CALUE Winter Service Break 2017: NOLA Serve, Learn, Grow!

Today we were fortunate enough to help a local charter school called SciTech Academy. It is a magnet school focused on allowing underprivileged students the opportunity to have access to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education to better prepare them for careers in the STEM field and push them to be better students overall. When we arrived we were greeted by Kim who is the Principal of the kindergarten thru fourth grade side of the school. She talked to us about the school, its history in the community anIMG_2705.JPGd how it got started.The school was one of the few that was salvaged after Hurricane Katrina came through which was a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because their students had a real campus to come home to after the disaster, but although some of the damage was repairable there are still several issues cosmetically and functionally that they are currently working on. It was due to these issues that the school was forced to open late, leaving the teachers very little time to decorate the school in time for students this semester. Our job today was to help with some of those cosmetic problems that SciTech did not have enough time to take care of on their own. The group was split into four groups, each working on a different issue. Tasks included: fixing and painting dividers for the cafeteria, redoing bulletin boards, putting up motivational signs for the kids and fixing desks for the third graders. While we worked you couldn’t help but see what the teachers truly did for the kids despite all the hurdles they face. It was a humbling experience and while it was small projects it will truly help those kids feel pride in where they go to school and about themselves.

After we finished our work we decided to go to the World War II museum. The museum was incredible as it covered every aspect of the war from the various campaigns, to home life, and everything in between. Personally it was great to see all the stories told to me about my grandfathers service come to life in such an interactive and immersive way. We spent the rest of our afternoon exploring the several floors and buildings of exhibits and interactive experiences even taking part in an interactive submarine tour where we became a part of the crew. Everyone had a great time and agreed there wasn’t enough time to see it all but everything we did see was very much worth it.

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-Trevor Dunn

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Service, Lights, Action!

This morning we woke up after a great night of eating beignets and sleeping soundly on our tempur-pedic bunk beds (these were donated so that volunteers could have the best night sleep) to prepare for our first service day. We ate our cereal and then piled in the vans to drive downtown to Apex Community Center!

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Once we got to Apex, we were introduced to Danny and Lisa- the owners and founders of the organization. Both quit their regular day jobs because they decided it was more important to help serve their community. The background that they shared with us was incredibly touching and really proves how making small sacrifices in your own life can lead to a monumental impact on others. Now, they strive to provide children who are living in poverty or without family support a place to go where they can play games, eat home cooked meals, play music, and learn various skills for their future. Spending time at the youth center also gives them the chance to stay safe in their surroundings and develop interpersonal communication skills they can use on the street to continue to try and make good choices. Around fifty teenagers frequent the center daily, and they do several things to provide them with things most of us take for granted. Danny and Lisa are preparing for a Christmas party where they made enough in donations to provide a gift for each child – most of whom would not be getting a real Christmas without them. These donations came from people who were moved by what the program is doing and just decided to donate all they could. We swept, mopped, organized, and even built cabinets to hold the ever-growing supply that the teenagers use. Even after all of this, we left wanting to do more because we were so inspired by Danny’s endeavors.

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For lunch, our wonderful New Orleans’ partner Caitlin brought us Saucy’s Barbecue from Magazine Street. We all loved it and would definitely recommend it for anyone passing through New Orleans! After lunch we went to the central city to take a tour of the French Quarter where we learned about the geography, history, and extensive Jazz music past. Our tour guide was great at going into detail and answering every question we had to the best of his ability. Two things that really stood out to me were learning that even if you own a home in the French Quarter, you have to get special permission to alter anything on the outside so they’re able to maintain the authenticity and originality of the city; the other thing that stood out to me was hearing how Jazz music started in the Quarter with people like Louis ‘Satchmo’ Armstrong and Charles Joseph ‘Buddy’ Bolden.

