Section: Serving the Greater Good
Originally for this section, I was going to volunteer some time at the local Humane Shelter, but the opportunity to take a trip to Flint, MI arose and I wanted to snatch up the opportunity as quickly as possible. It means a heck of a lot more to me at this point in time due to the fact that those in the city are still drinking contaminated water, and it also reduces the chances of me smuggling 97 dogs into my dorm room.
Unfortunately, it turns out that the events the 150 of us in the group weren’t going to be spending the day supplying water to the citizens of Flint. Fortunately, we were split up into a miscellaneous amount of groups dedicated to separate portions of even further separated tasks of divergent importance within the social aspects of the area. I was on the glorious
-and, after a prolonged bus ride and emergency pee stop, we found ourselves (with two other groups that proved to be very complementary to the group’s efforts) at our first volunteering checkpoint: a cute little neighborhood playground. Our expedition leader we met up with was collaborating with the community advisor for that specific recreational center, Charmaine. As there is no Parks and Recreation Department in Flint, it was our job to act appropriately in their absence.
Our job was as follows: pick one of the three structures on the property – swing set, spaceship – looking – climby – thing, or snail; yes, snail (you can see it in the background of the photo above if you squint really hard) – and paint them predetermined colors. Guess which one I suggested our team take?
Yep. The snail.
The snail with a seemingly infinite amount of curved surface area to paint two extremely contrasting colors.
I apologized to my team then for my snap decision, and I apologize now.
So many drips. So much blue in places where there should have been orange instead.
Eventually, we came to a point as a group where we overcame our differences in color drips and infringement on others’ space and successfully completed the necessary coats of paint after (im)patiently waiting for each individual coat to dry. The resulting color-wheel-savvy snail looked beautiful. From a very far distance. Especially if you closed your eyes; and decided collectively that we wouldn’t diverge from our majors (rather than quit our nonexistent day jobs) to pursue a career in painting playgrounds.
From there, we continued on to the next location: lunch and the Genesse County Community Fair. Before I stuck myself around the inflatable slide, guiding children up and down in a tireless loop of climbing plastic stairs to then let gravity pull them back down to the ground again, I marveled at the bonding between family and friends that was happening on the dance floor via an enviable explosion of energy. Like, these kids were having the time of their lives.
I’m a little jealous of the individuals that were lucky enough to have been placed in that area to mingle and dance with the families, but I made the point of this volunteering trip a way to expose myself to things I wouldn’t otherwise be drawn to. The blow-up slide turned out to be exactly that place. I learned a very important thing about myself during those sixty-ish minutes: I think children are incredibly adorable and I can’t wait to have absolutely none.
Around 3pm, we left the fair to board our busses in order to be transported to our last service project. Team Twelve found themselves outside a completely abandoned, graffiti-plastered apartment complex (that actually would be quite a quality place to live, given some T.L.C.) in preparation to clean a parking lot/grassy knoll that had been severely effected by blight. We were given gloves, were provided with an industry-standard dumpster, and were set free to organize and clean to our heart’s content.
Somehow, near the end of the cleaning endeavors, one member of our cleaning team found a very small friend who had no apparent family – of their own species or otherwise.
Seeing as it was the weekend, none of the animal rescue centers in the area were open, and we had to leave our friend with some locals, who carried our petite baby into a safe area for the time being. On the way home, my heart ached for our inability to see its assured safety come to fruition.
Twelve hours after our adventure began, it came to an end. From eight in the morning to eight at night, the army of Central Michigan volunteers worked through our fair share of unpainted buildings and playgrounds, cleaning abandoned houses and apartment complexes, among other endeavors I lack specifics in regards to. It was the most intensive volunteering project I’ve ever been a part of, and definitely the most rewarding. It’s inspired me to take up more projects of the sort, since I was able to directly experience and predict the results of the service. I’m completely aware that I still need about 100 more hours of volunteering in order to graduate in good standing with my college, but before this experience I was worried it would be more of a tedious task than an enjoyable experience. I’m relieved and excited that it can definitely resemble the latter.
P.S. I’m really proud of this photo right here:
These two were so excited about the helicopter about to go up, and I really wanted to get their reaction once it eventually took flight, but I was nearly late to the busses before we went to our last service project, and I missed everything. Oh, well. There will be more experiences similar to this.