Alternative Fall Break Trip to Baltimore

Student Reflections

Katie Koch
Katie Koch
Today we volunteered at the Chesapeake chapter of Habitat for Humanity. We worked on a site that has ten houses being built on it. I have never done habitat or anything like it before, so I was really excited about this day of service.

Working for Habitat was an extremely rewarding experience because we could actually see progress being made on the houses as we worked. When we first arrived at the site I had no idea how I would be able to contribute to the project because of my lack of experience. I quickly realized, however, that there was plenty I was going t be able to help out with.

I spent the majority of my time at Habitat moving boards and other pieces of wood. This was an exhausting task, but it felt really good to look back and see the amount of wood that we had moved. I was assigned to work with a partner named Dave, who was an individual volunteer. Dave was very hardworking and he encouraged me to push myself too. I was really happy that I worked with him because at the end of the day, when I wanted to stop working, he persuaded me to finish carrying the rest of the wood with him. Even though at the time, I was tired and ready to retire for the day, looking back, I am really grateful that Dave pushed me to finish what we had started.

The coolest aspect of Habitat was the amount of teamwork that goes into building the houses. We were able to accomplish so much by working together. I would not have been able to carry one of the boards that Dave and I carried alone, but when we worked together, we could carry two at a time. It was awesome how all of the volunteers were able to pull together to get things done.

One of the highlights of my day at Habitat was meeting a woman who was going to be receiving one of the houses that we were working on. She was a quiet lady, but even though she didn't say much, it was obvious that she was very grateful. She told us that she had four young children and they were all very excited to move into the house.

Working for Habitat was extraordinarily rewarding and I am so thankful that I was able to experience it. It was an awesome way to give back as well as to learn about teamwork and how much a group of people can accomplish.


Chris Sainz
Chris Sainz
Being able to experience a service opportunity such as Christopher's Place most definitely would be considered life changing. Being in an environment of men who have endured struggles unimaginable to most college students now allows us to see God's mercy and how he works in a different than traditional way. Particularly were individuals who have struggles through hardships of addictions and violent past however, possess the ability to look at their past encounters and rather than be bitter at God look at their lives as learning points to help guide others in the future. A specific story was from Darrell, a fairly new member of the organization having only been here for a month. He opened up to us at dinner explaining how he had had a falling out with his oldest son and not had any contact within three years. However, having been a part of his son's daughter's lives he was dedicated to recreate his bond with his family. He told us how he went to his son's house hoping to at least say hello however his son was not home and one of his grandchildren opened the door. Having not seen his grandchildren in three years Darrell was worried they would not recognize them. However, he explained how when they told their mother who was at the door the grandchild said "Darrell." He explained how he had a rush of emotion knowing his grandchildren remembered him and he could possibly begin a new relationship with them. Being able to listen to these men's stories and see them open up to strangers they had just met only an hour before showed their trust in God to accept what was being presented to them and appreciate the volunteers they had been offered. It was very enlightening to see the outlooks of men who had been through such tough times yet still saw the hope in their lives and the motivation to continue fighting. They all were able to realize the mistakes they had been making and work to fix their mistakes and move forward. It was very rewarding to meet these individuals and be able to experience Christopher's Place. It have definitely given me a new outlook on problems different people face in everyday life and allows me to understand the importance of helping others and offering up your services whenever possible knowing that someone will always greatly appreciate any way you can help them. It was very beneficial to do an experience such as Christopher's Place.


Jessica Duffy
Jessica Duffy
Walking into the center I can't say I had too much of an idea of what I would experience tonight. I do know that I didn't think what I'd experience would be life changing- but it was. It is the strangest kind of humility to feel, when you realize that doing something as small as sitting down to eat with these men meant so much to them. My dad often tells me that people who find themselves homeless, or struggling with drug addictions, or who have hit rock bottom constantly find themselves facing a society that no longer looks them in the eye. People avoid contact with those who are down on their luck, to the point where most homeless people you'll meet won't have legitimately talked to someone one on one in a long while. Tonight I witnessed how giving these people your time is a small thing to do that is so greatly appreciated. The men we met tonight were so willing to open up and talk about their life struggles and also their accomplishments. It is so powerful to witness someone talking about being grateful for the life they've been given when in our own eyes they don't have very much. It became a very reflective experience because I realized how often in my own life I forget about how lucky I am, how much I have, the support my family always gives, and even God.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with a man named Michael. He was amazing. So happy and so optimistic. He was so prepared to go out in the world and do the good he said he had experienced. He was so thankful to everyone who had helped him out over the years and he was so thankful for the small amount of time I could give him tonight. He told me I was an angel because he believed that anyone that gave their spirit to another was sent by angels. He said it was so important to keep doing what CCM was doing. To continue to always give our time and always give our support.

