Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The End? Not quite!

Well we've all returned home and successfully completed the first day back to classes, but I know that all of us are wishing we could be back with the kids at Wesley Rankin right now. Throughout the entire experience, I believe we all changed and all were influenced in some way by the kiddos. The first day of camp was tough. We all came home to C2K exhausted. The kids challenged us, and I'm glad they did. The night before we made a list of expectations of the day, and many of us were shocked that we hadn't thought of several things. The second day we started getting a glimpse of who these great people were and what their personalities were like. We bonded with them through science experiments, crafts, and games in the gym. By the third day, 3:30 rolled around too quickly, and we were giving our goodbye hugs and wishing the kids the best. We spent our last day of service working with C2K helping doing several repairs to the property as a thank you to the great hospitality they had shown us. And now we are all back in Springfield, working through the last several weeks of school, but I'm guessing several people are thinking this was the end of our trip.

But it doesn't stop here.

As many of us anticipated that we were going to change a child's life, the opposite was true. We talked with the head coordinator of Wesley Rankin, Shellie, before we left, and we will be writing letters to Wesley Rankin, and hopefully receiving some in return. Our group will be having an upcoming "reunion" of playing games from the trip and creating a scrapbook we can send to the community center and keep for ourselves. And, what I found even more extraordinary is how some of us are planning to go back this summer. The community center always needs volunteers, and C2K houses the summer volunteers. And being able to stay at C2K where they have the best home-cooked food that will give your mom's cooking a run for it's money, provide an overly comfy mattress, and give you the keys to the city (well not really, but it's still a really beautiful campus) - you can't really get better than that. Not even Panama City Beach could beat this trip. It's not just our group that wants to go back either. I know from people I've talked to, or who've seen pictures, or heard about some of the activities we did with the kids, they are interested in coming down with us. This was a most definite bigger experience than the one I had last year, and I relished every moment of the trip to Dallas last year where we worked with a different organization.

So now for the participants? Blogs may not always call attention to the specific contributions of people, but they really should, and maybe by doing so show how amazing of a group we had while in Dallas.

Amanda: Oh man, we wouldn't have had any pictures or adventures if it wasn't for her. To driving The Black Stallion minivan all over Dallas, to keeping the most positive and go-with-flow attitude, she really was the glue that held our trip together and helped us bond. She also did an amazing job at making us think outside of the box during reflection and challenged us while doing activities with the kids.
Mandy Squires: She was the one who found the amazing location of C2K, she also drove (not quite as cool as The Black Stallion) but another minivan all around Dallas, and created amazing reflection activities for all of us so we could really tie into why we were there and why it mattered.
Mandy Spurlock: (yeah, we had three Amanda's on the trip). She had some truly amazing ideas for activities. One of the days activities was to create a chia pet and pot for it, and the way the older kids lit up and took on a science aspect of plants, was incredible. It was a side of them we didn't see until this activity, and it was because of her planning that we were able to get a glimpse of it.
Shawna: She was the go-lucky and smiling one. I don't think I ever saw her without a smile on the entire trip. Additionally, she was great at improvising and making up games for the kids like 'Pass the Can' where she improvised with using an empty box.
Abi: Without Abi, our trip may have been boring in the evenings. From explaining how different temperatures have different smells to finding the "moon" (which was actually a building), she was the comic-relief we all needed after a hard day. She went out of her way to help the entire trip always asking if she could pitch in some way.
Kristen: I have never seen so many kids want someone to be their best friend like they did with her. She has a genuine caring personality that all the kiddos sense, and she connected to all the kids in her own way. Whether it was teaching about dental health, finger painting, or playing one-on-one basketball with a really talented 5th grader, she engaged with the children so easily and readily.
Adam: This guy, he should be a teacher. Two of his activities were giant hits. He created a class-sized obstacle course that the kids adored, and then on another day created exploding chalk and the mentos and coke experiment which wowed all the kids. He was great at answering any questions, and it was evident he really challenged the way some of the kids thought.
Dalton: I have never seen so many piggyback rides given in one hour. Dalton was amazing at interacting with the children on a personal level and making them feel welcomed and important. He also had several nifty experiments such as self-inflating balloons and making goop -- and what kid doesn't like goop?
Ellis: Oh Ellis, he was a comedian all right. He was the realistic part of the group that challenged the way we thought about certain things, and he was a great team player. Additionally, if you ever play the game Headbands, make sure to include him on your team.

So while we may not be in Dallas right now, our trip hasn't seen its conclusion quite yet.

Thank you for reading,

Katie Jones - Trip Leader

Monday, March 17, 2014

I Can't Believe it's Over...

