So, despite the fiasco that was the first trip to Detroit, Sara and I decided it was worth giving it a second try. Please pardon the photo quality – I don’t have a scanner available so it’s a photo of a photo and since the original is incredibly glossy, it wasn’t easy to avoid reflection, glare and what have you. Anyway, the second trip was more than worthwhile. She and I went as site leaders this time, which means we were in charge…hmm… who’s crazy idea was it to let us lead? Hmm.
So quick back track – it was my time in Detroit for three spring breaks while I was in college that I learned to love volunteering. It was on this trip’s t-shirts, the second trip, that I learned the quote I really try and live by, particularly now. “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,”- Gandhi. I love that. I totally agree and am trying to follow that, especially now that I’m trying to do more volunteering, but that’s for another post. I’ve already discussed the first trip so now it’s time to talk trip number two!
First, the group was vastly improved and larger, which to be fair wouldn’t have taken much, but it really was incredibly different and all for the better. First – there was no “Jody.” That alone improved the group. All kidding aside, I met some of the coolest people on that trip and we had a blast! Sure, as with any group outting, there were a few bumps and bruises, but overall we had a great time, made great friends and made lasting memories – a total win!
Our group consisted of Sara, Marissa, Erica, Erik, Ted and Karri, Dave, Jaime, Christina and myself. I never knew such a fun group of people could be put together. Holy crap we had a good time volunteering! It would be some of my best memories in all of college and to date. During our group activities we learned so much about each other, our goals and dreams – it was amazing. Everyone there has so much to offer this world. I’m so lucky to have met everyone on that trip.
The goal, of course, was to volunteer with the group SOSAD, Save Our Sons and Daughters, a grassroots organization working to prevent violence and promote education in Detroit. We went to a total of four schools, working with all aged kids. Their stories are amazing and so heartbreaking. I learned so much from kids who were so much younger than myself.
Anyway, I have to start with our first day in Detroit, which really turned into exploring Windsor, Ontario, Canada. It was right around St. Patrick’s Day and as we were walking along town we saw these two people in sort of giant balloon/inflated costumes that were supposed to be leprechauns. Naturally we got photos. We then went to Subway for lunch – yeah not exactly foreign food, but then again Windsor really isn’t all that foreign despite being in another country. Hell, we didn’t even need passports to cross the bridge at that time (pre-9/11).
I was having a little bit of a hard time. I can’t remember exactly what I was bumming about though tiredness was a part of it and I’m sure feeling like I wasn’t being a good leader was another part of it. I have a bad habit of being extremely hard on myself. Anyway, my pal Eric decided to wake me up in a rather unusual manner. Eric stands up next me as I sat in a booth and tells me to stand up also. So I do. Please remember that I’m only 4’8″ (if you have read “What’s It Like Being Short?” – that may help) and as it turns out, Eric was over 6′ tall – I can’t remember but possibly 6’3″ or 6’4″ maybe. Anyway, I barely stand up, he puts his hands under my arm pits, lifts me above his head like I weigh nothing and shakes me! I mean really shakes me like I’m a rag doll and yells at me “Wake Up!!!” I vaguely remember looking into his big blue eyes and that’s about all I could see. It all happened faster than I could say holy cow! He put me back down and all I could do was stand there, knees bent, eyes wide open, laughing my ass off and shaking a little bit. Let me just say – I know first hand why you never, EVER shake the baby! The whole place was in an uproar but naturally because it happened so fast and everyone was laughing so hard, there is no proof of said event. It’s a tragedy because it was truly hilarious. Even if a repeat could be done, it just wouldn’t have the same effect. That was truly once in a lifetime deal.
So that’s how the trip started haha. It would only get better. As the previous year, the first day was spent at SOSAD getting to know the ladies and gentleman but also learning what it’s like to grow up in Detroit. The ladies taught us some things they wanted us to do with the kids, like at the end of the day, doing an assembly and creating what is called the Peace Chain. The ladies also gave us cards to hand out to the kids so they know they have someone to turn to if they ever needed someone.
What always stuck out in my mind about Detroit were the statistics. Now those numbers may have changed because this trip was in the spring of 2002. Clementine, who founded SOSAD, told us a high percentage of elementary kids were impacted by violence, by middle school a vast majority of kids were impacted and by high school, every student knew a family member or friend who’d been shot. That’s tragic to me. We also heard from SOSAD and the teachers we’d talk with that many of the kids would never leave Detroit, possibly not even their own neighborhoods, when they grew up. They would never know what the outside world is like. Another tragedy.
Our mission, and we definitely accepted, was to talk to those kids about alternatives to fighting, to using guns and other weapons to solve their problems. We were to talk to high school students about moving onto college and to think of life beyond Detroit, not to say they couldn’t stay or never come back, but to think about what life may be like outside of their bubble. It was our job to show them possibilities. There is more to life than living in fear, than just the immediate surroundings. It wouldn’t be easy but that’s what we were there to do and we were happy to do it.
I still have much more to say about this particular trip but this post is getting lengthy, so a two, maybe even a three parter it shall be. I hope you all are willing to hang with me for this and thanks for hanging in so far!