collegians at service immersion experience
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The following post was written by guest blogger, Madelyn Mckissack, Gamma Zeta–University of Memphis.

“To welcome the opportunity of contributing to the world’s work because of the joy of service thereby bestowed and the talent of leadership multiplied.”

Eighteen sisters from across North America congregated in New Orleans from January 6-12 at Camp Restore to participate in a week of bonding and “contributing to the world’s work”. We visited different sites throughout the city to serve others and gain world perspective by immersing ourselves in the culture. We learned how to organize Mardi Gras beads, pull weeds, work as a team at a food shelter and to play like children. Live with Purpose was written all over the week.

Our team leaders did an incredible job of emphasizing we are not here for ourselves or to make ourselves feel good through service, but to put the needs of a community under our realm of responsibility as citizens. Every one of us came into this experience not knowing one another and it was initially quite terrifying. Despite this, we bonded quickly and deeply because of the common values we share. All members of the team contributed the maximum amount possible and exhibited every line of the Purpose throughout the week.

On the first day, we visited a garden owned by the sweetest soul—Ms. Gloria. The garden was full of innovative creations like painted quotes on brick and plants in tire swings. Ms. Gloria is in her 70’s and has an infectious vigor and love for life that we all found incredibly inspiring. When asked what made her decide to have and maintain a garden, she responded that she felt it was her way of meeting a need in her community–something we could all identify with. We pulled weeds, painted bricks and spoke with members of the community. It was a special day that revealed the vitality of doing small things with great love. When we help one, we help all—including ourselves—by bettering the community in its entirety.

On the second day, four sisters visited a physician’s office to help clean. This included lots of power washing and scrubbing. “To develop and prize health and vigor of body”, am I right? The rest of us visited a recycling nonprofit specifically focused on Mardi Gras beads. We learned that the Mardi Gras festivities are vital to the New Orleans culture and local economy. Mardi Gras and the practice of wearing beads is taken very seriously. We were able to make a direct impact on the environment while mingling with the employees. My experience there showed me that those in New Orleans take care of one another.

We spent all of day three at New Orleans food pantry, directly tying into Alpha Gam’s philanthropic focus of fighting hunger! I loved seeing the warmth and kindness from the people of New Orleans, and the impact of having/not having a meal can have on someone. It implies stability, comfort and a labor of love.

On our last day of service, we went to an elementary school to help students through one-to-one interaction. We built relationships, listened and helped students and teachers to feel seen and heard.

This was an incredible trip full of self-reflection. The Service Immersion experience taught us about our passions and how to apply them in the world where ever we are. I want to give a special thank you to the Alpha Gamma Delta Foundation for this opportunity. It was truly life-changing!

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