My Day in Flint, MI

 

Yesterday I got to be a part of Be My Neighbor Day for Central Michigan University by volunteering in Flint, MI. Be My Neighbor Day is an annual event for CMU, which involves many volunteer opportunities available in the community  of Mount Pleasant. This year they provided an event organized by CMU students to help the community of Flint, MI.

I really enjoy serving others and volunteering, and I have learned about service leadership n my college courses to be able to fully understand the meaning behind service. I loved the opportunity to see the community of Flint and being able to give back. My group volunteered at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. We were able to help the organization pack donated food to send to locations around the area. The food bank services around 330,000 people a year, within 417 agencies, and 22 counties. The Eastern Food Bank of Eastern Michigan is ranked number one in the Nation.

Then the other half of the group volunteered at Catholic Charities, also known as the Center of Hope. Catholic Charities is currently renovating an old school from 1956 into a shelter that will provide many resources for people in need in Flint, MI. They “work with individuals, families, and communities to help them meet heir needs, address their issues, eliminate oppression, and build a just and compassionate society.” They also showed how much they are passionate about hope. The group from the food bank came to Catholic Charities to have lunch with the group, so I took the opportunity to explore the building, help where was needed last minute, and talked to people working there.

I first want to note something before I begin analyzing and debriefing the day: I cherish the moments when I am volunteering. I do not take the experience for granted, and I try to give something every moment I am present. I take the opportunity to learn and not to be selfish; I realize why I am there, and that is to help others. I love the feeling of giving back, and being able to make an impact when I can. I highly enjoy volunteering, but to say the least I was a little disappointed in some people on this service trip.

Flint, MI is an area with high poverty and high rate of homelessness, and to add to all that they are unfortunately experiencing the Flint Water Crisis. It is clear that it’s a community that needs help. Our group represented CMU, and it meant a lot to the Food Bank and Catholic Charities to have us there helping them. Though, I was highly disappointed in some of my fellow Chips’ actions during the service trip.

(Side note: I really enjoyed my self on this trip, and this has nothing to do with the organizations we volunteered at. The two organizations were amazing to welcome us into their facility.)

“When I signed up for this I thought we would be taking Coach Buses, not school buses.”
This was a statement said by a volunteer as we were getting on the bus. People were complaining about the buses we were using, instead of looking forward to trip and opportunity we were given. For me, that was just hard to hear. People expect so much when the point of the trip is not to receive but to give. You can’t volunteer if you are going to do it for the free stuff, or for the title of volunteering. They should have been thankful for being provided transportation to the service site, instead of complaining instantly.

After going to the bathroom during a break at the food bank, a girl said “Oh there is no way I am using this water”. She just used soap to wash her hands, no water.
She did not wash her hands with water because of the Flint Water Crisis, even though we were at a clean facility with clean running water. She placed the stigma on Flint instantly. If the water was contaminated the owners would have stated. The point of the trip was to learn about Flint and break the stigma tied with it. I truly see hope, love, and strength in the community of Flint. People tend not to give it a chance, and instead have a negative attitude.

At Catholic Charities during lunch, some CMU athletes were there and trying to cut in line because “we ran all the way here to not make the front of the line, that’s bullshit! Lets cut because we deserve the first pieces of pizza.” Then they preceded to push their way to the front of the line moaning and groaning about getting food. 
This nudged me the most. We were volunteering at a place that serves people everyday that don’t have food, water, shelter, and clothes. This group of athletes made me truly disappointed in their actions. They spent the whole day volunteering, and I was at the the other location so I am not aware of how they acted during the day, but at the end of the service trip they seemed to not learn anything. They seemed to forget how privileged they are and how so many there would be so grateful to wait in line for a piece of pizza. One of our group leaders waited until every single person ate, and made sure there was plenty extra before she even considered eating. She showed what it means to volunteer. She wanted to donate the extra food to Catholic Services for people in need and for the workers spending their career working for such a good cause. The athletes went back up for seconds and thirds to bring back extra food to their dorms, because apparently they don’t have enough. A part of me feels bad for judging them instantly for their actions during their lunch, but I kept thinking of the families I saw that came to Catholic Charities to try to find food for lunch so they could eat that day.

