Tag Archives: spring service trips

Day 13, last day of work, Mississippi Clarksdale

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Student Work, Students



by Max Malavsky ’18

After a long day yesterday we woke up, ate a breakfast that consisted of baked oatmeal, cereal, and oranges, then we piled into the vans ready for another day of work.

We roll up to the “worksite” (the house we’ve been working on) at around 9am, hop out of the vans and meet up with Ben at the front of the house. The door is already open and the group files into our places. At this house, we worked on making face boards and frames for doors. Beau, Ben, and I focused on taking down the lengths of the frames and figuring out the correct angle measurements that were needed to accurately make a frame. After Beau found the necessary length of one side of the frame, Ben would take it out to me at the saw. There, Ben and I would find the angle that would make the frame fit. Don’t get me wrong, this process was very tedious and time-consuming, but it got the job done and Ben insisted that this was not only the correct way, but the only way that we could accurately make measurements on the frames.

We worked in the morning from 9-12. Beau and I filled the house with music, while sparking conversations about today’s rap music with Ben and the other members of our group. It turns out that Ben happens to be a huge 2Pac and Snoop Dog fan. When asked what his favorite album of all time was, he immediately replied, “Dude, are you serious? The Chronic 2001, of course.” We carried this discussion throughout our morning work until we were interrupted by Wanda. Wanda works in Clarksdale and came into our house. She was impressed with our work and by the fact that we were giving up our spring break to work with Habitat for Humanity, and decided to by us Dominos for lunch! The group gathered outside and talked about the afternoon’s activities while we were waiting for Wanda to bring us our lunch. After a few minutes of small talk, Wanda arrived at the worksite and we took the pizza back to our Habitat house for lunch.

During lunch we made major progress on our new pastime: puzzles. Puzzles and 2018 Mississippi Service Trip go together like peanut butter and jelly. We have taken puzzling to an entirely new level and have put in WAY too many hours into completing the three puzzles we’ve already conquered on this trip. We are currently trying to tackle a 2,000 piece puzzle as of now and it is going quite smoothly.

After lunch we once again piled into the vans and headed to the second house that we have been working on this week. Here, Beau, Ben, Alyssa, Jacob and I headed to the back of the house to dig ditches in the scorching Mississippi afternoon sun. We listened to music and continued our conversation from earlier in the day about our individual tastes in music. It has been great getting to know Ben over these past couple of days, he is definitely a person that I plan on writing to after this trip. During the afternoon, we worked from 1:30-4. Once we finished, we drove back to our Habitat house for some puzzling before our potluck dinner.

Ben and Nat came to our house at 5:30 and cooked until 6:45. During this time, the members of the group played with the neighborhood kids. I developed a close connection with a young boy whose name I think is “Darius” but he cannot speak very well so honestly I’m not quite sure what his name is, so I told everyone to call him D. He is a very aggressive child who loves to pull hair and threaten other kids. However, we bonded very quickly. He always asks me to carry him, he sits me down to talk to him, and gives me the occasional kiss on the cheek.

It was time for dinner, we said goodbye to the kids and sat down for a delicious meal. Once the meal was finished, our guests left and the members of the group returned to our new favorite hobby. Yes, you guessed it, puzzling.

Leave a comment

Filed under Service, Student Work


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

by Susie Mott ’18

I emerged from the girls’ dorm at 8:00 this morning to a finished 1,000-piece puzzle. I admire the determination it took to do this in one night.

Today, Ben had us installing hurricane clips and assembling the wooden foundation for a shed on South Edwards Ave. The hurricane clip crew worked along the perimeter inside, thoroughly nailing metal to beams and walls such that the roof ought to remain on this house in high winds. The rest of us filed outside, where we moved a pile of wood scrap across the yard – uncovering a newt, and a whole bunch of roly-polies! When starting the shed, Ben made sure each of us got a turn with the hammer, offering mini motivational speeches to anyone who became unsure or frustrated with the task, ensuring that we finished each nail off well.

Two other men showed up to help at this site; Bill and Mark, wielding a power saw. Mark addressed us collectively as “teens.” “Hey, teens!” “Teens! Come help with this!” I spent much of the morning standing by the scaffolding as a safety measure (“If we fall, that’s our mistake. If you don’t catch us, that’s your mistake, and there will be lawsuits! Lawyers everywhere!”), and found out that they’re history teachers. They offered to let me have a go with the saw, but asked Valerie first, and she vetoed this on account of my safety.