 

 

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Once our tour came full circle in the French Quarter, we had free time to walk the streets. My group chose to go see the French Market and small souvenir shops where we purchased gifts for our families and friends. We had to head home once our parking meter ran out, and we all got some much needed rest before dinner. Caitlin treated us to Felipe’s Mexican Taqueria, which was delicious. Over our meal we reflected on the positives and negatives of our day and discussed plans for tomorrow’s activity.

 

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We rounded out the night by taking a long drive looking at Christmas lights down St. Charles street and listening to holiday tunes. Overall, I think all of us can agree that this was a very full and rewarding day, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the week!

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CALUE Winter SB 17′: NOLA Day 1 and 2

So it begins…with the close of the fall semester, we packed our bags and hit the road to New Orleans. Nine Texas Tech students, from freshman to graduates, who hold a shared interest in learning about and serving the community left Lubbock as strangers and arrived in NOLA as friends. On our first day traveling, we caravanned across North Texas driving from Lubbock to Shreveport. After eight hours on the road, Shreveport Community Church welcomed these weary travelers. They graciously opened their doors and floors for our first night. We dined on homemade Louisiane cuisine (gumbo and red beans and rice) before enjoying their annual Christmas performance. Their talent, humor, and giving spirit were on display as they sung traditional Christmas carols, including a taste of Christmas La Louisiane style.

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This morning we hit the road with renewed excitement and anticipation traveling through Louisiana from Shreveport to New Orleans. As we traveled through the state we crossed over the Mississippi River, saw a family of nutria snacking on the side of the road, watched workers harvest sugar cane in dense fields, and absorbed the Louisianan sites and culture.

We arrived at Camp Restore, a Lutheran-based volunteer camp and unloaded the cars. Opening after Hurricane Katrina, Camp Restore has hosted over 30,000 students who have come to volunteer in New Orleans.

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This week, each volunteer project focuses on a different issue impacting New Orleans. Not only does each project address a specific issue, it also provides opportunities for students to experience a new city, learning about Louisiana’s history and cultures from those who have lived through them. Trevor is excited about, “giving back to the community while gaining a different perspective from others.”

Tomorrow we will be working on a school beautification program at a public school specializing in  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).

Sunday’s project is with Tulane Canal Neighborhood Development Corporation on a neighborhood revitalization project.

Monday, we will be working with Youth Rebuilding New Orleans on neighborhood rebuilding and construction.

Tuesday’s project focuses on environmental sustainability at the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.

Our final project on Wednesday involves a Mardi Gras bead recycling program with the Arc of Greater New Orleans.

Leading her sixth CALUE trip, Jacy, our staff advisor, is most excited about, “seeing the process the group and individuals go through” as the week unfolds.

As students, it’s not about the things we read in a book. Rather, it’s how we infuse that knowledge with the experiences of those affected firsthand by these issues. We have a shared goal in making meaningful differences in our communities – whether that’s through volunteerism or professional endeavors. This week is about seeing the world beyond our own door step, stepping beyond our own comfort zones in order to make meaningful contributions.

Check back to join us on our adventures this week!

CALUE Winter 2017 Service Break: NOLA

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The count-down has begun and only 2 days until CALUE Service Breaks is BREAKING AWAY FROM THE EXPECTED, again! 9 TTU students and 1 advisor will be heading to New Orleans for a week of service.

Service Breakers will be focusing on 5 different issues including: Education, Neighborhood Revitalization, Rebuilding, Environmental Sustainability, and Arts & Culture. CALUE SB will spend the week learning, serving, and experiencing the great city of NOLA, and we hope that you will be following us throughout the week.

The week will start on Thursday, December 14, 2017 with a “short drive” to Shreveport for the night, and then it will be a hop-skip & jump to NOLA!

Stay tuned to hear from all the participants throughout the week!

– Jacy (SB Advisor)

International CALUE Service Break: Wrap Up

We SERVED, We LEARNED, We TRAVELED!

