Saturday, March 19, 2011

Final Day in Kansas City

Today was another emotional day. (It seems like we had a lot of those). We started off the day with an amazing breakfast made by Connie who is a volunteer at True Light Church. Connie and Pastor Alice really made us all feel so welcome at True Light Church! Then we walked to Operation Breakthrough, bracing ourselves knowing that this was our last day at Operation Breakthrough and the day we would have to say good bye to our newly made friends.

When we got there 8 of us went to the classrooms and 2 went to the infant room, like usual. We all made the best out of the day even though we were wishing the end of the day would never come. We had a great day teaching lessons about paper airplanes and having friendly competitions, playing games, making paper bag puppets, making smoothies and putting the infants to sleep.

One of the hardest parts of the day was hearing a seven year old girl who shared a heartbreaking story with Laura. Laura had noticed that this little girl was really sad about something so Laura approached her and asked her what was wrong. The little girl replied with saying that she missed her dad. She soon went on to tell Laura that her dad had been shot on Sunday and the funeral was this Saturday. As Laura shared this story with the group it was heartbreaking.

During our lunch break Sister Berta, the founder of Operation Breakthrough, came in and talked to us about the Organization and how they started it with four kids in her living room and it has grown to hundreds of kids and volunteers since than. She really talked about how most of the time people who are poor are not poor because they are lazy and didn’t want to do anything. It is because in todays world segregation of economic class is what is keeping these people in poverty. Listening to her talking, really opened our eyes to the reality and inspired us to speak up more about this issue. Sister Berta is a very inspirational person for all of us.

The afternoon was amazing being able to spend it with the children that we have got to know pretty well throughout the week. It was really hard and even emotional when 4:00 rolled around. With the support of each other, we got through it and said our goodbyes to Pastor Alice.

This whole trip has been such an amazing experience for every single person in the group. We have all made some amazing relationships that will last a lifetime. We learned so much that we will use in our everyday lives as well as for a lot of us, putting these experiences towards our teaching careers. This was truly an experience of a lifetime!

Thursday: Day 5

Today was a great day at Operation Breakthrough! For those of us teaching the school age classes all had moments where we really shined as teachers. I can tell that the kids have really become comfortable with us and I could tell that they were having a lot of fun. Laura and Maranda were in the game room again and it was by far the best day there yet. The highlight of the day was when we started playing limbo with Ms. Denise’s class. She sang and clapped a beat as the kids went under (and over) the limbo bar. The kids were having a blast and were hilarious! They did dance moves and came up with creative ways to get under the limbo stick. Lots of the people from our group were around for it and we all laughed so hard our sides hurt!

In the art room Sam was working with a little girl named Cierra and she was struggling with her drawing. She was frustrated and asked Sam to draw it for her. Sam told her that she had seen her fix a computer and write a great letter yesterday and she knew she could draw the picture. Then, when she came back to her, Cierra had finished her drawing and she told her what a great job she did. Hopefully, this helped her build more confidence and helped her know that it is okay to make mistakes.

During the volunteer lunch we got to see a guest speaker, Daryl, who spoke to us about his life story. He began by sharing a statistic that shocked us all. He said that one in three of the African American boys at Operation Breakthrough will end up serving jail time at some point in their life. He went on to tell us about the time he spent in a federal prison and the unbelievably horrible things that go on there. He was wrongly accused of committing murder and was exonerated after 24 years. He started started writing Centuri pleading them to reexamine his case 18 years before he was finally released in 2008. After the speaker, we were inspired to want to push our students achieve and make sure that they get all the resources they need to succeed so they can get out of this vicious cycle.

Tonight was also our final reflection. Through our talking circle we learned so much about each other and became even closer as a group. Everyone got a chance to be recognized for the contributions they have made this week. We have such an amazing group. If we were missing just one person, it would have been completely different. The time we have spent together this week has been more than priceless.

To end the night we all joined for a relaxing massage chain. Tomorrow is our last day at Operation Breakthrough and we want to make the best of it.These kids are amazing and it will be so hard to leave them.

