Spotlight on Service!

Tuesday, July 18th, 2023

This year’s volunteering trip to Portland, Maine has been my favorite out of the three trips I’ve been on. We were able to work with and connect with the community much more due to the independence we had. I also felt the work was much more fulfilling because of how we worked alongside local volunteers and how close we worked to people in the community. In the soup kitchen, my job was to wash dishes, and during that, I was able to talk to other volunteers who worked there for years and learn about their experiences which gave me a lot of insight into volunteering itself.        —Erik

This year’s volunteer trip was truly the best one so far. We were able to see and talk with the people we were serving so we gained a closer connection to the community. We were all determined to get things done effectively while also being kind to the people around us. It was difficult work but it all went by pretty quickly because we had a fun team.   Elliot is always a great leader and he always finds a way to brighten the mood whenever we feel down. His jokes always make everyone laugh and his pure dedication to this program makes people like me aspire to do what he does. It feels rewarding giving back to the community. I always like having that sense of accomplishment after helping someone who needs help. I can’t wait to go next year.          —William

This year’s teen summer volunteering trip to Portland, Maine was, hands down, the best volunteering trip I’ve been on. This trip was my third with OLMC and was the first trip we’ve done independently (not under Catholic Heart Workcamp) in a number of years. Because of this aspect, we were able to really connect with the community and form incredible bonds with our clients and the senior volunteers at multiple sites around the city. We did a lot of interactive social work and spent many hours helping to run a local soup kitchen and food pantry, where we did everything from sorting produce and washing dishes to hand delivering trays of hot meals to tables of people in need. We had one-on-one interactions with people we often overlook on city streets; we had the opportunity to learn about them while we had a direct impact on their lives. It was a huge eye opening and heart wrenching experience.                —Emma

I had so much fun meeting new and old friends. This trip could not have been so great if not for Elliot. He makes every trip so fun and special. The work was very hard but felt very rewarding that I helped so many people. Portland is such an amazing place and I would hope to go back in the future.        —Ondrej

“Am I Doing Enough?:” A Reflection by Isabella

Working at a church camp in Portland, Maine was an incredibly rewarding experience. It provided me with the opportunity to serve others, connect with people from different backgrounds, and deepen my understanding of compassion and gratitude. The camp itself was nestled amidst nature’s beauty, surrounded by towering trees, serene lakes, and breathtaking landscapes. As a volunteer, I had the privilege of engaging with people of various ages and backgrounds, who had the same powerful desire to help others as I did. Witnessing their enthusiasm, curiosity, and eagerness to learn about faith and spirituality was truly inspiring. It was heartwarming to see how the camp fostered a sense of community and encouraged personal growth through meaningful conversations, worship, and outdoor activities.

One of the highlights was volunteering at a local soup kitchen. For those who may not know, the soup kitchen serves as a vital lifeline for those in need, providing nourishment, warmth, and a place to belong. The experience of working in the soup kitchen opened my eyes to the challenges faced by individuals and families who struggle with homelessness and food insecurity. It reminded me of the importance of empathy and compassion as I interacted with people who were grateful for a warm meal and a moment of connection.

Volunteering at the soup kitchen had its ups and downs. On the one hand, it taught me the value of human connection and the power of listening. I had the opportunity to engage in conversations with individuals who had unique stories and perspectives. I even got to use my native language, Portuguese, to engage in conversations with many of those from Brazil. It was humbling to hear about their struggles, but also inspiring to witness their resilience and hope. These interactions taught me that each person has a story worth hearing and that everyone deserves dignity and respect.

On the other hand, it takes a great amount of courage and strength to be able to put your needs aside in order to provide for others. When bussing tables, I couldn’t help but wonder as the clients walked out of the soup kitchen, What’s next for them? Am I doing enough? I realized that when I was doing was just the bare minimum and that so much more could be done. Elliot taught me as well as the other campers that keeping a straight face and not thinking about the horrible things the clients were going through as we were helping them was extremely courageous. To further elaborate, at the end of the day, we would gather in a circle and share our “highs and lows.” It was very common for everyone to say that their low was to witness the tragedy and suffering of the clients and how incredibly grateful some of them can be even when given just the bare minimum. It makes one truly wonder what more can be done? Elliot reminded us to hold onto this sadness and turn it into strength, and that even the bare minimum can help tremendously.

A more personal experience would be volunteering on one’s very own birthday, which I, myself, experienced. Going into this, I had friends constantly reminding me that it was my birthday and I should be home celebrating. It’s easy to be selfish, especially on your birthday. In reality, I get to spend every day to think about myself, about what I want to wear or what I want to eat. So, spending the day that’s “supposed to be all about me” helping someone else was something I will never forget and would not have changed for the world. What about the gifts? they would ask me. Busing tables and wiping messes made on those tables only to receive a simple thank you or God bless you was truly the greatest gift I could have ever received.

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