Sea Turtle Conservation Project:

We have wrapped up our FIRST INTERNATIONAL SUMMER CALUE SERVICE BREAK! We could not have picked a better country (Costa Rica) and group of people to work with ACI (Interculturalidad & Servicio Voluntario) , Verdiazul, and United Planet. These groups were essential for us having an outstanding trip and they went above and beyond!

To name drop a few:

Mauricio: 

Six CALUE Service Breakers give a guns up with Mauricio, the Director of ACI-Costa Rica.

Left to right: Jesus, Taylor, Ahalee, Mauricio, Kennadee, Alyssa, Jerylme.

Director of ACI, welcomed our group with open arms the minute we stepped off the plane. Mauricio’s orientation, the first 2 days, were extremely beneficial to our understanding of Costa Rica, the culture, geography, and environment!

Kat, ACI volunteer, who was a long-term volunteer from England, was so sweet and really gave our students a better understanding of options they have for volunteering long-term abroad!

Valerie: 

Six CALUE Service Breaks participants along side Co-founder and Director of Verdiazul.

Left to right: Jerylme, Valerie, Ahalee, Jesus, Kennadee, Taylor, Alyssa.

the co-founder and Director of Verdiazul, was so passionate about her work. She is a biologist who fell in love with Sea Turtles! She helped start the organization 11 years ago and it was amazing to see how excited she would get when we found a nest or released the baby turtles.

Joselyn Jimenez: 

Joselyn, an employee of Verdiazul, gives a local girl a piggy back ride.

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a full time employee at Verdiazul, was the hardest working individual. She led patrols, directed people where they were supposed to be, and had a love for her job that was hard not to notice. She made the experience so exciting just by allowing us to see how much she loved her job!

Dan, another full time employee, and Bran, a long-term volunteer from England, were leaders in the organization who took us on night patrols and answered any of our questions. They were both amazing!

Pictured right is Bran, a volunteer from Verdiazul.

Right: Bran

Dan, a employee of Veridazul, holds a baby turtle on the beach while giving volunteers instructions on how to handle the turtles.

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My next 2 awesome individuals who were there from the very beginning as well; but were also there for the duration of our 10 day experience:

Older: 

Ahalee, CALUE Service Breaks participant, sits in a hammock, while Older, our Costa Rica bus driver, stands while taking a picture.

Ahalee in hammock, and Older leaning in for a picture.

was the best bus driver, he not only helped us constantly get from A to B but also loved teaching us Spanish and making jokes when we tried! He took us to impromptu grocery store runs for ice cream and even drove us to a better part of the beach on our beach afternoon so we didn’t have to walk. He was full of information about Costa Rica and always had a smile!

Germàn: 

Jerylme, CALUE staff member, and Germàn, Costa Rican guide pose for picture.

Left: Jerylme Right: Germàn

our in-country guide, went above and beyond to make our experience special. He was full of information on all things Costa Rica, but also random things such as, where do hamburgers come from; the history of Marco Polo, and many others! He participated in everything and always made sure everyone was taken care of! From sunburns, bugs, scrapes, scratches, blisters, to many many questions about Costa Rica he had the answers! We loved getting to see how passionate he was about his country!

The Sea Turtle Conservation Project at Verdiazul did an amazing job in giving us an understanding of why what they are doing is important. It was a consensus in our group that they did a great job of making everything we were learning come full circle. From the information about the country’s culture, economy, politics, environment, and conservation we were able to tie all those things into what we were doing. Night patrols, hatchery work, beach clean ups, and reforestation all played a huge role in the conservation, education, and rehabilitation of Sea Turtles. Even the importance that the organization placed on getting the backing of the local community, Junquillal, and changing culture showed through the everyday activities.

I hope this CALUE Service Break group was INSPIRED to see the full circle of our actions in the environment. I hope they were INSPIRED to continue their goal of becoming active citizens, both locally and globally! I hope they are INSPIRED to reach out to all communities, and realize that even the most minute of actions can make a difference.