Day in the Life of Destination

Every morning we wake up to sporadic alarms starting to go off from 4:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. We then start to pack up our belongings and what we need for Operation Breakthrough, such as lunch, lesson plans and our positive for working with kids. By the third day working in operation breakthrough, the kids recognize us and greet us with welcoming smiles and some even know our names! We come ready and excited for the day and to work with the kids. We then divide up to work to with either the infants or the school-age students. We as volunteers, run the lessons for the day. Cailin, Kerstin, and Sam P. even created there own lesson plan to teach in the computer lab. They taught the students how to write and format their own letters. The students really got into the lesson. You could tell that the kids where picking up on different ways to write the letter, and where punctuation went and how to use it. Cailin, Kerstin, and Sam P. felt accomplished with the lesson plan, knowing that they had taught them a life skill that they would need to carry on to further themselves in life.
Upstairs in the game room, the leaders where happy that they could use their background from the camps and other experiences that they had in creating their own lesson plans. All group members felt they had brought their own background and experiences to improve with the lesson plans. It made me proud of UWRF Destination because we brought such an amazingly talented group of individuals. After a couple days of working with the kids you could see them improving on things they had not been before.
Leaving operation breakthrough at the end of the day, we all share stories on how our days went and our adventures there. At night we spend our time reflecting on our experiences and bonding with each other.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blogging Day 3

The Difference A Day Makes Today was an emotional day as we reflected on our service and worked to make connections with our lives back home. During our reflection, we shared our experiences from the day, examined our perceptions, and connected through our stories. It was apparent that we brought much more confidence into our second day working at Operation Breakthrough -mainly because we were more familiar with the routine and expectations, as well as the needs of the studnets. It also helped that many of our group members stayed up late the night before to prepare new activities, games, songs, and lessons for the different age groups. Through our reflection, it also became apparent that we’ve met some amazing people in the short time that we’ve been in Kansas City. • Debbie is the volunteer coordinator at Operation Breakthrough. She manages our assignments and daily activities which makes this entire experience possible. The volume of volunteers she organizes is impressive. • Katie also assists with the volunteers and brings a lot of compassion and energy to her work. • Pastor Alice has welcomed us into her church and provided us with overnight accommodations. She is thoughtful, warm, and kind and has definitely gone out of her way to make us feel welcome. • Mary volunteers at the Day Center across the street. She has been there each day, helping the men and women that access the facility. Despite her long hours, she has also been eager to welcome our group. • Students from Eastern Illinois are staying with us at True Light church. We’ve created a special bond with these seven women by working together, sharing facilities and preparing meals with one another. • “Grandma” as she is affectionately known by the children, works in the infant room and spends her days providing love and attention to the little ones. • Nate is a third grader who acts tough and tries to give his teachers a hard time. Despite this, we know he enjoys the atmosphere at Operation Breakthrough and has been fun to work with. He’s been an inspiration to several of our group members. • James is a young boy who was quick to defend us when we were challenged by another student. • And countless other children who inspire our work through their smiles and laughter. Many of the children come from challenging homes and families and Operation Breakthrough provides the safe, fun, and loving environment they deserve. We are thankful that we’ve been able to offer the attention and affection that so many crave. Current Folder: INBOX Sign Ou Compose Addresses Folders Options Search Help Shares Filters Message List | Delete Previous | Next Forward | Forward as Attachment | Reply | Reply Al Subject: Blogging Day 3 From: "Cailin Turner" Date: Wed, March 16, 2011 09:12 To: Priority: Normal Create Filter: Automatically | From | To | Subject Options: View Full Header | View Printable Version | Download this as a file | View Message details | Purge Delete & Prev | D

