Thank you.

“Thank you.” I heard it way too many times this week- from the thrift store owner who gave us free sweatshirts, to a complete stranger at Newk’s on the way back.

I got frustrated, because I wanted to explain, over and over again, that they had nothing to thank us for- I wanted to explain that the community of Guin was giving us something, something so much greater than our week, something we could never thank them for.

Never before had I experienced the unconditional love of a tight-knit community, a week of true Southern hospitality and great food, an excursion into a world so much more vibrant than our day-to-day back home.

But I couldn’t, and I still can’t, because there are no words to describe what Guin gave us, while we gave only our time. It wasn’t just Momma T, the head honcho of the local Habitat for Humanity, or the sweet heart and energy of WW2 veteran Mr. Carter. It wasn’t just the overwhelming amounts of delicious food, or the complete acceptance of the town.

But whatever it was, I loved it.

The past week was a little messy, with our projects and schedules existing on a “wait and find out” basis, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way; we got to see so much more of the community, from the Women’s Hope pregnancy center to the hospice to the local church.

I loved my group, too. The only thing we truly had in common was our desire to serve, but that turned out to be enough; I got to know some amazing, vibrant people I never would have had the opportunity to otherwise. I’m not going to forget game nights or Disney screamo or the deep, kind of odd talks we had gathered around a deck of cards.

I learned so much from each person, about how to fully live and focus on what’s important, and I watched each of us grow more centered and focused each day.

At the end of the day, all I want to do is say thank you. Thank you to Guin, for opening their doors and their hearts to us for a week. Thank you for the world’s best site leader, for her energy and love. Thank you for ASB, for existing, for giving me the opportunity to see this community, to spend this week with this amazing people.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Give Kids the World Village Day 5

Today was our last day that we were able to spend volunteering at Nemours as well as the Give Kids the World Village. We began our day at Nemours by setting up and running all of the activities for medical day that took place. The kids made bracelets using medical tubing and beads, x-ray hand drawings with throat swabs, butterfly paintings using gauze and band-aids, and stress balls using gloves and flour. It was so cool to see the kids using the medical supplies as a craft instead of strictly associating them with their sickness. One of our group members was playing Disney tunes on the piano during the activities, and her music inspired some of the children to go to the piano and showcase their talents as well. Medical day was a hit, and there was no better way that we could have ended the week.

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In the evening, we went to the GKTW village. Our group was split up into a variety of different roles. We took part in pizza and other food delivery as well as serving ice cream at the ice cream palace. Serving dinner and dessert to the families we had gotten to know over the week was a great way to end the night.

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Winnie the Pooh couldn’t have put it any better than when he said “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” This quote perfectly encompasses the feelings experienced during our last day here in Kissimmee. It certainly was a day full of mixed emotions. Volunteering at Nemours Children’s Hospital as well as the Give Kids the World Village has been a life-altering experience for each and every one of us. The children and families that we met and spent time with were uplifting and provided such a positive outlook on life. Sometimes it almost seems like they helped us more than we helped them.

It’s so crazy to think that a group that once consisted of ten strangers has transformed into a group of friends that care deeply for one another. We came together to try and improve the lives of others, but we ended up with so much more than that. It has been a blessing to have been able to spend this week together. We’ve built friendships and learned lessons that will last a lifetime. Thank you so much for reading, hope you enjoyed keeping up with us!

Give Kids the World Village Day 5

Give Kids the World Village Day 4

Our day started off by heading over to Nemours Children’s Hospital. We spent the morning organizing a DVD collection, closets containing a number of games and other activities, and a book collection. We also prepared for the medical day that will be taking place tomorrow, which will consist of the children making fun crafts using various medical supplies (stress ball made out of a glove, etc.). Finally, we got the chance to make crafts and play video games with some of the kids that visited the game room.

We had a pretty lengthy break during the day, and then went to the Give Kids the World village later on in the evening. It was a very special night at GKTW, because it was the night that Christmas was being celebrated! This night was an absolute blast. Our group was able to take part in some awesome activities. Some of us were able to help the kids with making snowmen treats out of marshmallows, others drew pictures and made reindeer antlers, and some of us had the honor of being Santa’s helpers! Everyone in the village had a great night and got into the true spirit of the holidays.

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Tomorrow is our last day here, and it has flown by. We’re not looking forward to leaving this wonderful place and people we have met, but we’re incredibly thankful for the time we’ve been able to spend here. We can’t wait to wrap up our time here on a great note. Thanks for reading!

