Editor’s Note: This summer we asked a few former TRIPS participants and leaders to reflect on their experiences with the TRIPS Program. This post is the third in a series of reflections written by these individuals. Thank you to Emily Vetter for spending some of your summer break reflecting on your experiences.
“I have always been a people pleaser, so whenever I can make someone else feel good, I believe I am truly at my best. Service, especially through the TRIPS Program, allows me to do just this. I am able to give my time to those in need. We waste so much of our days thinking about ourselves, when it only takes a small portion of time to help those around us. I have been extremely fortunate to help those around me by being a participant on the Affordable Housing trip to Little Rock, Arkansas my freshman year, and by leading the Elderly Outreach trip to Spartanburg, South Carolina my sophomore year. I am looking forward to continuing to make impacts in the lives around me while leading the Children’s Medical trip to Memphis, Tennessee this winter.
I have participated on mission trips prior to my first service trip through St. Norbert, however I was excited to embark on a new journey to Little Rock. This trip focused on the social justice issue of Affordable Housing. During my week in Arkansas, my group and I spent our time at the Habitat for Humanity Restore and on a build site. At the Restore, we helped organize donations, build walls for more space to be used for retail, and build tables, among other various tasks. At the build site, we helped put up the interior walls of a new home. It is so difficult to pick only one of my favorite experiences from this trip, but a time that I really enjoyed was being on the build site with the “Over the Hill Gang.” The men who accompanied us at the house were mostly retired older gentlemen who did not care that some of us had never done this kind of work; instead, they patiently explained how to do a task and waited for us to complete it. This kind of compassion and willingness to serve was truly impactful.
I believe that each trip gives us the opportunity to grow, and this continued to be true as I lead the Elderly Outreach trip to Spartanburg, South Carolina. My amazing experience the year before was a major factor that encouraged me to apply for a leadership position. Prior to my trips’ departure, I encountered some hardships, however, I could not have asked for a better group. While in South Carolina, my group volunteered for Christmas in Action, and was split up between two different work sites. One site included the complete remodel of a bathroom and the other was comprised of cool-sealing the roof of a mobile home and building a handicap ramp. Although we were split during our service, we were able to come together at the end of the day and share our different experiences. We were also able to interact with students from Iowa State University who were completing service through Christmas in Action in the same area. This trip gave me the opportunity to reflect on my leadership style and to, again, be pushed outside of my comfort
Although my trips have dealt with different social justice issues, there was plenty laughing, bonding, smiling, reflecting, and, most importantly, serving involved. It is astonishing to see how many strong relationships you can create through this opportunity. I have made some life-long friends through my service and find it difficult to visualize my life at St. Norbert without them. However, the relationships formed do not only include those made between students, but also with all of the community members we have the privilege to serve. The immense gratitude that is shown throughout the week while we are there is what makes the long car rides, early mornings, and late nights, so worthwhile. Knowing all of this makes me even more excited to tackle another social justice issue with the Children’s Medical trip. Previously, I have been able to serve by doing physical labor, but now I am thrilled to delve deeper into the relationship aspect of service.
Coming to St. Norbert, I never imagined I would become a part of a program that would mean so much to me. The TRIPS Program allows for so many students to step outside of their comfort zones and experience unfamiliar things that seriously touch them in ways you could never envision. The amount you can accomplish in a few short days is unfathomable, and when I reflect on what my groups were able to do, I am just awe-struck. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in, and lead, unbelievable trips, and I know that my time at St. Norbert would be completely different had I not challenged myself to tap into parts of me that can only be utilized in this kind of atmosphere. I am forever appreciative for the experiences I have been able to gain through the TRIPS program, and cannot wait to see what the future has in store for me, and my desire to serve others.”