Tonight taught me that no matter how low your life can get, it is important to always realize God is there with a plan. I believe he deals us many opportunities, and we chose a path to follow. No matter what path, no matter how many bumps along the way, and no matter how long it takes God will be waiting at the end. Always be open to the people and opportunities that present themselves to you along your path. You might be lucky enough to meet people like the men at Christopher's Place.


Nick Olano
Nick Olano
It started off as a cold early morning with Habitat for Humanity, but I ending up having a great time. My group leaders name was Eric. Our group helped to put up fire resistant plywood where each house joined each other. We also had the chance to meet one of the workers who was actually working on her soon to be house. Her name was Ophelia and she had four children. She seemed like a shy women but was really sweet to us and a very hard worker. For lunch a family who had received a house from Habitat earlier that year made spaghetti and meatballs. It was amazing, some of the best spaghetti and meatballs I have ever had. I was amazed by how happy everyone was, and how well everyone got along. I enjoyed working with everyone knowing that I was helping someone get their house even sooner.


Steve Ferguson
Steve Ferguson
Can I get a Hey for Habitat? Wow, what a way to kick off CCM's first fall break service trip, and my first service trip ever. It was a bit of a chilly morning and, naturally, I wasn't wearing a jacket or other warm outer layer (yes, I was the only one on the whole site wearing a T-shirt). Luckily, the sun was out and I got to work inside the housing units where the wind was blocked. I was placed on a team with my CCM compadres, Lauren and Jessica, as well as Dave, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis who disguises himself as an employee for the census bureau by day. Lauren and Jessica paired off while I stuck with Dave; it wasn't long before we were doing what guys do best: destroying stuff. Armed with a Saws-all, a hammer and chisel, and some measuring tape, we started tearing our way through some 2x4s and OSB in an attempt to resize some window frames, stopping only when our knuckles had gone numb from gripping our equipment so hard. I experienced a bit of beginner's luck, making a picture-perfect cut my first go-at-it with the Saws-all. Each subsequent attempt seemed progressively worse, to my dismay. Luckily, Dave, recognizing my inexperience, made light of the situation by citing his own failure to use the electrical saw without having first plugged it in.

The morning passed so quickly that I didn't even realize I was hungry until the staff called for a lunch break. Some CCMers split between dining in the "center square" (a few OSB boards lying on the ground in the middle of the site) and up on the rooftops of the first unit. During this time, the center-square CCMers, myself included, shared a terrific discussion with Mike, one of the Red Hat members who oversaw the construction work on the site. Turns out he was once a high school history teacher and absolutely loved it...coincidence? I'll say fate. Not every Habitat build you meet someone who at one time walked the same path you hope to one day. Or perhaps it is? I can't say for sure...

Anyways, after lunch we got back to work putting the finishing touches on the window framing. When we had completed our task, our team was reassigned to move 2x4s, 4x6s, and other wooden boards that help improve your multiplication skills to the basement of one of the housing units. It became a battle of the mind, body, and spirit to continue moving these heavy planks without succumbing to the feelings of fatigue experienced after each trip to and from the woodpile. When we had finished with the planks, we were then asked to move large boards of OSB. This required two people per board, so Dave and I commiserated together while we struggled to waddle our way down the hill with two OSBs between us. We had a lot of help with this process, as other teams chipped in to help expedite the process. A big shoutout at this point to Mel Byerley, our chaperone on this trip, who helped me out of many a jam by taking over the heavy lifting once Dave and I had made it all the way to the unloading site. Without her, I probably wouldn't have any arms left to type this reflection...

As the day drew to a close, I stopped to observe my surroundings, as well as the abrasions I had developed on my forearms. A lot of hard work had been put in, and it was awesome to see the progress to which we had all contributed over the course of the day. We, as a collective group, had put siding on all the houses, added support beams for the ceilings, transported innumerable heavy items to new locations, and bonded with friends who, at the beginning of the day, had been complete strangers. It was such a productive day in so many aspects, and I am so thankful for the incredible opportunity we had to meet new people, work with our hands, and, as Mother Teresa once said, build something beautiful for God.


Jessica Simermeyer
Jessica Simermeyer
Sunday evening we had the opportunity to serve at Christopher Place, a program run by Catholic Charities that gives men the opportunity to develop skills that will enable them to find and sustain work and a higher standard of living. As you read that you probably think something similar to what I did, "Oh, that's great, they will have the opportunity to find steady work and provide for themselves and their families"; while this is true, Christopher Place goes beyond the call of finding work, positively transforming the lives of these men. Christopher Place provides a home and community for men in which they can recover from addiction, positively interact with others, and reflect on where they have been and where they would like to go. I found this reflection aspect to be the component that truly sets Christopher Place apart from other programs. The men in this program have had the opportunity to be removed from the influence of their typical environment so they can reflect on the path of their life.

