Samantha Marek, a senior from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, joined us at Coco Loco again this March on her second Alternative Spring Break trip to Nicaragua and shared the following email with us afterwards.
Thanks Sam for allowing us to share this.
– It was interesting to be doing kind of the same things as last year, but with different people. It was rewarding to see the high school come so far from the two brick walls we were leveling the floors for last year.
Personally there was a different kind of growth compared to last year. Experiencing everything for the first time, everything was exciting and it was almost overwhelming taking it all in. Most of my reflection on the impact the trip had on me was after the trip last year. It took a couple weeks to take it all in and start making changes in my perspective on things back home. It was a few months before I was able to make progress on those changes. A lot of it was trying to not stress the small things and live más tranquilo, taking opportunities to incorporate things I enjoy into my life instead of constantly trying to take on more work. It was a nice check on the idea that it really is possible to work hard and accomplish a lot and also have time to enjoy yourself.
Another thing that I realized in my reflection following the trip is that in the States, we are constantly creating stress for ourselves. There has been a push lately to make time for stress relief, whether it be exercise, meditation, or just getting some sun. Somehow, we have managed to make stress relief stressful, trying to find time for it and stressing even more if we don’t make the time for it. Relaxation has become something that we feel the need to pencil into our crazy schedules, instead of just letting things flow. That’s not to say we should never plan anything and just hope we make it through, but there has been a realization that every day and every week doesn’t have to be planned out minute by minute. We think that we have to use our time as efficiently as possible, but sometimes you just really need to let things happen as they will and accept that. Taking that ideology on has made me a lot more relaxed and a lot happier. I have been able to do more than ever in terms of school and extracurriculars, but have also been able to do more of what I love, including running, rock climbing, and hanging out with my friends.
This year was a reenforcement of those ideas. Knowing what to expect on the trip, I felt less overwhelmed by the amazingness of it all, and was able to be more conscious of what I wanted to get out of the experience. Over my winter break, I was studying for the Medical College Admission Test, so this week was my first real mental break since last summer. In addition to being reminded of everything I realized this year, I gained a greater sense of the importance of working with the community to meet its needs. It’s something that I noticed last year and put in the back of my mind, but this year working on my capstone I have gained a true appreciation for working with a reputable nonprofit. I feel confident calling Waves of Hope a community partner, which is so much more than just being a nonprofit. Being back this past week as I tell people about the trip, I have made sure that I emphasized the importance of working with a reputable and reliable nonprofit if anyone is ever interested in volunteering. It is so much more important to be able to make connections to people and work with those people to achieve their own goals, instead of coming in, seeing a different way of living, and then trying to fix problems that aren’t really problems.
Have you joined Waves of Hope on a service trip? We’d love to hear about your experience too. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.