A greater sense of self

It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a month since we’ve been back from doing the S.O.U.L.S. Alternative Spring Break. A whole month! It feels as if I was just there yesterday watching Jake get out a bent nail from a wall we were building, that I had hammered in sideways several times. And yet at the same time everything feels very surreal, like maybe we never even went to El Paso and it was all a dream.

I think the reason why it feels that way once we’ve returned is because what we did is simultaneously one of the easiest and hardest ideas to grasp. I keep having to remind myself that we-built-a-house. A home. Where someone is going to live. What’s hard to grasp is the fact that a group of only 20 students can get so much accomplished in just one week to better our society. Who knew it could be so easy? What could get accomplished with a million more groups of 20 students? When you really think about it, you have sudden realization that every individual actually does have the ability to change the course of our society and our world. And when you become a part of that change, the feeling takes you over and makes you reassess your values and lifestyle.

After participating in two Alternative Spring Breaks already, it’s going to be hard for me to stop. The life lessons I’ve learned, friendships I’ve made, and my increased awareness of the world around me and my impact on my world make the Alternative Spring Break an experience of a lifetime, for which I am so thankful. Sure if you’ve never done an ASB before you may not be able to relate to these feelings, but I encourage everyone to put themselves out there and try it. Go even if you don’t know any of the other students, even if you should probably stay at home and work, and even if you have tons of schoolwork to catch-up on. Its worth it. And when you come back, I highly doubt you would regret it.

Trip of a Lifetime…

Alternative Spring Break in El Paso, TX was the most amazing trip I have ever been on. Despite the fact that I have been on many school trips; even on a trip to Europe, this trip was the most rewarding. Being able to spend a week with 19 other people that I didn’t know, and ending up with those same 19 people as friends for life…it’s amazing.
I want to thank everyone for this opportunity and I hope some of you sign up next year!

El Paso TX Habitat for Humanity!

I was very ecstatic when I found out I was going to El Paso, Texas. When Ally first described the project to me I became very exited. The week I was in El Paso my life changed tremendously. During that week, I was very blessed to meet Matilda and Hector! Beautiful Kids from El Paso! These beautiful kids lived in a Habitat House across the street from our work site. Seeing these kids made me feel so happy that I was there as a volunteer, building a habitat home for their future neighbors. Every nail I nailed, I thought about how grateful the family moving into this home would be of the work we accomplished.

I left my heart in Texas…

Going into Alternative Spring Break, I had no idea what to expect because I had never done anything like it before. However I did know that I would be making a difference in the community while at the same time forming strong relationships with my fellow ASB volunteers. Since it is difficult to sum up my entire week in one entry, let me provide you with a list of my favorite and most memorable moments that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

El Paso, Texas – I had never been in the Southwestern part of the US before this trip, and being in El Paso was like being in a different world for me. I loved the Texan culture and truly admired their Southern pride. Everyone in the South was welcoming and friendly, something often hard to come by in Boston. The weather was wonderful and the views picture-perfect – I don’t think any of us could have asked for a more interesting and exciting location for ASB.

Habitat for Humanity – Before the trip I knew very little about Habitat and what they stood for. I was glad I got to work on their team and find out how they operated. Volunteers for Habitat across the country do a lot of amazing work for those less fortunate. I especially admired the work of our leader Muriel and contractor Henry, because they are genuine people who give their time and hearts day after day to the cause. I would love to work for their organization in the future.

Building – The thing that I was most nervous about before going on ASB was the actual construction of the house we were to build. I am not the most handy person in the world, and I was afraid I would be useless on the site. Luckily, Henry and my peers were very supportive, and before I knew it I was hammering nails, painting, and helping to build whole walls. At the end of each day I was dirty, sweaty, sunburned, and exhausted, but still proud of what I had done. This trip helped me to realize I could accomplish challenges outside of my comfort zone.

The Border – Muriel educated us on one of the biggest problems facing El Paso – border security and immigration. The slide show she presented to us really opened up my eyes to the reality of the US-Mexican border issues, a subject that I knew very little about. Learning more about it really made me want to help the cause even more, and made me glad that even though we were only helping to build one house, we were still making a difference.

The Group – Although we worked hard all day, we had a lot of fun together on our time off. This trip gave me the opportunity to meet Suffolk students and staff that I would never have normally met. We were all united under one cause, and had a lot of fun at it, too. We made more inside jokes, amazing memories, and strong friendships in one week than one could ever imagine. We even joked that we all got a little too comfortable with each other too quickly!

