Hello BRAVE Community!
My name is Jamiah and I have been with BRAVE for about a year now. My BRAVE journey started when I attended the very first UConn BRAVE meeting last fall as a college freshman. At this meeting, I had the pleasure of meeting former BRAVE intern, Brittany Kenyon, and AmeriCorp VISTA member, Andrea McDermott. (Shout out to those two for making my awkward, and quite nervous, freshman self feel comfortable in that meeting environment!) After attending weekly meetings, I knew I had to apply to be an intern. So I did! I was lucky enough to receive an offer to serve on the Organization (Org) Team as the Social Media Intern for the Spring 2017 semester. Without hesitation, I accepted the offer and started an internship that taught me so much, personally and professionally. After a very impactful and fun experience, I am honored to say that I will be returning as the Communications Coordinator and Org Team leader for the 2017-2018 academic year.
Towards the end of my first semester as an intern, BRAVE presented an opportunity to go on a service learning trip to the Dominican Republic that I could not pass up. After lots of planning and fundraising, myself and seven other BRAVE women traveled to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic where we spent ten days building a school and learning with the people who live there. We were also able to provide a collection of school supplies, medical supplies, and more to support the beautiful community we partnered with. In addition, we were able to come together to support the purchase and installation of a new roof for an existing primary school building. This would not have been possible without the INCREDIBLE contributions of a very generous donor, Padre Pio.
Each day presented us with many learning opportunities and reflective moments. Each night we discussed those opportunities and moments, which were centered around three questions.
What were your own limitations when taking part in this experience? How was your thinking challenged?
How do new ideas challenge old ways of thinking?
Can equality and fairness coexist?
In upcoming posts, I will be sharing some insights into our thoughts and discussions on these questions as they directly relate to BRAVE's service learning trip.
I will start by sharing everyone's responses to the first question. This experience presented all of us with many moments where our own limitations became very prevalent. Read on to see what these BRAVE humans had to say about their limitations on this trip!
Question #1: What were your own limitations when taking part in this experience? How was your thinking challenged?
Heather Norris: One of my largest limitations in this experience was learning to understand my privilege. As a WGSS major, I learn a lot, and I mean a lot, about privilege. But what we don't really discuss is this privilege in relation to other countries and their experiences. I struggled going back to the resort each night knowing what I had just left. Knowing that although I had met some of the happiest people I've interacted with, their situation didn't seem right in my mind. But one night someone had mentioned that although yes it is difficult, we didn't choose the lives that we were born into. We see these people making the absolute best of what they were dealt, and that is all we can hope for. They are happy with the people around them and view material and monetary value much differently than our society does. Looking at it more through this lens impacted me much more deeply than the original thoughts had about the 'unfairness'. Rather, I wanted to be more like them and not take any individual in my life for granted. Looking around and realizing just who is around you and how they impact you and make your life wonderful matters more than anything, and that is what creates happiness. Not a house, or a toy, but friends and family.
Shelby Mehmet: One of my limitations on this trip was my fear. Not fear of being away from home or not being able to communicate because of the language barrier. My fear came from my thoughts of not being good enough or doing or saying the wrong thing. As the week went on though I started to let go and challenge this by not worrying so much about it. I kept telling myself that "it's alright to be silly and just have fun and so what if others laugh, I will laugh too". Being aware of this limitation and reassuring myself of my own abilities, embracing my mistakes and learning and growing from them has allowed me to challenge this fear.
Andrea McDermott: When thinking of how to answer this question, two limitations come to mind immediately. The first is my limited Spanish speaking abilities, and the other is my lack of experience working directly with children (especially ones that speak a different language than myself!). The language barrier definitely challenged me to think back to what I learned in my Spanish classes from high school and college. I was able to remember more than I thought I would, but there were several times where people were talking around me and I had no idea what they were saying. I often found myself thinking - is this what many immigrants feel like? Where you have so much to say but don't know how? How frustrating but also uniquely inspiring to be surrounded by people who can communicate in a way you don't fully understand.. When it comes to my lack of experience working with children, I tried to push myself out of my comfort zone and interact with them as much as I could. These kids were so welcoming and loving it made it much easier to play and interact with them. The cultural differences between how kids and even adults interact with "strangers" or "outsiders" was astounding; I often found myself thinking about how kids in the U.S. would probably not be this loving towards strangers. Many families welcomed us into their homes, offered us beverages, or even to do our laundry! Overall, my thinking was absolutely challenged on this trip, both through trying to communicate in a language I am not fluent in, and in reflecting on the ways kids interacted with us.
Me: The most prominent limitations were probably my own emotions. There were many times where I was taken aback by the conditions that I saw. There were many times where I was filled with joy, excitement, and peace of mind while working on the school and interacting with the kids. One reason these emotions filled my heart because I knew the school we were building would provide so many educational opportunities that the kids working alongside me would be able to benefit from. But then there were times where I felt overwhelmed, helpless, and ashamed when I saw some of the living conditions people were living in. I just could not wrap my head around the fact that, on the day-to-day basis, I have access to education, a home, a loving family, and so much more when some people only dream of having those luxuries. After talking with Meaghan and other BRAVE members, I realized I was feeling this way because I was uncomfortable with my own privilege. So, I began to challenge my mind to think of ways that I could use my privilege to help those who were not as privileged. Many ideas came to mind and I look forward to putting them into action!
Have you had experiences with personal limitations during new experiences? Was your thinking challenged? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below!
So long for now,