I can’t believe our time in Dallas is over. It really feels like this trip flew by! I am so proud of our group and everything that we were able to accomplish in just a few days. We may not have been able to change the lives of these children, but I think we certainly made an impact. I know they definitely made an impact on all of us. Hopefully we will be able to keep in touch with them, either through writing letters or through social media. It was so difficult to say goodbye to these kids on the last day, so I really hope that we will be able to talk to them again soon.

            Again I just want to say how proud I am of the amazing group of students that I got to work with this week. As trip leaders, Katie and I did our best to pick out a group of individuals who would fit well with this trip and have something to bring to the table. Personally, I don’t think we could have done a better job. We had several difficulties trying to get the camp running smoothly, but everyone took it like a trooper. They were so flexible and willing to do whatever they had to do to make the camp the best it could be. I am so proud of all of them and I am so lucky that I got to work with such a fantastic group of people. Overall, this week was amazing and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in this Bear Breaks trip!

            Thanks for reading!

                        Mandy Squires, Trip Leader

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Tuesday Adventures

Wednesday Adventures
-Amanda Gabbard (advisor)

Adam Sparks

It was bittersweet having our last day of the camp with kids, but there really was a lot to learn and take back from this experience. Throughout the past couple of days, we were able to bond with the kids that we were working with. While there were times where our mom and dad voices had to come out, overall I would say that the experience was worthwhile. I can honestly say that coming into this trip, I was nervous having to deal with so many kids at once. Even with all my doubts, I feel that these kids taught me something while I was trying to teach them something. These kids have taught me that everyone deserves a chance for the best in life. Some of these kids are brought up having parents in gangs, prison, or separated yet they seem to still move on with their days. One is the biggest things that stood out to me during our group reflection of the day was a story told that some of the kids feel that they have no chance of getting out of the situations that they are in. I personally feel that everyone deserves a way out and they can acheive anything that they set their minds to. It was really upsetting to hear that those kids felt that way and it made me feel more thankful for the things that I have been given in my life. 

One of the biggest highlights that I had this week was being able to bond with kids. There was one child that would go on and on today about the toy robot constructed out of Legos and all of the upgrades the robot had undergone. There was another session where I helped one of the kindergarteners construct a police house. Those kids really have welcomed us as individuals and allowed us to put on this camp for them and all of us have loved the experience. 

(Favorite picture of the day)

Kristen Meyer

The final day at Wesley-Rankin Community Center Spring Break camp was extremely bittersweet. So sweet to know we spent quality time with a wonderful group of students for these past three days. So sweet to know we have made memories that will last a lifetime in the short time we have spent with the children of West Dallas. At the same time, this last day was bitter in the fact that we cannot truly know the impact we have made on these children's lives. I know in my heart that we have planted seeds of optimism and success in these children's mind  and even the smallest seeds can grow into the largest beautiful things on earth. The fact that this is the last day is also bittersweet in knowing that at the three day point we have only skimmed the surface of the lives of these children that  we so deeply want to make an impact. Also, at three days you really begin to get a good sense of a child's personality but you cannot understand where it comes from and what a child has experienced this far in their life. I wish more than anything that I could stay longer and interact with these children every day. Honestly, I would return to West Dallas and to Wesley-Rankin in a heart beat. I spoke to the director (who is an amazing woman) about their summer program and about returning to volunteer in the summer. This camp has made more of an impact on my life than I can explain. I also cannot explain the gratitude I feel towards MSU and Bear Breaks for giving me such an amazing opportunity as this one. This trip has empowered me to do as much service as I possibly can in Springfield. Although I cannot invest as much time as I would like in West Dallas, I can at least invest the next two years to the children in need of Springfield, MO.  God Bless!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Day 2-Mandy Spurlock

Today camp at Wesley Rankin was such a different experience for me than yesterday. The changes were definitely positive. The kids were familiar with us just as we were with them. I felt more confident around them the more I discovered their personalities. One girl that I interacted with yesterday ran up to hug me today when she saw me. It meant a lot to see that my impact just from one day had stuck. I loved interacting with the kids, getting to play with them and see them laugh. I felt that things went much smoother today since it was day 2 and we had more of a rhythm figured out with the kids. It was still tough to hear about some of the hard family lives and cultural norms, but it was positive to see such strong sibling ties. I can definitely feel my heart growing bigger and bigger for these kids. I'm not looking forward to the end of the third day when the camp will come to a close and we will be forced to say goodbye.

Day 2-Shawna Elsey

Today's camp ran much more smoothly than yesterday and you can tell the kids are starting to want to participate. They want to be around us and build relationships with us. Just giving each a little individual attention makes a big difference. They were much more cooperative today than yesterday. Not to mention, they are adorable (especially the kindergartners). I really hope this camp just makes them realize that other people care. Also it gives them time to spend with their friends and eat 2 meals. Trips like this are what really make you realize how blessed you are and how easy your life as been. Next time I'm worried about something, I should remember that.