Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Road Back to Rockaways

My Return to Rockaways:

The Road Back:
   I have previously documented the process of what it was like to organize my return trip back to the Rockaways, but a little re-cap is needed. The process of trying to acquire donation items, tickets, and volunteers was both extremely rewarding and the biggest test of patience I've had to endure thus far (proving how lucky of a life I have and how thankful I should be). Oh, did I mention this was all taking place during finals?
  Ok, but really, some days were amazingly productive and we had so much information pouring in that it was difficult to keep it all straight. And then some days, I would tweet, and message, and plead with the internet gods to bring me some good news and still nothing would happen. I think that even if there were an instruction manual for organizing these types of things it would just read "Just roll with whatever comes your way ... and keep going" because that's about all you can do.

   Details weren't concrete until around 3 or 4 days before we were supposed to leave and when I say details, I mean flight tickets. This was beyond a doubt the hardest part. Luckily, I had an amazing friend step forward who donated my tickets when our Delta connections fell through (the donor wants to remain anonymous but they really should let me brag about them, I think). And then, much like they always do when it comes to volunteer work, things just started magically falling into place at the very, very last second. I cannot stress this enough, things did magically work out but the secret to that magic was  the generosity of some amazing people (Betty Jensen, Dennis Saleeby, and Alison Thompson) and the persistent chant of "No volunteer left behind!".

The Team's Story of getting to Rockaways:
  I would like to take this time to just say how incredibly proud and honored I was that three other people trusted in what I was doing enough to join my efforts up in New York. Angie, Jingo, and Demetria showed such faith by following my lead and pledging to go along on the trip. Each volunteer showed courage and bravery in their own way because every person had something to overcome before coming on the journey.

  Angie paid for her own ticket with the prize money she received from filling out a survey from her apartment complex! She could have very easily used that money to go shopping or purchase something special for herself. Instead, she used that money to go towards plane tickets to go volunteer.  That kind of selfless mentality is so unique and we were so blessed to have her on our team.

    Jingo is a foreign exchange student from Taiwan who has been in America for only four months and decided to come volunteer up in New York with us. I had bumped into her on my way to talk with Betty Jensen (the International Student Organization [ISO] coordinator) and told Jingo what the plans were for New York were and before I knew it, she was in! Thankfully, Betty Jensen is an amazing educational administrator who encourages her students to follow their passions. Betty donated Delta flight miles to Jingo so that she could come volunteer with us. But the courage it takes to get on a plane and fly to New York in a country where she's been living for only four months is incredible! She showed such compassion for people that she didn't even know yet and I am so happy that we had the 'by chance' encounter that brought you to the Rockaways!

    Demetria received a 'less than enthusiastic' reaction when she told her family about her intentions in going up to volunteer. When it became apparent that our tickets weren't going to be coming from our 'connections' at Delta, the situation turned into an incredibly stressful evening. There were phone calls, tears, and a lot of cursing but Demetria always kept looking me in the eye and saying "I want to go". For as long as she kept saying "I want to go" I kept telling her "You're going to go. We'll find a way". Despite everything she was going through, she never lost focus and always persevered. After that nail-biting night, we were put in touch with the absolutely groovy Dennis Saleeby who generously donated tickets to Demetria, alongside Alison Thompson.

    Again, I would like to thank you three ladies for showing such trust and faith in letting me lead a team of some of the most intelligent, hard working, and determined people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Every single one of you has taught me so much and I am thankful for being a part of such an incredible journey. Each person brought something much needed and equally beautiful to the team, which truly can never be duplicated. I have endless amounts of love and respect for all of you.

The next installment will be about our time up there and all the adventures we had!

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