Friday: St Benedict the Moor School and Parish.

Today, our group assisted the faculty at the St. Benedict the Moor Catholic School again. It was really gratifying to see how excited the teachers and children were to have us help around for another day. It was hard for many of us to leave
because we enjoyed being around these kids so much. It was even harder to consider how many of these children may be going back to difficult home lives, but when I think about this, I hope that our actions were able to positively impact their life.

In the afternoon, our group helped with the church’s fish fry. I really loved seeing the community coming together. It was a pleasure to get to speak to many of the locals. Coincidentally, four people who were supposed to be volunteers
had called off that day, so our help was a pleasant surprise for them. They were so appreciative of us and it was great to be able to help the church raise money. Later in the evening, Father Francis spoke to us about the fundraising requirements needed to
maintain the school. He also talked about the needs of this community, such as getting more bus stops, needing grocery stores, etc. It surprised me that a single person could do so much for a community, and often without recognition. He is a great source of
inspiration for me.

Macy Z.


Today we went on a farm tour. It was amazing to see where the food we eat comes from. It also was enlightening to see how much food we waste simply because a piece of produce has a small blemish. I will be more mindful when buying groceries. The farm tour was my favorite part of the trip, it connected all the pieces together, agriculture, work, and people. Anyone who is able to go on a tour should go, you’ll learn a lot.

We Were the Welcomed Stranger

Today we loaded our cars and bid adieu to our humble abode in Baltimore, Maryland. My car spent all eight (8!!) hours of our drive with carpool karaoke and funny tales of life experiences. The drive allowed for time to reflect and process what happened over the past few days.

I have to admit that I had my hesitations about Baltimore. Fortunately, after chatting with members of the parish community and Franciscan Center, I came to realize that most of our apprehensions stem from what is portrayed in the media. So much of what we know is only the “worst of the worst.” As I spent more time in Baltimore, I felt much more comfortable. A huge contributing factor was certainly the friendliness of the parish and the people we met along the way. Through my experiences in my half week in Baltimore, I felt welcomed in a way that is difficult to explain other than through the word love. To me, love means being open-minded, caring for others, and welcoming strangers into your home. The members of this parish had bright smiles on their faces and allowed us to walk in and take part in their community. It was not until our Mardi Gras celebration via pancake dinner that I came to understand the immensity of the words love and community. The parishioners took time from their fellowship to get to know nearly all eight of us on a personal level, and this truly speaks to the character of the people we met. Leaving St. Edward’s has been bittersweet. While I walked into the experience with hesitations, I drove away from Baltimore wishing I had time to interact with more people throughout the parish and nearby communities.

-Rachael Reiner

Dayton: Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Today we spent our day at the school, St. Benedict the Moor. It was a really rewarding experience and it allowed me to reflect on my childhood. The first half of the day we organized the back portion of the gym. It was really fulfilling to see how grateful the principal and the rest of the faculty and students were for our time. Midday we took a break and had the opportunity to spend time interacting with various grades at lunch. They were all so sweet and peppered us with questions about our lives, the older ones focusing primarily on our college experiences. Some of the questions they asked made me think about how different many of their home situations are from ours. Later in the day we sat in on the religion class. I noticed that many of the children in the class were unruly and I thought that this connected to a larger idea. Often, these children’s home situations may contribute to their behavior at school. I was awed at how amazing the academic counselors were though. It seemed like they really cared about their jobs and were integral supports for the children. To end the day, we spent some time with the preschoolers and kindergartners who were so sweet and were devastated when we left. Overall, we had an awesome experience getting to interact with the children and doing some work in the school. It allowed us to do some introspection on our own lives and how they compared to the children we spent time with. I think that we tend to take our resources for granted, often forgetting that those around us are much less fortunate.


3-7-19 in Immokalee

Today is Thursday, March 7th. We started the day off right by being able to sleep in a bit, and then we began our day at 9:30 am at Guadalupe Social Services. Megan, Jacque and Ellie spent the morning working in the kitchen. They were able to serve the guests and help aid in the dining room. They enjoyed being able to get to know the fellow volunteers and hearing their inspiring stories. The rest of us helped behind the scenes, moving boxes full of supplies out to a shed to clear out the storage area a little. We then restocked the pantry, where we had a good time organizing and jamming to the Jonas Brothers.