Give Kids the World Village Day 4

Dominican Days 3, 4, and 5

   
 

 
 
Day 3-
Today was such a fun day! We started off by hosting a street medical clinic in the refugee camp. We treated fungal infections, gave out vitamins, and treated common colds, stomach issues, and things of that sort. Everyone enjoyed getting to be hands on while helping the community!
       After we finished, we had a bit of free time, so we decided to visit the feeding program again! There are about 100 children enrolled in Pan de Vida, but they are not all able to be there every day due to school schedules. It’s held on the same property as the orphanage, so we enjoyed getting to spend time with the girls there too! 
     We held babies, fed children, played basketball and soccer, and gave a lot of piggy back rides. Some of the medical and nursing students treated some fungal infections, motorcycle burns, and small scrapes on the onsite medical room. All of the girls got their hair braided multiple times! 
       After lunch, we went to the capital city of Santo Domingo for some sight seeing and shopping. We all showed off our new found bargaining skills and made new friends with the shop owners, too! We saw Columbus’ fort and the first cathedral in the Americas. We also visited a chocolate factory and tried some free samples! 
       After a delicious dinner of Chinese food, we headed back to the house to rest up for the next big day. 
 
Day 4-
   Day 4 was busy, but exciting! We started off by heading to a local school to teach English. We first worked with the children age 2-5, and then 1st through 8th grade. Our directors’ two oldest children go to preschool here, so they LOVED have us come meet their friends and hang out for a while! We taught the kids to sing “heads shoulders knees and toes” and played Simon Says. With the oldest kids, we taught them to say “War Eagle Hey!” And explained all about our university and life in America. 
      Next, we headed to the feeding program again. It was fun and rewarding as always. The children enjoyed playing with us and we enjoyed spending time with them. 
     After lunch, we walked across the street to the park and had a party with the community! We celebrated “Christmas in March” complete with a bonfire to roast marshmallows, games, and Christmas shoebox presents. We had a blast playing soccer with the kids, and they all looked so cute trying to eat their marshmallows! When we gave the children their presents, they were filled with joy and gratitude, which was cool for us to see. These little boxes of dollar store presents made so many hugs smiles. 
      A little later, we all walked up the street to an area where some guys in the community play basketball. We hung out and our Auburn guys played a few games. The games were tough and sadly, we never won. However, it was good competition and we certainly made some new friends. Meanwhile, the girls sat and watched, while making friendship bracelets for the children in the neighborhood. They all loved picking out their colors and showing off their new bracelets! 
       After dinner, we all decided to check out a local dominican church. Although it was very different from what we are used to, it was an interesting cultural experience! By the end of the service, half the girls were holding sleeping babies! 
   

 

Day 5-
    Today was our free day! We woke up early and watched the sun rise. We then headed to the “27 waterfalls”, an outdoor adventure site in Puerto Plata, DR. We climbed an hour to the top and then jumped and slid down the waterfalls to the very bottom. We brought along a Go Pro camera and all took a turn holding the camera as we jumped. It was both a relaxing and exciting day! 
     Tomorrow is our last day serving here in the Dominican. While we are sad to leave, we are all hoping to brig everything we learned back to Auburn and continue to impact the community in a positive way. 
Dominican Days 3, 4, and 5

Everglades Trip Days 2, 3, & 4- Work and Adventures in Everglades National Park

Our first day in the Everglades started off with a tour of the visitor’s center, and a drive through the park’s sawgrass plains into a hidden grove complete with a lake! Our guides, Rangers Jeff and Chris, took us back to an Environmental Education Center where they normally host summer camps for elementary students from Miami schools. There, we worked hard cleaning trails and sanding and painting picnic tables for the camp. The boys (plus Katie) took the first shift clearing away trees, while the rest of us worked with the camp’s two regular volunteers over the last 15 years, Larry and Julie.   

 After working together all day in the heat and biting flies, Chris and Jeff decided to take us out into the area’s Cypress Domes to look for animals and cool plant life found only in the Everglades. We saw all kinds of wildlife, including some awesome American Alligators deep inside their gator hole!

  

  

 

On our second day in the park, we switched teams and got to talk more about how our work helps the park by inspiring kids to care for their local ecosystems. In fact, the Everglades has impacted so many people over the past 40 years that the Everglades is the only privately funded National Park in the country, relying entirely on public help rather than government aid. After just two days of working together, it was tough to say goodbye to the Everglades team. When we returned to the park the next day for some free time hiking, we made sure to see Jeff on his morning bird walk, and exchange stories of the morning’s wildlife encounters. After our third morning exploring the park, we went to the beach in Miami for some well deserved relaxation!

  

 

Everglades Trip Days 2, 3, & 4- Work and Adventures in Everglades National Park

Give Kids The World Village Day 1, 2, and 3

The ASB Give Kids the World Team has kicked off spring break to a great start! The lack of posts has been to due the wonderful craziness that has ensued over the past couple of days. From here on out, the posts will take place day by day.

Free Day

There was no better way to kick off this week than by spending it at the happiest place on earth. Our free day was spent at Disney World, and it was a really great opportunity for our group to become closer. One of our team members put it perfectly when she compared our Disney visit to the children we’d be visiting throughout the week. Spending time at Disney made all of us incredibly happy, and she reminded us that it was our goal to spread that kind of joy to each child and family we would get to interact with during our stay.

