This summer I took a trip to New Mexico to volunteer at food banks children’s camps and the national parks. The children we worked with were from the ages of 5 to 10 and were sent to the camp because their parents had long working hours. We worked with the kids from around 8 in the morning until around 5pm. It was interesting to me how over the course of three days the young children became so attached to an older child. In this picture I am playing with one of the children named Jordan.
The children were very sweet and I had a great time volunteering with them.
Then, we volunteered in the Santa Fe National Park. We worked on restoring trails, which included rolling grade dips to make sure water runs off the trail, moving rocks off the trails and removing teepees from along the trails that people had built out of tree branches and which were fire hazards. It was very hard physical work, but well worth it. I tried every tool and learned how to use them properly. I also learned good outdoor survival essentials in case of a disaster, such as the 30-30 rule, which means that in case of lightning you descend 30 feet and wait 30 minutes before climbing back up. Here are some photos of us working on the trail.
I learned a lot doing this trail work. With trail maintenance, our guide explained that no one thanks you for what you have done, because they do not notice maintenance when they are walking, biking or skiing on the trails. But I got personal satisfaction knowing that I had maintained a part of nature that could then be safely enjoyed by others. I loved how at the end of our time working on the the trail it was apparent how much we had improved it.
My favorite service work of the trip however, was working with two food banks, The Food Depot and Feeding Santa Fe. At the Food Depot we packaged food that would then be given to families who needed it. We did this for six hours two days in a row and even though it should have been tedious work we made it fun and had a great and productive time. The Food Depot provides food for poor individuals and families who can “shop” from the good that are available. The next couple days, we had to wake up at 4:00 in the morning to go to Feeding Santa Fe, a non-profit, volunteer organization that also provides food to hungry families. It has been helping people in Santa Fe since 1979 and I was amazed at the dedication of the people who work there. They give out up to 900 bags of food a week. We helped the volunteers at Feeding Santa Fe fill the bags that they would be giving out the following day. In each bag is two potatoes, two cans of canned vegetables, three pound bag of beans, rice, or pasta, one dozen eggs, a loaf of bread and any fresh fruit and vegetables they have that week. The next day we had to wake up at 4:00 again and go to Feeding Santa Fe to hand out the bags of food. When giving out the bags Feeding Santa Fe does not ask any questions, but just gives people the food.
Giving out the bags of food was the most meaningful part of the trip for me, because the recipients of the food were so grateful for what we did and it was such a personal service. Often times there would be many children in the cars and we would give them milk and raisins. Although I know the people were grateful I felt sometimes like they were embarrassed to be there. One time, when I was giving a bag to a women she looked through it and began to cry. I was very surprised but did not say anything. She reached into the bag and held up one of the cucumbers we had put in. She explained that she had wanted to buy a cucumber from the supermarket the day before but did not have enough money. This experience really stuck with me. It clearly showed me how much this meant for the people in need, but also reminded me how lucky I am to not have to worry about things like buying cucumbers or any food for that matter. This is something we should not take for granted!
My summer service trip in New Mexico was a very special experience to me because I think that I learned an enormous amount about people and service and grew as a person myself.