BALANCE ... in work and play

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It is absolutely mind-boggling how many components go into the planning and execution of a successful community service trip. Keeping a pocket-sized spiral notebook helps with tracking current details and recording helpful tips for future ventures. And, come to think of it, the very routine of writing regularly in the notebook helps maintain balance.

Spring Break 2011 was my second trip to Jamaica with college students engaged in community service. In March 2010, I worked with eleven students from Ursinus College and their professor, Dr. Christian Rice. This year the numbers from Ursinus doubled and we added six students from Moravian College, along with Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld (English Department) and her family. Moravian College, through the Center for Leadership and Service and the Chaplain's Office, is committed to increasing opportunities for community service for students locally and internationally. Such balance ensures a more solid foundation for their future.

Nothing builds community faster than gathering at an airport at 3:00 a.m. for a six o'clock flight followed by a swim in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea within an hour after arrival in Montego Bay. That afternoon, a 2-hour drive along a narrow, curvy but scenic road over the mountain brought us to our home away from home on the south coast of Jamaica. We ended Day One with a creative game of People Bingo — striving for balance between decompression and rest on the one hand, and exploring new surroundings and meeting new people on the other.

Just in case playing together did not accomplish the goal of group unity, a solid day of hard work on Day Two removed all doubt. Five projects kept the 34 of us busy painting, hammering, and mixing cement as an orphanage, three homes, and an elementary school. We were learning and teaching, sweating and sharing. We strove for balance between work and play, between service and socialization. Witnessing the movement from theory to practice, brought balance to the hearts of some very committed college students. Our efforts built a platform to create change — in ourselves and in the lives of the people we were touching each day.

Special thanks to our project coordinator, Phyllis Smith-Seymour, our cooks, Nellie and Polly, our second driver, Junior, our special guests, Anna, Jim and Anne, our Bethlehem to Philadelphia driver Mike Rampulla, and a host of others who contributed to the success of Spring Break Jamaica 2011.

Over the course of seven days, we worked hard and played hard. Wonderful balance! We started most days with breakfast at 7:00 a.m., left for work around 8:00 a.m., spent the late afternoon/early evening swimming in the sea, river, or pool, and ended most days with table games and a conversation circle. Elizabeth Cannon, Assistant Director of the Ursinus Bonner Program, facilitated these intense sessions of reflection on country and culture, people and poverty.

As we approached the end of our trip, I experienced an intense feeling of gratitude for the privilege of working with such a wonderful group of intelligent and dedicated young people. They all displayed good balance in their lives and in their care for our world! Well done Bernadette, Kelsy-Ann, Jenn, Andrew, Katie and Macaire.