Saturday, March 14, 2015

We finished up today. One group went to Habitat and the other went to the NEW Life center. It was nice to finish up on the house. They want to have it inspected and ready to go in about a week. We went to lunch with the habitat crew and a good number of us got fish and chips. In the afternoon, we pretty much all slept since the Northridge school had a holiday and was not in session. We made dinner together tonight, well, mainly Chris made dinner. It was good. We walked around the city of Flint tonight and participated in their free art walk that they have once a month. The art walk was in about 6 different places and some places had music. Depending on the location, we experienced a mixture of jazz, German classical, and a mariachi band with a violin. We are wrapping up to go home and all have a mixture of excitement to get back to school with a new found appreciation for our ability to receive an education and sadness to leave this place.

Newman Flint ASB 2015, OUT

Friday, March 13, 2015

Day 6: Free afternoon :)

Hi all,

It's almost time to go back to Blacksburg and because we had this free afternoon, most of us are taking a nap. I'm not really good on taking naps, so I decided to take this time to write this post. The whole week I was avoiding writing a post and the main reason was not my possible English mistakes as many people thought. English is my second language and I'll probably make many mistakes writing this post. However, during this whole week I  just didn't know what I should write.
Yesterday after Chris said Angela and I would have to write a post today, many of us came to play "Mafia" one more time. This was the first time I didn't enjoy playing the game. I realized some people can get mad with others and I don't like this perception. So, instead of "killing" others, my option was try to "kill"  myself. I realized taking this decision, I wouldn't make others upset and could go upstairs to take a shower (my favorite and private time to think about any thing I need to think about).
One more time the Saint Francis Prayer came to my mind. The first time was on Monday while the Sisters were talking to us after dinner. Because this prayer came to my mind after many years without hearing it being prayed, I asked our group to pray it that night. And with them I prayed it with all my heart.
Upset after our game and trying to figure out what do write today, God sent me again Saint Francis Prayer. Why? Making my own reflection, I realized He heard me and gave me this week everything I asked to Him on Monday. So, I cried happy tears. I figured out I lived every single word of Saint Francis Prayer here in Flint. I figured out how blessed I was to come to this place.
Here I heard several stories and saw many problems, quite often related to dysfunctional families. However, I can say I saw the Holy Family living among Flint's people. I clearly saw Saint Joseph through the Habitat group, the Virgin Mary through the Sisters and the Child Jesus through the many kids we've met. Thanks you all for teaching me charity, humility, service and for allowing me to open my heart a bit more everyday.
Yesterday reading Isaiah in our group reflection one word got my attention: flint. I had no idea this was an English word and then I put Google to work one more time: "A very hard, fine-grained quartz that sparks when struck with steel." 

I've received many blessings since I restarted seeking God this year. Flint was literally the spark I needed to revive my faith in God. To finish this post I'll ask you all to keep me in your prayers as I'll keep you all in mine. Renata means "reborn" and after this trip I feel I am reborn. Thanks again for making the difference in my life.


Renata Carneiro.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

So in my blog post I'm going to try to include personal anecdotes from the day supplemented by some analysis so that you readers can better understand what's going on here in the wonderful city of Flint. Also this is going to be really long with some writing mistakes. I'm an engineer sorry. (actually to be clear "I'm a Physics major but will be in aerospace engineering next semester" (that's an inside joke)).

It is day five of our expedition and it has becoming  quite evident that waking up is getting more difficult by the day. Thus far our ability to wake up and fend off fatigue is decreasing exponentially and could prove to be the determining factor in our survival and success in Flint. Quite honestly the magnitude of this realization led me to make the executive decision that sleep was more important than food. Consequently, I missed out on what was apparently a typical top-of-the-line breakfast prepared by Dave and company. That being said I woke up from my post-morning-prayer nap with vim and vigor. This vim and vigor was supplemented by Angela's wonderfully upbeat positive rap that put everyone in the mood to attack the day.

So my team the "Built like Sistas (But not the Nun Type)" consisting of Kelly, Angela, Chris, Grace and Louis (that's not really his name) went to help the saints of the N.E.W. Life Center. As stated in other posts we helped move food at the food pantry, or played with kids, or worked in the kitchen. I, personally, worked with my boys Antonio and Jay moving food to the cars. These two guys I have bonded with as I worked with them over the week. The reason I mention this is because all of us can say  that we have formed bonds with people and kids on this trip that have left lasting impressions on us. It has seemed that the recurring theme during reflection is that although the physical work is important sometimes just being able to enter into the lives of another and have them enter into yours is more rewarding.

