Tag Archives: service


By AnnaRose ’19

Our service group and a group of church members took a day trip to Gibara, a coastal town about an hour away from Holguín.  On the bus ride there, our guide explained how the Cuban education system worked, and how Cubans attained jobs.  Education is free, and mandatory until ninth grade, although nearly all Cubans will continue their studies past then.

On the drive we passed many forts from the early nineteenth century. There was also a good view of the bay, which we would end up paddle-boating and kayaking in.  Ike, Angie, Priya, and JoceLyn n were in one paddle-boat, while Alice, Maddie, Courtney and I were in another.  Aaron and Ahmed, and Eric and Miranda, rowed about in kayaks, and they stuck by the paddle-boat I was in as we moved about the bay.  Courtney and Alice were the ones who were paddling, but they seemed to be good with the load.  It was fun to explore the bay, even though we couldn’t swim in it because of the water quality.  Ike, Angie, Priya, and JoceLynn were a couple minutes late getting back to shore, but then we were on our way to explore a cave.

The cave had more graffitti than I expected, and more bats, but it was a new experience to  aim my headlamp at the cave walls to see if there were any interesting rocks.  As we walked around the dirt floor, many people, including me, took pictures of stalagmites and columns.  At one point, on the way back to the cave entrance, we stopped for a minute to stand in the dark.  It was scary, but thrilling.

As we drove towards the restaurant for lunch, we saw many of Gibara’s houses and buildings. We stopped at a lookout to take pictures of the town and the bay encircling it.

The restaurant, named La Cueva, served us seafood, mostly shrimp and crabmeat. There were also platters of rice and beans, vegetables, and plantain chips.  Aaron continuously stopped by where Miranda, Courtney, Sara, Ileabeth, Roxy and I were sitting in order to get more plantain chips. It wasn’t just the plantain chips that were good; you could say the same for all the food. Spaghetti or pork was available for those who did not want to eat fish. There was a small zoo attached to the restaurant, and Miranda, Courtney and I stopped to look at a parrot.

After lunch, we traveled to Gibara’s main square, where we could walk around for half an hour before we had to go.  Most of us stopped at a grocery store to take a look around.  While there might not be as many products as in American stores, there didn’t appear to be a lack of products for sale.  Ike, Angie, Priya, JoceLynn, two sisters from the church named Maylen and Mitel, and I looked around for ice cream.  It took a while, but eventually we were able to find another convenience store that had ice cream. As we walked, Jocelynn, Angie, Maylen, and Mitel talked about their shared love of K-pop (Korean pop music), especially BTS.

As we returned to the church, it started to storm, and while the rain w as refreshing after a hot day, it made everything hard to hear.  We rested before dinner, and then went for a walk towards a nearby plaza.  Roxy joined us, and Ike stayed behind to practice singing with the church chorus.

Walking the short distance from the church to the plaza at night didn’t feel unsafe, especially as our resident street dog Chica was beside us, barking at any bicycle that passed.  We made our way to an ice cream parlor opposite the plaza.  Miranda, Maddie and Alice debated what questions they might ask a group of communists we would meet tomorrow, and Courtney and I talked about our upcoming trip to Santiago.  Eric was mostly interested in eating his sundae.

After returning to the church, we heard part of a song that the chorus was singing, and they sounded great.  Angie and Priya joined Ike, and they all seemed to be having fun, judging by the singing that I could hear.  Others headed upstairs to play card games or journal for a while. After the evening meeting, we went to bed, tired after a full day.

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by Nora

As you may have heard, Sofia, Camille, and I have a buggy and dank room. Nonetheless, we woke up well rested and excited to start the first work day in Byumba. But, as I turned to remind Sofia to get up, I saw a twitching, dying grasshopper. Then, Camille asked me to turn around to kill a spider on our bed. It was a buggy start to the first work day at Byumba.

At the library, we quickly organized ourselves and got to work. A group of us cleaned the walls, another bought paint, and the rest helped design the pictures for the walls. As soon as the paint arrived and wet walls dried, we began to paint. Now that we have had a set of workdays under our belts, painting went much faster. We finished the main room of the library, the hallways of the library, and almost all of the outside’s painting and design.

After an accomplished day at work, Jeffrey, Ashleigh, and I decided to run back to the guest house. It was mostly downhill (the main reason we ran back and not there) and many Rwandans laughed at us running by. We arrived before the bus (with the rest of the students) arrived!

I am looking forward to another work day and run tomorrow!

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Cuba Day 6

By Miranda ’19

Today we went back to work. Our day started out by having breakfast at 8, we had pineapple, eggs, packaged toast, and bread with butter. As soon as breakfast ended we headed back to work to finish what we had started on Friday. We pulled over 16 barrels full of sand to the second floor then we bucketed them up to the third floor (the roof) where we had previously put the rocks from last week. Throughout this tiresome process we had rotations to reduce the work and to give people a break.