Day 1-

On our first day at the Give Kids the World village, our group had the opportunity to serve breakfast at the Gingerbread House as well as serve ice cream and breakfast at the ice cream palace. This was a great chance for us to initially meet some of the families and serve them breakfast.

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Following our time spent at GKTW, we made our first visit to Nemours Children’s Hospital. Upon our arrival, we began an awesome project. The child life specialists at Nemour’s had been planning on having a special day for their patients. They wanted to have a day filled with numerous activities related to the Disney movie “Frozen”. We began to work on a Frozen-themed backdrop as well as other decorations of the sort.

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Day 2-

Our day started off by traveling to Nemours. We sorted and labeled DVD’s for the teen center, made a number of posters celebrating birthdays and the end of chemo treatments, and continued to make progress on the Frozen decorations.

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Later on in the evening, we had the chance to take a tour of the GKTW village. The number of stories that each building held were endless, and it was so special to hear about all of the kids who have been recognized and honored at this village. At the beginning of this trip, it seemed as if most of our group knew the general idea of what the GKTW was all about, but before the tour not everyone knew exactly how important this place truly is. The tour helped us gain insight as to why we couldn’t really understand this village previously: it is something one cannot put into words. You can take as many pictures and write as many articles as you want, but you’ll never truly understand the magic of GKTW until you enter it. The feeling of hope and support is endless, and it was incredible to see how this village has positively impacted the lives of so many.

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Following this tour, we went to serve dinner in the Gingerbread House with a renewed appreciation and understanding of the village in which we were working.

Day 3-

We began our day at the GKTW village, where our group participated in a number of activities. A few of us were able to assist in horseback rides. For many of the children, today was the first time they had gotten to ride a horse, and it was great to be able to take part in this experience.

Some other members of our team got to be train conductors and welcome families aboard the train that rides around the GKTW village. Others worked at the carousel, ran other rides, and worked in the Magic Castle.

After working at GKTW, we traveled to Nemours where it was finally Frozen day! We helped to facilitate the all of these activities. These included making Frozen silly putty, handing out Frozen slushes and other treats, helping to make crowns, and taking pictures with the lovely Princess Ana and Elsa. This day was all about giving kids a special day and having them realize that they are strong and brave enough to conquer anything.

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This week has been off to a wonderful start, and we can’t wait to continue sharing in these memorable experiences. Thanks for keeping updated with us!

Give Kids The World Village Day 1, 2, and 3

Dominican Republic Day 1 & 2 

BLOG  days 1-2

ASB Dominican Republic team has kept busy the first few days! We arrived in the late afternoon and relaxed for a couple hours before dinner. We set up our hammocks, and our friend rafeal got some fresh coconuts down from the trees for us. We all went to bed pretty early to rest up for our week. 

   

 

 Day 1- 

On our first day, we continued the Auburn tradition of working in a local park. An Auburn team 4 years ago pretty much built this park from the ground up. They weeded, painted, cleared, and cleaned to make this park usable in the community. Since then, the community has started to use this park in their everyday lives. It’s become a place for birthday parties, church meetings, and just sitting around and talking to the neighbors. This year, we weeded out the flower beds and planted new plants and trees. 

We also headed over to the orphanage for a couple hours to meet the girls and spend some time hanging out with them. The team enjoyed learning different hand clap games and teaching the girls some new english phrases. 

After lunch, we visited the refugee camp and announced our medical clinic we’ll be hosting later in the week. This quickly turned into playtime with all the children in the area. They taught us card games and showed us their toys. When we left, we stopped by a local gardener’s shop to purchase plants for the park. 

After dinner, we got dressed up and attended Yaroline’s wedding. Yaroline is a very close family friend of the directors we work with in the Dominican.  The ceremony was beautiful, and really not too different from the weddings in the states!

  

Day 2- 

We started off today with a visit to the local market. Each team member purchased fruit that we will eat during the week. Mckenzie said “The market was a beautiful mess!”

After that, we went to the feeding program and fed the children lunch. We played for a while, helped prep the food, fed the little ones, and then gave out some candy before heading back to eat our own lunch. On the way home, we filmed a video of ourselves rocking out to Tswift. 

  

We took a little break after lunch and filmed another funny video.  We then got ready and headed to the hospital to visit the maternity ward and motorcycle alley. The girls got to hold some sweet babies, tour the NICU, and a few even peeked in on a C-Section. We handed out hygiene packets and new clothing for the babies. The guys visited the people who have been injured in motorcycle wrecks and saw some pretty crazy injuries. They also handed out hygiene packets. 

We had a hour or two of free time before dinner, so we set up our hammocks in the coconut trees. We had country music playing over our speakers and we hammocked, climbed trees, and playing baseball with the kids in the yard. It was nice to relax a bit after our busy days! 

We are so excited for the rest of the week. Thanks for following along! 

Dominican Republic Day 1 & 2