When talking to the men at Christopher Place I found two predominant themes: hope and acceptance. I was amazed by the level of acceptance that these men have for the past. While many of these individuals have struggled with drugs, crime, homelessness, and other countless struggles they recognize that this has made them who they are and that they now have the power to shape where they go from this point. This ability to change directions is where their strong hope comes in to play. I have never seen a group with more hope for the future than these men. They know that they have been given an incredible opportunity and are excited to make these big changes and inspire others to make these changes as well.

The strong hope for the future is noticeable from the moment you walk in to Christopher Place and begin speaking to the men. They have experienced so many things in their lives but have risen above it to become truly admirable, inspiring individuals who are well on their way to being prepared to enter the work force and begin a positive life.


Mallory Hinzman
Mallory Hinzman
My Sister's Place is an organization set up by Catholic Campus Ministries in which women in Baltimore come every day of the year (rain, sun, sleet, or snow) for a free breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner to receive food that they otherwise might not be able to afford. The organization also offers women classes and acts as a social gathering for women who may not have anywhere to go or want to "hang out" for a little while. The classes range from belly dancing to spiritual groups. They also provide a class for pregnant women in their third trimester (mostly single teenage mothers) a class that teaches them how to take care of a child and helps them become more emotionally and mentally stable so that they will be ready to take on new responsibilities as mothers.

On Tuesday, October 18, 2010 we went to My Sister's Place and prepared and served sub sandwiches to 105 women for lunch. It was an amazing experience to see the preparation that went into fixing the food, setting up the tables, serving the food, and cleaning the dishes. The teamwork and organization involved is really important to making the operation run smoothly. The women that came to eat ranged from teenage girls (most of whom were pregnant, single moms who were also taking classes at My Sister's Place) to middle aged and older women. Most of the women were so grateful to us for giving them a meal and offered us so much thanks.

One woman I met there went by the nickname "Woody." As I was laying her fruit salad and lemonade on the table I asked her how she was doing, and she said, "I'm feeling blessed today" with a big smile spread across her face. She talked about how she had so much hope because she was going back to college (a community college in Baltimore) and wanted to be an Alcoholics Anonymous counselor. She explained to me how she had lost everything, including her home, because of her alcohol addiction. With the help of AA and My Sister's Place she was able to get back on her feet and get over her addiction. Now she wants to help other women struggling with alcohol addiction. She also explained how much she appreciated the meals served by My Sister's Place, which help her get through the day, week, and even year.

Besides the food, it's the encouragement, hope, and even community that My Sister's Place offers that keeps these women going. God's love was evident that day- in the servers and in those being served. It was a memorable experience for everyone there, and I know God has great plans for each of the women that get lunch there, for the volunteers, and for the organization as a whole. It is a community rich in faith, love, and trust in Him, and I'm so thankful for the blessing it is to the women of Baltimore.


Lauren Sandberg
Lauren Sandberg
After a good night's sleep, the rejuvenated group headed into downtown Baltimore Monday morning to work at a women's homeless shelter called My Sister's Place. This particular shelter provides aid for women and children in a variety of ways. When the group arrived at the site, we were greeted by Faith, who gave us a quick tour of the facility. There was a day care room, showers and laundry facilities, and classrooms where women could take an array of classes. After the tour, Faith put us right to work because lunch was soon approaching. Our group was planning on serving sandwiches, chips, and fruit salad- all of which was graciously provided by the mother of a student in the group. Once we were equipped with our stylish hairnets, aprons, and gloves, the group was divided up and put to work. One group was in charge of setting up the tables, another making the fruit salad, and another assembling the sandwiches- the group I was part of. We had to cut the bread and put a slice of turkey, ham, salami, and cheese on it along with lettuce and tomato. When the doors opened at 11 for the women, the group that set up the tables became the servers, while the rest of us in the kitchen frantically finished making all the food. After all the food was made and was awaiting the tummy of some lucky woman or child, I was sent to the back pantry to help organize the shelves and check expiration dates. Amongst the tidying, I came across so much food that had expired earlier this year and even one or two years ago. It just broke my heart seeing the pile of expired food continually growing larger and larger by the minute. I wish there was a better system of organizing the pantry and using that food to prevent it from going bad. Anyways, after the last sandwich was consumed, it was our turn to eat. While we were making the sandwiches we set aside sandwiches for the group to eat after all the women had eaten. It was neat to think that we were eating the same exact meal as the women were and knowing that these women left stuffed- because we all sure did. All in all I had a great time volunteering at My Sister's Place and I would definitely volunteer in the future, as I am sure our entire group would.