We had the afternoon off work, so by popular demand Valerie and Emma drove us to have a look at Ole Miss. I conked out in the van, as did most of my peers, but I was aware enough to notice the shift out the window from cotton fields, patched-up houses, metal fences, mallards swimming around the trunks of trees in opaque flood water, to neatly manicured lawns and huge houses enclosed by walls. I noticed benches in town designed such that homeless people won’t sleep on them.

Ole Miss is big. Just, so huge. We left Valerie and Emma at a Starbucks and trotted off to explore Oxford, Mississippi. This involved Insomnia Cookies, a book store, a bright red British telephone booth, and the most interesting-looking shop on the square: End of All Music, a record shop accessible by a staircase in an alley. We also noted a couple of Confederate memorial statues. We piled back into the vans as bells rang “For the Beauty of the Earth” across the university.

We visited Ground Zero Blues Club for dinner and music. Morgan Freeman was there. He high-fived me and shook my hand. I swear this actually happened and I’m not just redoing Terry Culleton’s surrealism assignment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Service, Student Work, Students

El Catorceavo Día

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

by Mallory Fritsch’19 and Bea Feichtenbiner’19

After breakfast at Rafaela’s, we went to the younger kids school. Since it was the last day of classes, all the kids were dressed in their summer clothes, so there were kids in bathing suits and shorts as opposed to their traditional uniforms.

In the “Nivel” classes, there was a celebration on the patio.  Before the celebration began, there was music playing and all the little ones were dancing.  Many of them stood on tables and chairs while teachers and parents recorded the cute little ones dancing.  All of the little kids gathered at tables to wait for the delicious bowls of watermelon, banana, and mandarin oranges.  After the summer snack, there was a large dance party where all the kids gathered on the now open patio. They all danced around and with the helping GS students and the teachers.  Towards the end, the first grade peaked their heads out to watch all the GS students dance to American music, but also learn some traditional Nicaraguan dance.

In the “Grado” classes, all the students got bowls of fruit, complete with mangoes, mandarins, jocotes, watermelon, apples, and bananas. As the finished their fruit, students ran into the hallway and began dancing to the music. At one point, Sidney and I started a conga line that was so long that the beginning was practically touching the end. Students got picked up at 10:00, which is 2 hours before the usually do, so we used the extra time to paint baskets for the dance teacher, Roberto. Then we, of course, had dance class and we all perfected our dance to perform the young students tomorrow.

After a brief break for lunch, we returned to Nicaraguita to spend the last day with the older students.  We all conversed and danced around while waiting for the the goodbye ceremony. The ceremony, similar to the Welcoming Ceremony, was complete with dancing, poetry, and English speaking from the older students.  Us George School students also had to perform the dance we have been working on in dance class. This took us by surprise since we didn’t feel that we were ready. We all struggled lining up in the pairings for our dance, and when we began the dance, the song wasn’t the right version!  We all made the best of the situation, trying our best to still dance to the music playing. Luckily for us, the students laughed with us at the misfortunate performance.

The eleventh grade students then walked us back to Rafaela’s, where we ate dinner and got ready for our last party with them. After a dinner of tacos with barbecued meat, we sat outside as a group, just hanging out and listening to music since it was one of our last nights together. At 7:00, the eleventh grade came to pick us up and walk us to one of their houses for the party, where we all danced and hung out. Since it was Alyssa’s birthday, we had a cake both at Rafaela’s and at the party. When it was time to leave, we all got a little emotional, especially, Hadley, because we didn’t know if we were going to see all of our Nica friends tomorrow. We’re still not sure, but we don’t think so. We’re all sad about leaving, but ready to go home.

Leave a comment

Filed under Service, Student Work, Students

El treceavo dia


by Zachary Wander ’18

Today was another work day. We were going to a Habitat for Humanity site (Hábitat para la humanidad), called Los gutierrez, located in San rafael del sur.

We had to be at Rafaela’s house at 6:30 to be able to eat, leave and arrive on time, so we were all pretty tired. At 7:30, we all boarded the bus, and took a 1:40 drive to where we were going to be working. There, we learned exactly what we were going to be doing for the rest of the day: we were going to be digging. Specifically, we needed to dig out a hillside, in order to prevent the nearby house from flooding when it rains. The dirt we were to dig out was going to be used to redirect the water to the side of the house, while the extra space between the hill and house acted as extra protection.

Before we started, though, we had to put on a lot of safety gear. Because we were using pickaxes to loosen the dirt and clay, we all needed to wear hard hats to prevent injuries in case of a stray swing. It was also recommended that we wear back braces (which we all did), so that the constant motion of swinging an axe or moving a shovel wouldn’t cause any damage.