We ended work around 12:40 and started our nap session shortly afterwards. During our nap session we munched on my goldfish, Ike’s Milano cookies, Maddie’s pop-tarts, and Alice’s crackers. Everyone was so tired to the point where they didn’t care where they slept. Alice, Priya and I made make-shift beds out of chairs; while Maddie, JoceLynn, Annarose and Angie all slept on beach towels. Courtney, Eric, Ahmed, and Aaron all slept in their beds.

After our hour and thirty minute “nap”, we all went straight back to work but this time filling up water for the community from 2 to 5. The two men, who help us build the church, showed up a little after five to help us continue construction. This time we moved 12 long metal bars and multiple tin roof top pieces from the ground level to the first floor then immediately to the second. Lastly we formed an assembly line to move cinder blocks from the ground up to the second floor.

After we finished all of our hard work it was supposed to be time for dinner but we had time to spare so we all decided to walk 15 minutes to La Loma de La Cruz ( which is a giant hill with over 462+ steps!).

After the hike we all feasted on rice with shredded beef and green peppers. For dessert we had jello and banana cake. Following dinner, Ahmed and I played Spit, the card game (I won by the way), and JoceLynn and Maddie also played afterwards. After our games we all went upstairs and played a mini game of apples to apples followed by our meeting that occurs every night. Overall today was tiring yet fun and I can’t wait to see what is in store tomorrow.

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by Sofia Frascella ’19 

Today we went to the market in Kigali before we traveled to Byumba. We got to see how the Rwandans shop for crafts, crops, clothes and other items. As we were shopping we got to attempt to bargain to lower the prices and it was a great glimpse into true Rwandan culture. We had another delicious, authentic meal at a buffet in downtown Kigali. We then got on the road and traveled to our next stop; Byumba. When we arrived to the guest house, Camille, Nora and I were hit with a surprise that our triple had quite a few spiders and no mosquito nets. After about an hour of adjusting our room we finally found a solution. This was a perfect example of how these service trips do not always go as planned, but there is always a solution to the problems. Tomorrow we start our work on the local friends library. I’m excited to work more with painting and really hope we get to interact with the kids more!

See our pictures here!

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by Ashleigh Azan ’19

We were up and ready for breakfast at 7:30 like most mornings where we had the usual hard-boiled eggs, fruit and coffee. By 8:00 we were in the church ready to start our workshop with HIPP. HIPP stands for Help Increase Peace Program which is a program set up to teach people about non violent conflict resolution so we can help ourselves as well as others. The day was full of thoughtful discussions and fun activities in which we were all learning from one another. Today was a lot morning interactive and discussion based than yesterday which made it easier for us to engage with one another. The final activity we did was split into small group where we answered the queries what it feels like for us to give back and for the Rwandans, how it feels for us to be here helping them.

After speaking in our groups we came together and shared some of the things we learned. You could tell people learned a lot from that activity and had more of an understanding of the differences and similarities in the two cultures. My favorite part of the day was playing a very competitive game of football with  our new Rwanda friends. It definitely brought us together and was a fun experience. We then played all the way up until dinner. We ended the night activities with a talk from “Momma Eve” about the work she does with survivors of the Genocide and refugees which was very heartwarming to hear about. Now we are all gathered in the common area ending the night off with out typical music and card games.


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Arizona Day 4

by Anney ’20

Thursday night was the last night we spent with our host families. In the evening, we and our host families all had dinner together, talking and sharing with each other the experiences we’ve had. Although it has only been four days, we all felt a sense of belonging to this big family. 

After dinner, each of us got to spend some time with our host families. Mel and I were hosted by Adrienne, and as we talked, she showed us pictures of students from previous service trips. I found it beautiful how members of George School from different times are all connected by this Arizona service trip.

After departing from the host families Friday morning, we spend Friday afternoon hiking at the Grand Canyon, 1.5 miles down the Bright Angel Trail. We were astonished by the terrific landscape of the Grand Canyon, as well as the animals we saw along the way, such as elks and mountain goats. Although the hike was tiring, it was a delightful and memorable experience.

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Cuba Day 2

by Priya Tarpley ’18

Our first full day in Holguín was nothing short of eventful.  We woke up at around 7, and headed down to desayuno at 8.  Our Cuban breakfast consisted of fruit like mango and piña, black coffee, scrambled eggs with chopped peppers, tamarind and mango juice, pound cake, and pizza triangles that were thicker than we’re used to.  This morning we also saw two of our George School friends, Roxy and Meli.  My junior year, I lived in East on the same floor as Meli, and it was nice to see a familiar face after so long.  Today was also our first day of service, and Alberto separated us for different projects. Annarose and I were charged with the task of cleaning the rice by removing the debris and pieces of husk from the bag. Although seemingly menial, I got a chance to practice my Spanish with Maria, Annarose, and Meli. It was a reminder of the preparation it takes to make the food for all of us, and a testament to how filtered our lives are back home.

