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The Trip Of A Lifetime

Draw back upon the first week of your summer break. You had just gotten off from a long and studious school year. You were probably enjoying the new feeling of freedom that summer always entails while preparing for the restful and fun-filled summer. However, this wasn’t the case for the the Memphis Ven-a-Ver team. From […]

Draw back upon the first week of your summer break. You had just gotten off from a long and studious school year. You were probably enjoying the new feeling of freedom that summer always entails while preparing for the restful and fun-filled summer. However, this wasn’t the case for the the Memphis Ven-a-Ver team.

From June 2nd to June 8th, the Memphis Ven-a-Ver team (Owen Larson (‘20), Grace Ramirez (‘20), Sage Ness (‘20), Sam Lingao (‘20), Emily Sperring (‘20), Liz Shyer (‘20), Grace Patterson (‘20), Priya Sharmander (‘20), Emily Thomas (‘20), Eli Garcia (‘22), Mr. and Mrs. Smith-Fagan, and myself) participated in an “different” type of Ven-A-Ver.

Ven-A-Ver is a volunteer-based tradition that the CB community deeply values. A typical Ven-A-Ver trip consists of about 10-13 students and two adult leaders. On this trip, the team dedicates about five days to serving a specific community in need.

The types of volunteering the team does varies depending upon the location of their Ven-A-Ver. For Example, The El Otro Lado Ven-A-Ver focused primarily on helping immigrants near the border while the Paradise Ven-A-Ver helped rebuild homes and churches that were destroyed after the last year’s fire.

Day one of Memphis Ven-A-Ver at the Sacramento Airport

Most Ven-A-Vers just stick with their own group and own agenda for the week of their trip. Our trip, in contrast, was put on by a company called Catholic Heart Work Camp (CHWC), making us the first CB Ven-A-Ver trip to participate in an outside program. Little to our knowledge, the change in leadership would only be the beginning of the unexpected events we experienced on our trip.

With tired eyes, we started off our trip bright and early in the morning at the Sacramento airport. Although our drowsy expressions might not have clearly showed it, we were all filled with excitement and anticipation for the trip ahead of us.

Without a meal in our stomachs, our Memphis team spent the whole day on the move from plane to plane. We bonded over the uncertainty of what the south was like and what tasks could possibly lie ahead for us.

Despite the brown freeways, 45 mph speed limit, and lack of front license plates on the cars, the aspect that was the most astonishing to us was the culture shock we experienced when we first arrived in Memphis.

Emily Thomas agreed that there “ definitely were some cultural differences” that set us Californians apart from the other campers who were from states including Georgia, Ohio, Texas, and Louisiana.

The first thing we noticed when we talked to some of the residents and campers were the different accents that we both possessed. The saying “y’all” specifically stuck out to us because of how frequently they used it in their everyday language. Over the course of the week we made up an activity called a “ y’all count” — we would start our day by guessing the number of times we predicted we would hear the word y’all used and come back to our room by the end of the day and tally how many times in total times we heard it that day.

The different slang wasn’t just heard by our group. During one of our many late-night bathroom chats that we would have with the other female campers, we learned that our accents (which we didn’t know we had) were just as noticeable to the other campers as well. We learned that our group tended to say the words “like” and “you guys” more than we realized.

Although some of these differences were present throughout the trip, they didn’t shield us from branching out and connecting from the other campers. We filled our nights by dancing to Katy Perry and High School Musical songs with the campers from Georgia and bonded over the long day’s work that we had encountered. We even dedicated one night to a camp-wide lip sync in which we made up a dance routine to “Big Time” by Big Time Rush while the Georgia campers performed “We’re All in This Together” by the High School Musical cast.

Fun times with our new friends From Georgia

The high energy that our group and the Georgia group both possessed allowed us to unexpectedly grow closer with each other.

“The thing that I thought about was when you guys and the Georgia group found each other, you made sort of a super group,” Mrs. Smith-Fagan remarked. “ I was proud of how you guys interacted within our own group and the group from Rome (Georgia). I wouldn’t have seen that coming.”

The main aspect of that trip that brought us the closest, however, was the service we partook in every day. Half of our Christian Brothers group worked at the recreation center planting gardens, sorting through food, and playing with the children at the center. The other half, which I was a member of, helped a family of two, Big Momma and Edna, paint the exterior of their house and keep them company throughout the day.

Over frozen Uncrustables and various flavors of Gatorade, we would reflect at lunch time upon the day’s work and the value that working as a group brought us. We bonded over our admiration of the generosity that both Big Momma and Edna would show us as they paid for our lunches and always greeted us with big smiles.

“Edna and Big Momma would take care of us when we were supposed to be taking care of them,” Emily Sperring said.

The feeling of compassion and completion stuck with us all throughout the trip, while hitting especially hard when we arrived back a the Sacramento Airport. We continue to remind ourselves of all that we accomplished and of the fruitful memories we made by keeping in contact with our new friends and with our Ven-A-Ver family.

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