Once we started (around 9:30), it was already very hot, and there were no clouds in the sky at all, so it just kept getting hotter. But we all persevered and worked through the heat, pickaxing out dirt, chiseling the sides of the cutouts we made, and moving the loose dirt farther up the hill. We were told that the best way to dig out the area was to divide it up into sections, making 2-3-foot wide troughs to dig out and level (2 had already been started when we arrived). It was surprisingly slow work. Even after 2 hours, we hadn’t even finished 1 trough.

At 12:00, we took a break for lunch, starting again at 1:00. The plan was to leave at around 2:00, so it was pretty obvious we weren’t going to dig out the whole area. However, in that hour, we did manage to finish the 3 troughs, all of us tired and covered in dirt.

We got back to Rafaela’s at around 4:00, where a lot of people decided to make a trip back to their homes to take a quick shower. After that, we ate dinner, and then waited to go to another party at Kevin’s house. I wasn’t planning on going, so I left at 6:30, but the rest waited until 7:00 to leave.

Leave a comment

Filed under Service, Student Work, Students

Mississippi Day 10

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

by Jacob Hoopes ’19

A very early morning has become 8:00. I don’t know if anyone was awake then. I got up around 8:30. We had a small breakfast of leftovers from previous meals. The French toast from yesterday’s breakfast was brought out again, although a common first meal was cereal, either off-brand honey-nut-cheerios or Lucky Charms, both in bags. We aimed to be out by 8:50 in order to be at the house that we would be working on by 9:00. We left at 8:55 and arrived at 9:05, a little late, but totally acceptable. The group split up to do different jobs around the house. Tiles were to be put down on the floor where glue had been applied (yesterday), painting needed to happen in the room that would become the bathroom, and cabinets asked to finish being painted and reinstalled. I worked with the cabinets. Reaffixing the hinges to the recently painted doors went fairly smoothly, although the first four I installed were put in backwards, so I had to redo them.  People did their things, and soon it was time for lunch.

We piled in the vans and headed to the dorms, leaving many projects unfinished. Lunch was unexpectedly tasty! Valerie made quesadillas for us from some of the remaining tortillas and a variety of cheeses. While Valerie worked her way through those, a handful of us continued to work on the two 1000 piece puzzles that we brought out; one was found on the shelf and was both partially completed and missing pieces and the second had been bought yesterday at Walmart. Some of the neighborhood kids came by and wanted to play on the lawn. We are not supposed to let them in, keeping to someone’s rules. Anyway, some folks went out to play, I was not among them; I was enjoying working on the puzzles. The people who played with the kids came back in, wishing them well and parting fast, although with difficulty. The kids have proven to be very clingy, supposedly they do not get many opportunities to play, so when people like us come in and are willing and generally excited to play with them, they seize the chance and don’t let go. We finished both of the puzzles during this lunchtime. After lunch, we went back to work.

We showed up at the house, but Ben, the supervisor, told us that he needed to pick up some material and that he had to leave but that he’d be back soon. We waited in the car so as to stay warm; some people ended up sleeping during what turned out to be a period of relaxing that lasted about half an hour. Eventually, he came back. The first thing that he had us do was carry the wooden trim, which he had just brought, into the house that we had been working on. We laid it down, and he directed us to get back into our vans and follow him to the second house. It was much closer in layout to the houses that we had worked on last week, except it had an additional bathroom, by the master bedroom. It was also much less far along in the construction process, consisting of only a wooden skeleton. We brought some wood in that was laid outside, some long 2 x 4s and a great deal of plywood boards. We took a picture inside, perhaps it’ll end up on the IG soon. We went back to the first house and resumed work.

My job continued to consist of working on reattaching the cabinet doors, which at the corners, where two hinges competed to occupy the same space, was especially difficult. A group got the opportunity to use a nail gun to install some of the trim, after it was painted. That seemed fun, and just the right amount of dangerous. We finished screwing in the last pieces as our work day ended. People had washed the paint brushes and done all the usual cleanup. We went back to the dorm.

After dropping the people riding in her van at the dorm, Emma went off to Walmart and bought some things. By a partial popular consensus, Emma bought one 1000 piece puzzle and one 2000 piece puzzle. When she got back, work on the 1000 piece began. We relaxed during the first stages of puzzle-building. Some slept. Dinner consisting of delicious, GS-people-made macaroni and cheese with the added bonus of green beans was served. The neighborhood kids came over again and caused an uproar, hitting the dorm with sticks and piling up against the door; it was noted by more than one person that it seemed like the apocalypse. Some people went out and played with them, but the puzzle still seemed to be the main focus. The kids were let go and we played a game I know as Spanking Yoda, although it goes by many names. After that we returned to puzzling. We have worked on it for upwards of four consecutive hours today, for some, the only breaks were dinner and Spanking Yoda. It seems possible that we will finish it tonight, in the after-hours.

