I came into the trip expecting not to make much of a difference on the building of the community center. Much of the time for community service, it is only the idea that counts, but inexperienced volunteers cannot make an outstanding difference.
However, watching the process of the ditch being shoveled out made me extremely happy. It was our tangible evidence of our hard work as a group. And not only did we reach the goal of our project but we spoke Spanish with Avel, Javier, and others on the job site. I was given the opportunity to feel included in a much greater social movement. I will never forget Javier’s story about how he crossed the border, and personal stories of how others did too. Immigration is not a problem occurring only on the border, but now my life seems connected with it too.
This fall break project shows how social justice is not only one service project or constructing one building. Bettering communities is a way of life. I learned that the problem with immigrants is they have been dehumanized for so long. Witnessing how FHDC works is a statement of the fact that all immigrants are important people who must be treated with respect and given the opportunity to live in healthy environments.
– Isabella Fabens ’15
Leading the Alternative Break Trip to Woodburn Oregon this year with Anna was one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had at Lewis & Clark thus far. Anna was a terrific leader, and it was extremely easy and rewarding to support her to make sure this terrific trip was a success. Our group chemistry was much more dynamic than the group I volunteered with last year. I feel closer to everyone who was a part of the trip! They were a fantastic collection of personalities, experiences, and interests. Javier, Gordo, Gene and the rest of the fantastic people at PCUN were hospitable and kind. Javier has the patience of an angel! He answered every question we posed, and we learned about issues that we had not come into contact with before. They all did a great job of making us feel accepted into the PCUN community.
Javier made a point of allowing us to be creative and independent while working on the site, which is something that many volunteer coordinators do not encourage. Instead of telling us exactly how to complete a project, he asked us to be creative. He knew that we had the knowledge and skills to be successful. Working creatively as a team definitely raised the confidence of many members of our group. They felt more willing to take on leadership roles, which was great!
While working, many of us would engage in conversations that don’t normally come up in casual interaction or discourse. Due to our varied experiences and identities, we had rich discussions about racism, feminism, anarchism, oppression of other sects of people, drug policies, our hopes for different types of social reform, and even just the function of college. I think people felt very comfortable having these talks, which is rare because our society does not typically create conversational spaces where these types of discussions can be had. The sharing of experiences was probably my favorite part of the trip. It was incredible enriching and inspiring to learn from my peers.
Overall, I had a spectacular time. I feel so thankful that I was able to co-lead the trip! I couldn’t have imagined a better cause to volunteer for.
-Laura Houlberg ’14, trip co-leader
In short, the alternative fall break was not what I expected. I was excited to immerse myself in the environmentally sound concepts of the building, and learn more about sustainable construction. I expected some awkward encounters with the few students I did not know, some short tours of PCUN, maybe a brief overview of the work that was to be done – and that would be that. Well that was not the case. First off, the community that was formed between the students was amazing. Within a few short hours, we were all laughing, dancing, and making jokes. But beyond that – we really talked and discussed ideas and concepts with a lot of intensity. Next, when I found myself in a spanish-speaking location, I was slightly taken aback. I quickly realized that there was so much more to PCUN than just a pretty environmentally conscious building. The workers treated us like family, and that by itself really touched my heart. The work that we did was much more meaningful when I learned that we were constructing a leadership facility. We helped lay the foundations for the next generation of leaders. This trip also triggered my passion for the spanish language. I am currently a Spanish 101 student, and now I am even more excited to move forward with my education – and study abroad. Like I said – not what I expected to take away from this trip. But I would not have wanted it any other way – except maybe not having the toilet flood in the morning…
– Mason Wordell, ’15