After our short lunch break (and a paleta run) we returned to Guadalupe Social Services and we were greeted by Sister Judy and Jim. They wanted to take us on home visits, where we would get to deliver food to individuals who could not make it the pantry. Jacque and Lance delivered with Sister Judy, and Emily, Lauren and Carly delivered with Jim. Through these home visits we got to be face to face with poverty and see the inhumane conditions many people live in here. We were given a tour around town and were able to walk through a few homes, which was extremely eye opening. We got to see how Guadalupe Social Services has changed their clients’ lives, and continue to advocate for human dignity. Many of us feel that these home visits were the most important part of our whole trip because we got to walk alongside the people who experience poverty in Immokalee.

We were generously offered into Sister Judy’s home and had the opportunity to cook for her. After a power nap, we got right to work in the kitchen preparing our meal. Sister Judy and her adorable puppy Buddy welcomed us with open arms, and we had a delicious meal of tamales, corn, guacamole, rice and salsa. We shared our experiences with Sister, and she enlightened us with her wisdom and shared her life stories with us. She is extremely inspirational and has a beautiful passion for advocating for the poor. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to bond with Sister Judy, and we are excited to have dinner with her again tomorrow!

After dinner we decided to go on an adventure and explore Ave Maria. We had some laughs, said some prayers and reunited with old friends. We then ended the night with some late night ice cream in the kitchen. Today was by far one of our favorite days, and we are so excited to see what the last few days in Immakolee have to offer!!

3/6/19 in Immokalee!

Today is March 6, 2019 and we are heading to Habitat for Humanity! We began the morning by waking up at 7:30 am and eating the freshest fruit from the fruit market down the street. We began at Habitat for Humanity at 8:00 am and went straight to work. Lance, Carson, and Lauren started helping the framers for the last house for the community while Ellie, Emily, and Carly planted grass around the neighboring houses for a fresher look. As for Jacque and Maris, they began cutting metal strips for the framers.

During those activities, we began bonding with some of the older volunteers working on sight, such as Jeff, who was a resident of Michigan but just moved to Naples, Florida seven months ago. His story began in Ohio, which he immediately bonded with Carson, who’s story also begins with Ohio #Ohiostrong. He explained his past on how he has a Biology degree but started an embroidery company and just sold it three years ago to retire and move down to Florida. Then, it was break!
After break, Mike, the construction major, gave us a “run-down” of what it takes to buy, live, and sell a Habitat for Humanity house. During his speech, John, one of the Habitat Senior Volunteers, took us for a trip around Immokalee where all the different construction sites Habitat for Humanity has built into homes and later a community. Then, after the tour, we went straight back to working where all of us had the Lent Penance of hammering nails into the framing of houses (: HOWEVER, we later found out that the metal pieces we were hammering into the frame were hurricane straps, so the homes can withstand hurricanes or strong storms. During the time we were hammering, the volunteers, Ernesto, Jaime, Luis, Miguel, stopped by and welcomed us into their Habitat for Humanity community with open arms! Jaime told us the story of when he lost his finger nail to a hammer accident just to make us feel all better. Then it was the 3:00 pm – time for us to go.

When we were all getting ready to leave, Jaime offered to take a picture with all of us and asked Ernesto, Luis, and Miguel ( pictured below (: ). IT WAS AMAZING. Oh, btw – we had lunch on Lake Trafford.

Then we went to mass, it was in Spanish and I have never seen so many people at a Catholic mass! We received communion as well as ashes and Megan, Ellie, and Lance stayed behind for the Creole mass because of Megan’s passion for helping those in Haiti. While they were at mass, the rest of us stayed behind and made plantains with cinnamon and sugar on them with ice cream!
HUGE shout out to Brenda and Gio for making this day one of the best!! (:

15 Degrees in Mullens

We woke this morning to frigid temperatures. Wyoming County schools were on a three hour delay and all the volunteers for the Mullens Opportunity Center were right on time and ready for work early in the morning.

Natalia serves breakfast

Installing floor boards in the cabin

Carrying long from the sawmill

There is a tradition here that every school that visits is offered to decorate a block on the second floor corridor. Kate and Ellen designed a picture that encapsulated our work in building the cabin including felling the pine tree and milling the lumber, working in the high tunnel greenhouse and even burning the waste wood.

Our part of the wall

Signing our names

We celebrated Fat Tuesday with Paczki, the traditional Polish donut, and the baby Jesus from Sunday’s king cake was recycled and hidden in a paczki. Fr. Bill found the baby in his donut and declared himself the king of Mardi Gras.

Fat Tuesday treat

In the evening we were joined by faculty and staff from James Madison University who are beginning their service trip. The Mullens community prepared a wonderful feast for us of cornbread, beans and ham. The evening was finished with a talent show. Duquesne was represented with Alex reciting the presidents in order, Rachel jumping a very short rope and Natalia singing Irish songs and ending with all our students joining her on stage to sing Country Roads.