Later, we exchanged our money for CUCs, colorful bills in 5’s and 3’s, and the 1’s were octagonal coins. After lunch, bellies full of guava paste squares, rice and carne, and chickory bean soup, Roxy lead us through the streets of Holguín.  There were so many marketplaces, and we ended up splitting into groups to get snack and check out the Calixto Garcia plaza.  Angie, JoceLynn, Ike, Annarose and I ended up at an ice cream shop called La Única, where we sat down and were served as if we were in a restaurant.  My scoop of ice cream was less than a CUC. It was a sweet oasis from Holguín’s afternoon heat.

The rain has been a force these past few days, and although it doesn’t start until later in the day, it comes down heavily.  So right after getting our ice cream, we hustled back to the church to take breather and watch the thunderstorm pass.

As I write this, Cuba continues to be an interesting experience.  From the food, the visual history, and the atmosphere Holguín is a place that I am happy to come home for the next two weeks.

¡Hasta luego!

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Arizona Day 1

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by Charlie ’19

Over the past four days, we’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the kids in Kayenta. We’ve helped them in their classes, through lunch and recess, and getting on the busses to go home. Today we organized a field day for their last day of summer school. There were many relays, games, and a water station so that they could cool down and keep hydrated. They seemed to really enjoy playing with us and I loved cheering them on when the succeeded (especially when they were afraid to make mistakes. They are not only adorable, but their unabashed excitement and friendliness has warmed our hearts. There were some tears today when we had to leave (from both us and them), but a few of us made plans to be pen-pals in the upcoming year.

Fiona, Mitch, and I have been staying with Lena, who helped organize our trip and works at the school. She has been so caring and warm towards us, and her very young and incredibly cute granddaughter comes in almost every night to make sure that we are ok and that we know to take our shoes off. Although we haven’t spent much time there, we all got a chance to talk with her and she told us about her parents.

We also have visited and hiked in various parts of the reservation, including Canyon de Chelly and along the toes (rocks shaped like toes just outside of Kayenta). We visited Monument Valley and purchased traditional jewelry and ornaments. It’s been incredible to be so immersed in the Navajo culture and experience the kindness of everyone here. It’s saddening that we don’t get to spend more time here, but we are excited to continue with our journey to Page and Flagstaff.

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Rwanda Day 3


by Liam Bernard ’19 

We had a very fun and productive day today. As usual we started with breakfast at the Friends Peace Garden, the last we would have there for the next two days, and then headed to Children’s Peace Library in Kigali for our last work day there. Being the last day there, we had to bring our book and computer donations with us. Among those were soccer balls for the children – something that would come in handy when they swarmed us later in the morning. At the library we did our final touch ups on the wall art and lettering on the outside walls, and then moved furniture and cleaned the floor inside again. As we were working outside for the most part today, we were greeted by many curious children as they watched us paint. We didn’t have much time to work once they came though as we were distracted playing soccer with them with the new balls we brought, and all of the piggy back and shoulder rides they begged for. Once we had finished eating lunch, we headed back to finish cleaning up and then jumped on the bus to Musanze. The ride was so beautiful. We enjoyed the picturesque landscape outside of Kigali, with views of lush hills and trees. We saw another side of Rwanda that seemed untouched, unlike the densely populated city of Kigali. Once we arrived and checked into the new hotel we had dinner together to finish off the day on a high note. I am looking forward to the golden monkey hike we have scheduled tomorrow, and the possibility that we may see gorillas while we are there.

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Day 13, last day of work, Mississippi Clarksdale

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by Kaitlyn Lee ’19

Today is our last day here in Mississippi. Over these two weeks, we met lots of wonderful people, learnt the foundation of building houses, bonded with one another through this hardship, and we have survived. In my mind, I still feel like we were here just yesterday and time flies so fast. I still remember the time I was exhausted through priming the walls in Tutwiler, till this day where my right arm is still sore from hammering the top of the house in Clarksdale.

We worked only on the second house today, and witnessed how to make the concrete as the foundation of the shed. Since we didn’t have access to the water we were supposed to have, a concrete truck came by and poured in the concrete as opposed to making the concrete ourselves. We successfully made the concrete for the shed and also the pavement for the sidewalk outside the front door. I was surprised how Ben reused the excess concrete from making the shed and turned it to the sidewalk. This was my first time actually witnessing the making of a foundation, and I was intrigued by how you turn seemingly useless dirt and cracked concrete into a brand new one. It was a very insightful experience.

After all the work, we took our group picture with Ben (our supervisor) and headed back to the dorm. We cleaned up the dorm, ready for tomorrow’s departure.

Originally, I wasn’t excited to give up my spring break in order to do service in a place I have never been to and with people I have mostly never met before. But after this experience, I understood that doing service isn’t a burdensome thing after all. I learnt many new things from people that came from very different backgrounds from me, and I enjoyed this experience of learning their culture and (of course) their unique accents. I think I also grew an interest in country music (I never thought I would say this) and understood a lot more about the history and culture of the southern part of the United States.

At the end of this blog, I would like to thank everyone we encountered through this trip, especially Valerie, Brendan and Emma for taking the time to lead the trip. Thank you for being so considerate and working so hard to make sure we enjoy this trip as much as we worked.

Once again, thank you and it’s time for dinner.

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