There are a variety of ways that college students can choose to spend their spring break. Some students choose to visit their family and relax, some go on vacation to get some sun, and some even travel to other countries as part of a class. For others, however, they choose to spend their spring break doing something good for a community. This past spring break, Shelly Baldrige traveled to St. Louis, Missouri to volunteer with the organization Kingdom House. Here is her account of the experience.
“For the 2019 Alternative Spring Break, I, along with 4 other MNSU students, traveled to St. Louis, Missouri for a service-learning trip with Kingdom House. Kingdom House is a nonprofit organization that works with the economically disadvantaged in St. Louis to help them get out of poverty by learning about money management, providing affordable food, clothing, childcare, assisting in job searches, and teaching English as a second language among a great number of other services. Throughout our trip, we took part in educational sessions, service projects, and volunteered with the Family Center in the evenings.
During the educational sessions, we went through a poverty simulation in which we had to stretch our limited dollar for a month while encountering various financial obstacles such as medical issues, school fees for our children, car payments, rent, food, and crises at our jobs. It was incredibly eye-opening to have a small taste of the very real challenges that the economically disadvantaged of the world are faced with day in and day out. Many of our group members expressed a difficulty in choosing the morally correct choice and the financially responsible choice in tough situations. Our educational sessions also covered food inequity, with one of our tasks being to create a week-long menu for 5 people. It was very challenging trying to please everyone in just our group, and we were 5 grown adults. It took us between 20-30 minutes to create our menu and many families – especially those with young children – do not have that kind of free time. We were able to purchase our entire menu for the week under our allotted food stamps budget, but it was not hard to see how families with several young kids could struggle to make ends meet. Our final educational session had us playing monopoly, but with some players having economic disadvantages or advantages (i.e. more or less money than the norm, paying higher fees, receiving less from other players, etc.). This demonstrated a small-scale edition of what the economically disadvantaged experience in their real lives and I personally was astounded by the constant barrage of misfortunate that the players at a disadvantage experienced. Towards the end, everyone was allowed to play by the normal rules but those who had been at a disadvantage previously were unable to comfortably catch up to the other players. For me, this was an incredibly educational tactic for showing how those who have lived in poverty their whole life would face a massive struggle trying to get out.
For our service projects, we were first tasked with coming up with a list of activities to do with the kids in the Family Center each night that we volunteered there. While this wasn’t particularly challenging, we did have to demonstrate our teamwork in selecting activities and then assembling our boxes of supplies for each craft. Our subsequent service projects involved reorganizing the storage spaces of Kingdom House that were filled with a wide variety of donations ranging from baby supplies to clothes to school supplies or birthday kits. This involved a great deal of patience and perseverance as the rooms were cramped, messy, and stuffy. However, it was incredibly rewarding to see how much work we had gotten done and hearing the appreciation from the Kingdom House employees, knowing that we had helped check off a few more boxes on their endless to-do list. Finally, we each spent 2 nights volunteering in their Family Center, creating crafts and playing with the many kids who needed child care as their parents were at work or taking classes provided by Kingdom House. It was exceptionally fun getting to interact with such a diverse group of children and get a small look into their lives. It was a humbling experience realizing how few luxury items these kids had in their lives, that I felt entitled to in my childhood, and still seeing the blissful joy on all of their faces. This trip was by far the most rewarding educational experience I have ever had, and I greatly enjoyed my time there. My only wish was that we could have stayed and helped out for longer!”
To learn more about the Kingdom House, please visit: https://www.kingdomhouse.org/