This trip was so amazing, I didn’t want to leave Texas or my fellow volunteers when it came to an end. I learned so much about myself and others, and I don’t think that I stopped smiling the whole time. I recommend a trip like this to anyone who wants to make a difference and make some great friends along the way.


img_0002.jpgIt was 2:30 am on Saturday (3/15/2008). I finished watching a Celtics game and the Late Night Show with Conan O’Brian. My bags were packed and I couldn’t wait to leave. As my eyes became heavier, my phone began to ring. It was Mike’s wake up call, which came right on time. I woke my brother up and we headed towards the 150 Tremont Dorms. I picked up three students that I didn’t know much about, but I knew I would grow closer to at the end of this trip. We headed towards the airport and then began to wait for the other members of the ASB trip to get to Logan. Most of us were exhausted, but we stayed awake and mingled with each other. The time flew by and we eventually got on the flight to Dallas. I hate flying; especially the take-off and the landing. The ear-popping doesn’t help either. I slept the whole flight and woke up in Dallas. That airport was HUGE! We took a trip on a “Skylink”, which was this futuristic looking monorail. Our T would be awesome if it was like this.We had to quickly run to our connected flight to El Paso Texas. We all got on this flight and couldn’t wait to feel the warm weather of El Paso. We finally arrived to beautiful El Paso Texas. We got our luggage and stepped outside. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. I remember overhearing someone calling their family back in Boston and then telling us that it was snowing back home. That made me feel real good to be in El Paso, because I was getting sick of the cold weather. When we stepped outside there was an awesome background of mountains. We were all very hungry so we went to eat out at an Applebee’s. Some of us were a little agitated because we wanted to eat authentic Tex-Mex food. I think I got a little sick from eating there. Probably, some of the others got sick as well. The highlight of this first day was when we hit the highway to go to the church we were sleeping at. In the distance we could see a huge Mexican flag. We realized how close we were to the border and it was very exciting. We arrived at the church and everyone got settled. I was looking forward to our workdays on the house, but for now I needed the energy to work, so I called it an early night.

ASB Mississippi

It seems like there’s a few Texas people here but no Mississippians haha Honestly I wish people could realize how life changing these trips are…2008 was my third trip down to Mississippi with the ASB program and my fourth trip altogether down to the gulf coast. Each trip opens my eyes more and more to the reality of not just the situation down in the hurricane ravaged areas but also how foolish on one hand and amazingly brave on the other we can be as human beings.
People think just because a disaster is out of the news that it’s “all better” but really the healing has just begun…
Going down to Mississippi 2 years ago I remember a bus full of kids singing and laughing as we left the Gulfport/Biloxi airport on our first day…we got halfway down the road and every single person on that bus was silent…grayish debris, trees, mush, sat where houses once stood…It seemed I could count on one hand the houses we saw standing that day…what was weird though is everyone in town had such vivacity, such hope, such thankfulness for living…I came away from that trip realizing the strength we each have in ourselves…
two years later…we are laughing again (or falling asleep haha) but we get out of our van to take a walk…there’s that silence again…The debris is gone but so are the neighborhoods. What was once a town center is a bit of dirt, a little grass, and some concrete slabs…The people are still grateful and friendly as can be…but somehow the reality has set in…someone hasn’t done their job…someones taken away what little they had whether it be insurance money, friends, family… as they tell their stories you can see the sadness in their eyes…it was almost three years ago for us…but it is yesterday, today, and tomorrow for everyone down there…

SOULS Alternative Spring Break Blog?

The Souls Alternative Spring Break Blog is a blog about the experiences of the 36 Suffolk University students and the 4 Suffolk University faculty members who sacrificed their Spring Break vacation to better the communities of Mississippi and El Paso Texas by doing community service. This Blogs main purpose is to share the experiences of the ASB’ers with the Suffolk Community and to increase the visibility of S.O.U.L.S. and the Alternative Spring Break trip to the entire Suffolk Community.



…missing Texas

asb081280.jpgThanks for putting up the blog Juan!

I’m a little late with putting up my post, sorry.

It seems like Spring Break was so long ago, but really it has only been two weeks!
It’s completely different being back, I wish I was still in El Paso.
After the week, a part of me wanted to stay there but then again I wanted to go home and get back to reality–spending a week with the same people can get to be a little much. But then once I got back, literally a few hours later, I wanted to see everyone again and go back and keep building that house!
I really hope that everyone keeps in contact with each other and especially the people we met in El Paso. It would be really interesting to go back in say a year or so and see how the house came out and see who is living there; I definitely hope that’s something we can do. And if not, well then hopefully we can do another Habitat trip!
The weather here is lame, and so is school :-). I wish we could ALL go back right now. Let’s go.