I have always been a firm believer that one person can make an impact.
The significance of an Alternative Break trip is to enter a community with the intention of making connections that create positive change in the lives of those we serve.
When I found out about the Alternative Break program as a first-year student, I knew it would give me the opportunity to volunteer and make a significant difference.
Being given the opportunity to serve a community while simultaneously immersing into a new culture, to me, is as rewarding as it gets.
On my first Alternative Break trip last year, I chose the mission of urban education and traveled by minivan to Chicago, Illinois.
I have always loved children, and wanted to be able to gear that toward my service.
This year, I still stuck with my love for kids and decided the trip I wanted to participate in would have the mission of pediatric health care.
After being accepted as a member, I found out I would be traveling to Memphis, Tennessee.
My group’s service was at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, where we served as “Unit Buddies” for patients throughout the hospital.
Our task was to provide some comfort to the kids through this difficult time in any way that we could, whether it be through rocking a baby to sleep or playing football with a blown-up hospital glove.
I never thought that small, simple tasks such as those would provide a much deeper meaning to the children and to myself.
Along with being a “Unit Buddy,” there were several different carts that could be wheeled through each floor such as an activity cart, beverage cart and hospitality cart.
There was also an arts and crafts room and teen room that one of us were stationed in for an hour or so daily.
When it came to the different carts, no matter which cart was approaching the patient’s room, the amount of appreciation the parents and children gave us was overwhelming.
The activity cart was filled with coloring pages, stickers and crafts while the hospitality cart had complimentary toiletries for the families.
Such small things brought a huge amount of gratuity from all those staying at Le Bonheur.
I spent most of my days with younger patients, especially babies, but the hospital ranged from infants up to 18 year olds.
When I would knock on a patient’s door and introduce myself, their eyes would immediately light up with the excitement of having someone to spend time with.
I was able to take away the pain for a little while and give some much needed love just by being present, and that is the most rewarding feeling to receive.
When I talk about my service at Le Bonheur, however, it is important to understand that the opportunity I had is indescribable.
The work I did while I was there seems miniscule to those who did not get the chance to experience it.
No matter how hard I try, I will never truly be able to explain the feeling you get when a child feels cared for, comforted and loved because you were there for them.
I can never fully shed a light on the role of importance it gives you.
Olivia Belanger can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org