Leave a comment

Filed under Service, Student Work, Students

Mississippi Day 9

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

by Kerry Chen ’19

As the first day of work at Clarksdale, we woke up to a mild weather and a decent breakfast. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood and were ready to accept a new set of assignment. We waited until the person in charge, Ben, arrived and filled us in with all the essential information we need to keep in mind. His humor, gratefulness, and excitement accompanied us all the way into the worksite.

The morning passed by as Ben explained what we needed to do for the rest of the week, which is much different and fascinating to me: setting down the tiles, installing the doors, and—this is no longer a surprise—painting. Ben spent some time teaching us how to cut and align the tiles, since none of us had this kind of experience; he then showed us how to put a whole set of door in place with great patience. Tired of a week of brushing the walls and longing for something I haven’t done before, I chose to put on door locks. The job turned out to be much more interesting than I had expected, for it added a new perspective to my knowledge. I never knew how pieces of the door are put together and function the way they do, and I never imagined I would be putting together something we see every day. What I did today, however, provided me a chance to get out of my comfort zone—lying in bed and watching Netflix with AC on—and take part in the construction of the asset that would make such activity possible. I took delight in screwing the locks in and hammering the door to the frame, not only because I have never done it before, but also for the fact that I am doing something beneficial for the community.

We had a conversation regarding some changes in schedule over lunchtime, which we resolved later tonight. The workload was the same in the afternoon, and we painted—there’s always more painting—the doors as we finished stabilizing them. In spite of the exhaustion, playing with Ace—the most adorable puppy I’ve ever seen in the neighborhood—was the highlight of the day. As Kaitlyn and I were taking a break on the porch, a small, brown, and fluffy ball rolled under my legs; the scare turned into surprise as I discovered that it was Ace seeking a hug. Though he ran away after I held him on my shoulder, he swept away much of the fatigue and gave me the energy to keep working.

Since the weather became so nice in the afternoon, we decided to take a walk around Clarksdale. I took out my jean shorts and sunglasses, which had been lying on the bottom of my suitcase from the day I got to Mississippi, and was glad to have the chance to put them on. After passing two cafes that were closed, we finally got to Yazoo, a decent café with wifi and nice decoration. We chilled for a while and I got vanilla frozen yogurt, with strawberries on—it was only me trying to be healthy. I really enjoyed the weather and the view around the neighborhood, as well as how we took the chance to come out and get some fresh air. The area of Clarksdale could be described as peaceful and comfortable, where everyone was so nice and friendly. We actually had a lot of fun hanging out with the local kids; playing games with them reminded me of childhood flashbacks, a feeling I seldom have time to relive and cherish.

Leave a comment

Filed under Service, Student Work, Students


by Ben McCormick ’18

Day 8 BBKings bandDay 8 BBKings dancing

A day of pause began with an 8:45am wake-up call in room 231, one of the rooms where our group was staying in the Hampton Inn. The thirteen of us grabbed a quick complimentary breakfast and left at 10:00am sharp to visit Memphis, TN before driving back to Clarksdale, MS for our second week of service with Habitat.

Expecting Memphis to be as typical as any other city, I was pleasantly surprised by the rich musical history and Southern qualities that made the visit a unique experience. Ironically unlucky for the group, the streets were engulfed in the remnants of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. When I say unlucky for the group, I specifically mean Elenor, who stepped in vomit while admiring an adorable puppy tucked away in a woman’s jacket. We continued to explore the streets in groups despite the misfortune. We first stopped at the nearest souvenir shops, which seems to have become tradition these past few days, and then continued down to the banks of the Mississippi River.

By the water we saw a large pyramid that seemed to glow in the distance. The time read 11:25am, but Valerie asked for everyone to meet back at B.B. King’s Blues Club for lunch at 12:30pm and we knew we had limited time to reach the building. We decided to seize the opportunity and accepted the journey along the river to meet the pyramid, which held Bass Pro Shops.

With limited time after arriving 25 minutes later, we raced in and were greeted by hunting and fishing gear galore along with many tasteful candies and arcade games. What specifically caught our attention was the gigantic elevator that led to the top of the pyramid. Admission to the top was shockingly $10, so we decided to shop around downstairs anyway. Our purchases ranged from snapbacks to camo hoodies. If you know me at all, you know that I would never wear something camo or that is typical to hunting or fishing, but this was a special occasion. In my mind, I see this as two things: one, an impulse purchase, or two, that the South is really changing me in small ways. Valerie and Emma were kind enough to come and drive us back, and I happily embraced my new hat for the entire five minute ride to the restaurant. Then I realized I can’t pull off hats.