Blogging day 2

Our First Day at Operation Breakthrough-03/14/2011 Our day started rather precariously. We all got up on time and were immediately introduced to the shower situation we had strived to prevent the night before. Our plan did not go very well. Each person that was supposed to take a shower in the morning was supposed to wake up the next person designated to take a shower. Somewhere in the chain, something went wrong, but we adapted to this situation and were pretty much on schedule. While preparing our breakfast, the group joining us from Eastern Illinois left before us, while we were finishing our preparations of our lunches, and we received a call while making our departure. The other group informed us we were not needed at the site until 9:00 a.m. We had originally planned to arrive at Operation Breakthrough (OB) at a little after 8:00 a.m. The gap in time was spent playing an ice breaker and getting to know each other a bit better. Finally, after a slight delay, we walked down the street to the headquarters of OB Kansas City. OB is a non-profit organization serving as a safe and secure sanctuary for lower income children. Most of the 600 children attending each day have come from families in poverty and have been displaced. Some of children experience routine gang activity and some of the children come from various foster homes. OB seeks to look after these children while caregivers are busy tending to other important aspects of their lives. When we arrived at the center, we were informed that many of the children were school age children on spring break. Our group was surprised at the number of volunteers who had come to help in OB in their care for the children of Kansas City. (There were students from Montana, Virginia, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin--7 service groups in all) We were debriefed in our mission at OB and were immediately separated into two separate groups. Twenty four of the volunteers who had come from the various states would be asked to teach classes and conduct activities with school age children, while the rest of the volunteers would help to care for children under the age of five. The group of teachers were given short lessons plans in subjects such as art, home education, computer, writing, and free play games. The lesson plans were not extensive, but the teachers found other activities in addition to those provided to engage the different group of students. Although some experiences were difficult to maneuver and even slightly frustrating, many teachers had inspirational experiences as well. Kerstin, Sam P, and Cailin gained insights into the lives of the students through the construction of creative stories. Melissa helped students read through published stories in groups and acted out situations dealing with life issues with a group of 6th-8th grade students. Jared helped students create art projects and delve into their own creative minds. Rachel helped students make homemade butter. Maranda and Laura brought out student’s playful side by teaching and engaging in various games and activities with the students. The rest of the volunteers were working with infants and children under five. Sarah and Sam N. received a tour of the entire facility. They then volunteered to care for a group of infants: feeding the children, playing with them, and rocking them to sleep. They also helped the young children with walking, crawling, and fine motor skills. We concluded our day by traveling to Kansas to do some grocery shopping and reflected on our daily experiences through a reflection period after dinner. During reflection many helpful comments were provided, and we even had a few laughs at an icebreaker requiring us to spell our middle names with our butt. Although we are all exhausted from our first day experiences, we are all looking forward to continuing our experiences at OB tomorrow.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 1: March 13th 2011

In the beginning... there was one man. And nine women! 
Our crew left River Falls, WI, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, at 6:00 AM this morning. We were all incredibly excited to get started on our journey to Kansas City, MO! The majority of the trip was spent napping in our cozy vans, belting out High School Musical tunes, and discussing deep topics (such as sweaty feet). The Destination Kansas City group arrived safe and sound at True Light Church of the Nazarene around 3:00 PM.
We were welcomed by the Pastor and given a helpful tour of the areas we will be staying in throughout the week. Then our group split in half and some of us went shopping for food for our meals this week. This was really our first time experiencing the poverty in the area. Shopping was eye opening. Though the store was small and didn’t have as many options as those we are used too, they were relatively well priced. The security there was also quite tight and we were surprised to have to deposit a quarter to use a shopping cart that was chained to the rack. Though we recognized that this was something meant to save customers money, it was still something that struck us as being out of our norm.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, those who stayed behind played a rousing card game of Egyptian War, slapping more of each other’s hands than the table or cards. The resulting giggle-fest led to a lot of bonding already starting within the group.
Once all back at the church, our Sunday night dinner group set to work, prepping a delicious feast for our exhausted group. After clean-up, we circled round for our first group reflection.  We reflected about what surprised us about our new surroundings. Most group members said they were shocked at the differences in the neighborhood from house to house or building to building.  In Kansas City, you can see one house boarded up and not kept up well and then a beautiful nice apartment building -- right next to each other.  The ranges of the area are something most of us are not accustomed to.  We also talked about how more comfortable most of us feel here then we thought we would originally.  Thanks to the such helpful people, nice place to stay and yummy food, our first day was very good. :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Countdown to Kansas City!

In less than 48 hours we will be leaving for Kansas City, MO to serve at Operation Breakthrough!  We will be dealing with the issue of Inner City Youth.  There are many things that we as a group have learned about this issue but are excited to learn much more from living in the culture for a week.  Throughout all of our meetings that we have had in the last couple of months, we have learned about this issue through videos, activities and guest speakers.  While we were learning we were also bonding at the same time. :)

We have shared our hopes and fears throughout the year pertaining to our experiences to come.  Some of the hopes of our groups are: the possibility of helping and giving kids a safe place to learn, that our perceptions of our own life and the privileges we have had during our childhood will become apparent to us, we hope to inspire some of the children that we work with to seek the best within themselves, hope that in one short week we can make a difference in someones life, we hope that we will have an amazing time and that we will all come out of this with some great friends, and we hope that we can use this experience later in life to realize how bad people have it and the good things in life that we have but don't appreciate them.  Some of the fears that our group had were: the fear of not wanting to leave because we will want to do more for the kids that we will be working with and that we will get attached to those children, also the fear of getting sick on the trip and the possibility of getting lost. :)

We will be blogging throughout the week to give all of our readers a sneak peek at what we are up to.  Throughout the week we will be sharing about the organization we are serving with, taking note of inspiring individuals we have met, sharing what it's like to be on a service trip, and what about this experience has been the most impactful to us individually.  Check back in to get a sneak peek of what we will be doing all week!