The Baker Orange

Service trip provides eye-opening experience

Story by Taylor Shuck, Editor

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Jamaica is a popular summer destination for tourists with its all-inclusive resorts and luxury beaches, but one Baker University student got to experience the side that most travelers don’t see – the side racked with poverty and hardship.

Rachel Haley, an incoming junior, and 11 other Alpha Chi Omega collegians from around the country spent the first week of their summer vacations doing service work in Negril, Jamaica.

“It’s so hard to fathom seeing large name resorts within the site of where we were,” Haley said. “Tourists could cross the street and just see the poverty. You (have) to wonder, where’s the justice in that?”

It was that curiosity that sparked Haley’s interest in being a part of the second annual Alpha Chi Omega global service trip.

“Service work, it’s good work,” Haley said. “It benefits individuals beyond their own capacity, and any chance to help people besides oneself is good work to me. We lose sight of the larger scale. Life is a fragment, and if you can do anything that will preserve after your personal fragment is done is amazing and is good work to me.”

The group of women had nightly reflections with each other, and during one night, the topic of conversation was the difference between service and philanthropy. In a blog post that followed, Victoria Robinson from the University of Tennessee wrote:

“With service we get to feel it in our bones and our hearts. We have all poured our sweat, and in some cases blood, into building the church expansion and painting the school building. We not only can see what we’ve done but also realize we made it happen because of our own hands and labor. We also have gotten to see the faces of the children and those in the community who benefit from our hard labor.”<br/>

The work that the women did consisted of building an extension to the rapidly growing Negril church, doing concrete work and painting schools. However, Haley said many of the Jamaicans she met were more than willing to help with the projects.

Jamaicans’ resourcefulness and work ethic were just a few of the many impressive things that Haley witnessed during her week-long service trip. Labor Day in Jamaica was just that, a day of labor. Community members would spend the day working selflessly in their community, something that also impressed Haley.

“It’s amazing seeing that,” Haley said. “If I lived like that for even a moment of everyday, my life would be so much better. We just use Labor Day as an excuse to go to the lake. These people only need their faith and each other, and it was humbling to see that.”

The 12 Alpha Chi’s were chosen, as Haley put it, to represent and do the work for the 16,000 Alpha Chi Omega women nation-wide, saying “it’s not only us, it’s everyone’s part in this.”

“I think this trip says a lot about the Greek system,” Haley said. “You can talk about philanthropy all you want, but this shows that we are now living out our foundations and our standards. It’s awesome and inspiring to watch that transition.”

The women had never met face-to-face before the trip, but Haley believes the experience brought them together as both sisters and friends.

“In the Greek system, we throw out the term sisterhood a lot,” Haley said. “But we all walked out of this experience as friends. When we left the airport after saying our goodbyes, people thought we had been together for years.”

Friendship isn’t the only thing that Haley left the service trip with. The experiences and knowledge she gained were much more than she expected.

“You grow and you grow up,” Haley said. “You learn from so many people and it makes you more aware, and that everything is beyond you as a person. We can either choose to do something with what we know or we can ignore it, but the work isn’t going to stop.”

The leader of the trip told the women, “to receive much, you must give much,” and Haley believes this is one of the most important lessons she learned during the service trip.

“I went into this knowing I’d come out different,” Haley said. “Looking back, I can’t imagine my life before this. Everything happens for a reason and everything will keep building from here. It gave us a whole other view of the world. That is something completely priceless and invaluable.”

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