For the past year or so I’ve been attempting to try new things and expose myself to new experiences and activities. So, fall semester of last year I applied to participate in an alternative break program sponsored by the University of Maryland. I received my first choice assignment, spreading awareness of domestic violence in Knoxville, Tennessee, and last Saturday we departed in 2 vans, traveled for 9 hours, and made 13 beautiful friends.
The first place we went was the Appalachian Museum where peacocks roamed around an open area, bedpans were considered the ideal of creating musical instruments, and small shacks were expected to hold a household.
After, we walked around a lake and listened to a bunch of old people play bluegrass music in the museum. What a way to connect with a group! We had a blast getting to know each other and explore this beautiful and sunny area.
Over the next couple of days we got down to the real work and collaborated with the YWCA to assist women who were rebuilding their lives, chalked in Market Square to spread awareness, visited a courthouse where they were processing domestic violence cases, and explored the Family Crisis Center. While it felt amazing to help the survivors of this all too frequent problem, the truly wonderful moments all came from my gaggle of girls.
Every night we would put loving comments into paper bags for each member of the group, describing a quality or occurrence that we loved about that particular person. We also placed statements about what we were hoping to receive from the trip on a huge bulletin board that made us feel accomplished by the end of the week. In addition, we shared amazing and inspiring stories about our lives, the highs and lows of our day, and three jars of creamy peanut butter. I can’t believe I could have gotten so close to so many people in such a short amount of time, but that’s what happens when you put yourself in a situation where you can meet sweet and like-minded people.
I did something good for the community in terms of spreading awareness of domestic violence and speaking to the availability of resources for those in need. And in turn, I was rewarded with 13 great friends whom I hope to keep in contact with even after our trip. No matter what it is you choose to do, if you put good energy into the world, you can expect to receive good experiences back.