Playing of loud vulgar music that constantly swore and used the n-word repetitively. 
The time that I was at Catholic Charities a group of CMU boys were playing loud music that was very offensive. It continuously used the n-word, which hurt my heart. Most of the people that needed Catholic Charities could take offensive to the music being played about  the n-word, gangsters, sex, and living in the “ghetto” and the “hood”. It may same like the college norm to play this type of music, but it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. It’s important to censor yourself, and show respect to others; especially during volunteering.

Many did show respect and help make change in the community of Flint. There was many that cared about being there, and was doing it by choice and not force. I was proud to be a part of a huge group of CMU students that came together to help make an impact. It meant a lot to me to be a part of Be My Neighbor Day. I guess it’s just easy for me to get irritated by egocentric attutidues and behaviors. I just wanted to speak up so many times to others, but I held it back due to it wasn’t the right environment to state my personal opinion on service.

I held onto the positive. Regardless of my little annoyed moments, I was so thankful for the opportunity to volunteer in the Flint community. It was my first time in the area, and I loved seeing it. I volunteered with my mentee, and it was a great bonding experience for us. We talked a lot about what we are passionate about, and we both learned how to ignore the ignorance of some and focus on why we where there.

It was crazy to see how much food the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan packaged and gave out, it was cool to be a part of that process for a day. Then it was amazing to see what Catholic Charities was currently doing, and to hear their end dreams and goals. Talking to people that work at Catholic Charities made me realize how many are in need in Flint, MI. It also made me think about working with a non-profit. Many say that non-profit organizations consists of not enough pay with the overtime work, but taking this trip made me realize it’s worth. Working with non-profits like that changes their communities one person and one family at a time. That makes my heart so happy. What Catholic Charities is doing is truly amazing and inspiring. It gave me hope to help others in need, and that I too can make an impact to so many like they do. I can find a career that will change the world, and that I will go home happy everyday because of it.

Like stated early, Flint is a community that is in need of many resources. But what I have been learning on service trips is the people in need are the ones that give the most. The underprivileged and the under loved individuals are the people with the biggest hearts and the most faith; that’s truly life changing to see. There is such a huge stigma placed on the people in the lower class, and the homeless. That stigma needs to be broken, I strongly believe that. So many are in need and so many of those people have the biggest hearts, so why aren’t we helping when we can?

When I was standing outside of Catholic Charities, an older man walked out of the building who was there receiving services. The man said “Hello”, and I said back “Hello how are you!” He said in such an uplifting and happy tone of voice, “I am SOO blessed, and God Bless you mam!” 

That moment is something I will never forget. His positive attitude is contagious, and I am sure he has many reasons to complain or to be upset at the world, but instead he doesn’t worry about that. He is just blessed to be on this earth. He made me realize how much I personally need to work on for being thankful and grateful for everyday. That’s what I want everyone that served on this trip to take, love.

 

Service Learning Reflection

Service leadership and service learning is the most important thing we can do as leaders. It is important to learn by serving others, and I think the most important leadership is when you can give back to others. You can learn personally so much by volunteering for others, making a difference that way is so important.

I have fulfilled my volunteer hours by volunteering at the Leadership Launch, SOMI Fall Games, and the Polar Plunge. I am currently on the wait list as well for Young Athletes to start volunteering with them as well. You can read about this experiences on my previous blog posts.

Also look forward to reading my volunteer experience in Flint, MI next weekend.

Future Volunteer Bucket list: 
Volunteer at local Rainbow House this summer in my hometown community
Young Athletes with SOMI
Women’s Shelter in Mount Pleasant, MI
Alternative Break