-PURA VIDA-

Baby turtle on the beach in front of a Costa Rican flag hat.

Junquillal, Costa Rica

 

Sunday FUNday!

Checking in from Costa Rica! This trip has been amazing thus far. My blog post will be about the differences in culture that have really stuck out to me.

  1. People– The people of Costa Rica are so friendly and genuine. They have really made adapting to the “Costa Rican” ways, much easier than it could have been. The people we have been able to enjoy from Costa Rica are German (our group leader), Older (our bus driver), Valerie (manager of Verdiazul), and Joss (full-time employee of Verdiazul). Each were kind and patient, even when they probably should not have been.
  2. Food– The food here has been hard to adjust to because there is not much variation. There is not Italian food one day, Chinese food the next day, and then Mexican food the day after that. We have had rice, fruit, and salad with each meal along with a different meat. No seasoning and no sauce. Very bland, but it has been good.
  3. Climate– This has been the hardest to adjust to. The humidity here is unbelievable, and I will never get used to it. I have often been saying, “I have never sweated this much in my life.” Right now, it is winter or rainy season (May to mid-November), which means it is beautiful in the mornings and rainy in the afternoon. But thank goodness, it has not been raining every afternoon.
  4. Community Lifestyle– Junquillal’s community is awesome. As a community, they have really come together to help with sea turtle conservation. The atmosphere of everyone coming together is so refreshing and really makes it easier to work in such a hard environment. Some other things I have noticed: There are dogs roaming EVERYWHERE; there are bars on all windows of houses; there are fences around all houses; everyone has their doors open music playing.

Adapting to other cultures is often difficult, but luckily, Costa Rica’s transition has been easy and awesome. The days are winding down and I cannot wait to see what the rest of this trip has in store for us. Stay tuned!

 

PURA VIDA~

Kennadee Buchanan

Chillin’ and Sunburnin’ : Day 6

Hola from Costa Rica! It has been quite an adventure these past few days in Junquillal. I was a little weary about waking up at 3 a.m. to go do night patrol on Junquillal’s beach. The 3 a.m. patrol quickly filled with excitement as we found a Lora, also known as an Olive Ridley, sea turtle nest. We got the opportunity to reach in and grab the eggs from the nest. I was able to pull out 100 of the 152 overall eggs. It was quite interesting because unlike chicken eggs, sea turtle eggs are very squishy and quite flexible. I was afraid I was going to squish them too hard while pulling them out of the nest! We finished walking the North end of the beach and then went to the hatchery to put the eggs into a protected nest.

The rest of the day was spent helping Verdiazul fix the hatchery baskets. It was fun to try and figure out how to sew the basket holes up with a curved needle and fishing thread. At 6 p.m. we had a nice meal of spaghetti, some veggies, and a little bit of meat on top. I think we were all happy to have some pasta! Group 3 headed out for night patrol at 7. There were no sea turtles or nest sightings. It did help my step count go up; I ended the day with 32,000 steps.

This morning the group headed down for a light breakfast and headed out for a few hours of beach clean up. We were divided into groups and we picked up recyclables and trash that we found on the beach. I started feeling defeated while picking up plastic because the amount that we were able to pick up seemed minuscule compared to all of it that was out there. At one point I thought it would have just been easier to shovel up patches of the sand because of the amount of small pieces of plastic mixed in. It really put in to perspective just how much plastic, glass, and trash washes up on to the shores and the need to reduce our use of these products.

After lunch we headed out to Playa Blanca for a day in the sand! The waves here are a lot more rough then the waves in Texas or even Florida. It was funny when our group got flipped over on the sand because the wave hit us faster than we expected. I also enjoyed walking down the beach and finding the most beautifully colored and swirly sea shells. I will be missing the beaches when we head back on Tuesday to San Jose.

Well I’ve got to run to finish these chips and guacamole!

Sunburned back of CALUE Service Break participant

PSA: Wear your sunscreen kids!

-Alyssa Weaver-