The other group (who's team name is nonexistent) went to help the people of Habitat for Humanity put finishing touches on a house as well tour their future job sites. We all met back at Northridge Academy where everyday is a new day filled with interesting and challenging experiences. All of the older grades were preoccupied with a homecoming dance to conclude their spirit week, which left most of our assisting to the younger grades. I was met with a new challenges today by embarking on an ambitious venture to the infamous second grade class. Here I was met with rambunctious, adorable, rapscallious (possibly a made-up word), loving, difficult, eager kids. The two second grade classes operate in complete chaos and disarray where kids randomly leave the class, some screaming at the top of their lungs and others getting yelled at (when I mean yelled at I mean the screeching, shrill, loud type of yell that can be heard throughout the hall) because of their behavior. Our goal in helping this situation is removing the problem children from the classroom so that the teachers can teach.

Anyway, here's a personal anecdote from this situation. One kid got kicked out of the classroom by his teacher and was just told to leave because apparently he was acting up. He was indignant because he felt he was wrongly accused. So, he was just standing in the hallway with his fists clinched really guarded and obviously upset. So I went up to him and asked what was up. He had shut down because he was angry but after a lot of prodding he told me why he was upset. But I kept joking with him and told him you know what I bet reading would take your mind off of it and he kinda half smiled but was still guarded. I kept going and I got him so excited he was beaming and ran to go get his favorite book so that we could read. He had me help him read his Hot Wheels book and by the end of it he had changed from an angry, indignant, fist-clenching 7 year old to a kid filled with a genuine happiness, beaming, and doing his little run-skip back to his class to learn. So just by caring and going out of my way to talk to this little kid I made his day a little better and maybe helped his teacher by helping his attitude. Just cause I cared a little bit. Yet here I am reflecting about this moment and how much he made my day and it was him influencing me and making me happy. These are the experiences that we were told about going into this trip. It's the recurring theme I talked about earlier. This trip and life in general is about the bonds we make and the people we touch and the people that inspire us.

Our day was concluded with an unbelievable prayer and reflection session led by Grace that was definitely the best of the week. In which, we read a passage from Isiah. Actually, I personally recommend that everyone read Isiah 50:4-9 because it's "hardcore" and fantastic. Then we finished with some charismatic prayer which was new and wonderful to me. This concludes my long post of the day. God Bless. "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." Go Jesus!

With much love,

Michael Maynes
Day 5

After another long night of mafia, the group woke up bright and early to eat another delicious breakfast prepared by Dave. This morning's breakfast was breakfast sandwiches with egg and sausage on English muffins.

At our normal times we left to go to the St. Luke's N.E.W. Life Center and Habitat for Humanity after preparing our lunches and drinking lots of coffee.

At the N.E.W. Life Center most of the group prepared boxes for families to pick up and helped out preparing lunch in the kitchen. A few of us were lucky enough to babysit the little ones upstairs in the play room. I was the fortunate one to get my face painted by a three-year-old with black and blue face paint. Meanwhile, the other group was getting a tour of a couple more Habitat for Humanity facilities downtown before doing more work at the two houses we've been working on all week.

After their work, the Habitat group went to the famous Gillie's everyone has been telling us about to get Coneys (which are basically really awesome hotdogs) with a few of the Habitat workers.

After lunch everyone went back to Northridge Academy where the students were wrapping up their class exercises before their fun for the afternoon. The older kids at school had a dance in the cafeteria starting at two o'clock while the younger students watched movies and ate pizza in their classrooms. Some of us decided to join the awkward middle school dance and showed the kids our moves. At the end of the day we had to say goodbye to all of the wonderful students because today was the last day we are working with them.

The Northridge Academy basketball team had a game at 5:30pm against the staff, which half of us attended before dinner. It was quite a game and very fun to watch. When we left at halftime, the students were winning by 3 points.

When we got back to the house we had a lot of visitors here to join us for dinner including Leslie from Habitat, Tyler who is Steve's friend, and several people from N.E.W. Life Center. We had steak for dinner, an ASB Thursday night tradition, and Grace was determined to finish the beans. Dave told us that if we didn't finish the beans from dinner the other night, we would have to eat them for breakfast tomorrow, so basically Grace ate them all and ended up the real MVP.

After dinner we had our daily reflection and played more mafia!

Overall it was a great day for everyone filled with more laughs and awesome people from this wonderful community!


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Day 4: Keeping up

As the days pass, it is harder to wake up. Some push-ups, a cold(er) shower, and strong coffee were required to be half awake. The delicious breakfast from Dave, our amazing host, provided the sugar necessary to get through the day. And one more time, our group split up for the morning work.

Three of us went to the houses we have been working on to give a final clean up and take care of
some last details. Thinking about the people who were going to have a shelter to rest and stay warm was very gratifying. We were ready to leave, but a little problem came up: the van was stuck on the mud from the melting winter! However, two strong girls and the guy who warmed up this morning with killer push-ups (me), were enough to put us back on the road.

While waiting for the rest of the group, our van decided to play some Latin/party music to get our energy back. I have to say, we are not bad singers. Now, after being pumped up and getting our power lunch, we got into Northridge Academy to do our best. By now, I feel all the group realize that we are here not to be superheroes, but to change, at least a little bit, the lives of those little kids.

