that by reading this, and future blogs, you are inspired. We aren’t just on this trip to help people, we are here to advocate for change, to inspire. We want to advocate for others to step outside their comfort zone, where the real difference is made. You could say we are the marketers for our sisters and people across the globe to provide services just as great, if not greater, than the work we will do here.
I just recently finished Amy Pohler’s book – probably the inspiration behind my application – and found this idiom: “She didn’t make the mistake that most of us make, which is to close our eyes and hope the waves will go away or miss us or hit someone else. She dove in, headfirst.” That is what we are doing, diving in headfirst.
by Seanne Louvet (Theta Pi chapter, University of California – Davis)
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 viagra feminin achat femme 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.
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
by Angie Accorti (Kappa Xi, University of West Florida)
“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 tadalafil en comprime 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.