B.B. King’s Blues Club greeted us with fantastic live music, courtesy of Flic’s Pics, which featured a Grammy nominee on the drums. The food was equally as terrific as the music was compelling. After we finished our meals we had to dance to the music, and we were greeted by a pro on the dancefloor.

Our time in Memphis was a success, and we began our journey back into Mississippi by pausing to place our feet on the grounds of Arkansas and then to immediately pile back into the two crammed vans. We arrived at our new home in Clarksdale after an hour and a half in the vans. The small light blue house was surrounded by energetic children riding their bikes, who I look forward to getting to know throughout the course of our stay. Before truly settling in, we took another trip to Walmart to shop for groceries.

Tortillas and nachos were the featured entrees to our home-cooked meal that evening. While Beau, Susie, and Jacob prepared guacamole, I sliced and diced some veggies to make the salsa recipe my mother taught me, Emma prepared nachos, and Julia perfected tortillas. The joint effort between all of us made this dinner special, and the confusion of the others who were piecing together a puzzle a few feet away added to the home-like environment. During dinner, there was not a single person quiet, and we were all enjoying the food and our new home. Tomorrow we begin our first day, and I know we all are anticipating the new work that lays ahead.




Leave a comment

Filed under Service, Student Work, Students

El doceavo día

D and A 2D and A1

This morning we started our day in the primary school with competitive games. I was happy because I was able to contribute to my grade’s win in the potato sack race. Then, all of our group, competed against student the Nicaragüita in a competitive game of tug of war.

We returned to Rafaela’s house for some delicious rice and meat. Not long after lunch, everyone was sprawled out on the floor, taking an afternoon nap. These afternoon naps have become quite a custom.

We were then picked up by the 10th grade class of the Nicaraguita and walked to school. We all sat in the back of our usual classes and took in the language. My grade was having a very interesting debate about feminism but I had some difficulty keeping up with all of the vocab. After recess we competed in another series of games, these were much more difficult to win compared to those of the lower school. We won one game of tug of war but lost every other game.

Afterwards, we went back inside for a party with the 11th grade of the Nicaraguita. They handed out plates with chicken and vegetables and quickly after eating we all danced. All of a sudden Alyssa and I were told to stand and wait in the middle of the room. To our surprise, a live chichero band came in blasting music as a celebration for our  birthdays. We had danced for somewhere around 3 hours switching partners along the way. We were very sad when the party ended and we had to return to our host families for the night.

Yours truly,

Danny and Alyssa 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Service, Student Work, Students, Uncategorized

Mississippi Day 7

Day 7 GS group dinner

by Julia Wilson ’18

Our day started early at 7:30 because we had to get Kailee and Brendan to the airport. We will miss them this upcoming week. Upon arrival at the airport though, we met Valerie’s brother and he kindly found us a hotel and drove us to our next location: Graceland. Graceland was Elvis Presley’s home and easily one of the strangest places I have ever been. It was a huge concrete complex, similar to an amusement park, but 80% empty. There was however a private bell choir who played songs like the Jurassic Park theme song. I think this made the experience a little weirder but also a little more entertaining. Elvis’s home itself was pretty big but not abnormally sized; the decorations are what made it stand out. There was one room that was all blue and yellow, and another that was floor to ceiling a very detailed pattern. There were also mirrors and carpeting everywhere… even on the ceilings. Later we were picked up by Valerie and Emma, our new week two chaperone, and taken to the Civil Rights Museum. There was a lady standing outside the museum, which had once been a motel and was where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot, who had been protesting for over 30 years. Members of our group were curious to find out her arguments for this but Valerie had us go ahead with the tour anyway, as we were meeting Fred Davis, who had walked in protest with MLK and also sat on the stage with MLK on the day of his last speech, waiting to walk the tour with us. The museum itself was very nice and very interesting. It covered the civil rights movement and its history and had 22 different exhibits, each of which was interactive and highly informational and included artifacts and historical photos, letters, and more. After our group got through the museum a few of us still were inside so the rest of us relaxed on the lawn across the street. After the museum we went back to our hotel and were met by a great dinner cooked by Valerie’s brother and his neighbors. It was delicious! At night we went to the mall for about an hour and then came back to hang out before going to bed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Service, Student Work, Students, Uncategorized