As a team, together we were able to handle the 2nd graders, the toughest class to work with. We could tell though that they were smart and sweet kids, it just happen that they go every day through difficult situations. However, our day was not over after school. We went in the evening to Durant Turri Mott School to help with some tutoring, but at the end, the kids were the ones teaching us how to have some fun jumping rope, playing basketball and hula-hoop.

After a long day, we had a champs dinner at Dave's house, which was not a surprise since he has been keeping us well-fed since the first day. We closed the day having a deep and meaningful reflection, relating our service mission to our Catholic faith. However, "the Mafia" took the house over, and we let this silly but awesome game to take away our chance to get some good rest.


Tuesday was the first day that we split up into two groups and went to different places.  Half of the group went to Habitat for Humanity again, and had the privilege to work with the crew and staff at the same house we were previously at.  The second group went to the St. Luke's N.E.W. Life Center and helped out with food distribution, babysitting children, and meeting amazing staff members and customers there. In the second half of the day, we went to Northridge Academy again and worked in the classrooms and with after school tutoring.  

There's a story that my mom sent me that I'd like to share, so here it is:

"A young man is walking long the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore.  Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean. 

'Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?' he asks.

'Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don't throw them further in they will die.'

'But old man, don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along                      it! You  can't possibly save them all, you can't even save one-tenth of them.  In fact, even                      if you work all day, your efforts won't make any difference at all.'

 The man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. 'It made a difference to that one.'"

We came to Flint not to change the lives of many, but to try to bring hope to one.  In the class I was working in at Northridge, I chose a seat in the back of the classroom, with a boy who had to sit by himself.  When we were first talking, the wall he put up in defense to my questions seemed unbreakable.  Throughout the day, we slowly bonded over Ninja Turtles, having a sister, and dancing to Uptown Funk.  When we had to leave that day, he and I were in the middle of drawing "a picture that represents spring."  Looking down at my 1st grade level drawing of a pink flower and a sun, I quickly scribbled "To: Jayden, From: Caroline."  The biggest smile came across his face, and he yelled to his friends, "LOOK WHAT I GOT!"  The happiness that my one, very terrible, drawing brought to this kid made me realize that I had made a positive impact in his life- even if just for an afternoon.  Making a difference to one can truly be enough.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Day 3 (cont.) -Another Beautiful Day

People who know me know that I can be overly romantic with my details, so I apologize in advance to my audience that dislikes flowery language.

Unlike Peter, the best part of my morning was waking up for reflection at 7am. I couldn't ask for a better wake-up than starting my morning with coffee, Jesus, and friends. For me, that hour was very Godly.

The time spent with Habitat for Humanity we spent putting some of the finishing touches on a house. It was a wonderful, down-to-earth effort at some good old-fashioned labor. Deep thoughts weren't necessary; we could just dig in and see work get done. At the end of our 3.5 hours with Habitat, there was a house filled with doors and blinds and counter-tops that weren't there before we came. As simple as that, we made a difference in Flint, Michigan.

But unlike our experience with Habitat for Humanity, there are many ways in which volunteers can make a difference that we may not see as clearly.

Our afternoon was spent at Northridge Academy, a charter school within fifteen minutes of our host house. There were many, many stories shared about the antics of the children that brought us to tears with our laughter, but there was also a number of moments where every one of us saw a taste of what many of the families of Flint are experiencing. Behind every action the children performed, there were probably many unseen causes. A "problem child" may be a suffering child, a distracted and un-focused child may have undiagnosed learning disabilities, and comforting hugs from children may bring them more comfort than we realize. Behind even a comical scene of a flipped desk, there may be a few too many children who are only acting out what they see at home. Our work in the classrooms was sometimes menial, and for some of us we just felt like distractions to the students and burdens to the teachers, but we can see that the children of Northridge Academy just need our love and respect. We know nothing about each individual child's home life, but we know that in general the family life of Flint suffers.

We pray every day that our presence can somehow bring a little bit more love and selflessness to this community.

Since arriving here, we have been blessed by the acceptance of so many loving people. The Wolberts, their friends Diane and Ellie, Father Tom, Pastor Wilkinson, and Sisters Judy and Carol (to name a few) have shown us so much of what it means to be giving and selfless. After sharing some of their many stories with us, Sisters Judy and Carol taught us a little about the beauty of service and interaction with other human beings: when we open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit, the God in us connects with the God in those around us.

A friend of mine once told me about the way he understood many things in life, death, and love: since we are all made in the image of God, and we are all considered a part of the body of Christ, and no two parts are the same (see Romans 12, verse 3 and onwards), each and every individual reflects a unique piece of God. When we truly connect with a person, we see that piece of God in them, and really it is a beautiful thing. When we lose a person to death or worse, we no longer see that unique reflection of God they embodied, and that in turn hurts us and makes us sad, because it is embedded into the very fiber of our being that we should desire to see God.

As we take on the rest of this week in Flint, we pray that every day we can come in touch with that piece of God in us and others and that we can help everyone here see a few more pieces of this puzzle of God....