Imagine being able to go on a six-day vacation to one of the biggest cities in the world, accompanied by 10 of the most interesting people, spending your time doing one of the greatest things imaginable, volunteering!
I have never been on a volunteering service trip before, and as a first semester student here at Madison College I didn’t know that many other people. All of this changed as we landed at LaGuardia and took the shuttle to our amazing hostel. Upon check-in I began getting to know the other people on our trip. That night a bunch of us went out for sushi. It was a delicious start to our weeklong endeavor.
The next day was Monday; we spent most of the day haggling vendors down in Chinatown and had an authentic meal in Little Italy. It was funny how even though we broke up into two groups, we kept running into each other in such a complex area. We finished our day by watching the beautiful sunset in the cloudless sky aboard the decks of the Staten Island ferry.
Tuesday was our first volunteer assignment. We came down the subway to the lower east side and learned about the Henry Street Establishments’ history, toured their facilities and visited their senior center. That night, eight of us returned to the senior center to prepare and serve dinner and keep the seniors company.
Wednesday was such a beautiful day in Manhattan and we got to enjoy it with a little walk in central park. We stopped by the central park conservancy and got special grabbing tools and bags and picked up garbage as we walked around. After that, another eight people returned to the senior center.
Thursday was a little bit rainy but that didn’t matter because we spent most of the day inside the Covenant House, which is a youth shelter on the west side of the city. This was by far the most fun volunteer assignment: organizing “Covingdale’s” donation inventory.
We had music going while we formed an assembly line to tackle the enormous workload. The funny thing is, it didn’t seem like work, people were dancing and pictures and videos were being taken. Our group had finally gelled as a team that worked like a fine tuned machine. The director of the Covenant House was extremely grateful for our assistance, which made the whole day so much better.
Friday rolled around and it seemed like the week had gone by so quickly. My newly made friends and I headed up to a soup kitchen in the Bronx and helped organize their pantry. Then we helped hand out bags of food to the people who had waited in line for over an hour. It was good to see that all of the canned foods that I had donated and collected over the years actually do make it to people who need them.
Saturday was our last day in New York. It was also St. Patrick’s Day! By now, all of us were experts at navigating the city so we each went off to do our own thing before we met back up to return to Madison.
This trip was truly amazing and way more than I could have ever wanted it to be. I traveled to new places, made new friends, and most importantly, I helped people who needed it.
I would definitely recommend that other students consider a volunteer service trip as a way to spend your spring and winter breaks in the future!