Author Archives: chaunceystephens

More Than a Moment in Time

Initially after returning from CHANGE Break, I had all good feelings.  I was still riding the high from having such an incredible experience serving in the school and exploring Ecuador.  With each day, these feelings started to fade; they became more distant and further removed.  My CHANGE Break experience started to become an event, just a moment in time, and I began to forget how I felt so alive, inspired, and motivated to become a more active citizen–not just someone who serves in isolated events, but someone who lives a life of service.  

I started to really think about why I chose to become a part of international CHANGE Breaks.  I have heard the critiques of serving abroad many times…

“Why do you travel to countries abroad when we Americans have so many challenges at home to worry about?”  

“Look at the problems in your own backyard.”

But I realized that me choosing to engage in the global community is not the same as making the choice to turn my back on the communities I am a part of here in the United States. Instead, I am choosing to broaden my horizons and understanding of the world, while simultaneously attempting to address problems both here and abroad.  I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life, and I don’t want to take this privilege for granted.  The reason I decided to participate in CHANGE Break, and ultimately the reason I fell in love with the program, is not because I would be travelling abroad to go “help” some people for twelve days or go and “fix” any of their problems.  It is because throughout the CHANGE Break experience, including all of the team meetings, days of service, reflections, and cultural learning, I am constantly learning and growing.  I am able to better understand the beauty in humanity and appreciate all the things to take for granted.  I am able to open my heart to others and allow them to make a lasting impact on how I see the world.  I am able to realize that “talent is universal, but opportunity is not.”  By removing myself from my everyday routine and immersing in a new, and at times uncomfortable, environment, I am able to see my own “privilege and responsibilities.”  All of things are not about the things that I did while in Ecuador, but how they impacted me and the hope that I was able to bring a little happiness to others while there. 

“In some quarters in America, it’s considered glamorous to volunteer in Tanzania, but not to mentor a child on the wrong side of the tracks. That’s myopic. But I think it’s also shortsighted to insist that we solve all of our own problems before beginning to address those abroad.”

Service-learning isn’t valued by where it takes place or who is involved.  Compassion should be universal—for all human beings, and I believe that I should strive to act compassionately towards everyone and seek to learn from them.  Since I have returned home, I have reflected frequently on the interactions I have with people every day.  I have realized that I get so caught up in what I am doing and what I have to do next that I often lose sight of what I learned during my time in Ecuador—every person deserves to be treated with respect and consideration for the simple fact that they are also a human being.  I want to be more purposeful in my relationships and interactions with others.  I want to get rid of my check-list mentality and show others that I value them as a person, how they are feeling, and what is going on in their life through my everyday actions.  I want to focus on the little things—the things that I usually don’t pay much mind to.  I want to constantly reflect on my experiences with CHANGE Break and challenge myself to not let it become a moment in time.

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Round Two

I have been fortunate enough to serve on a CHANGE Break experience in Cusco and Cai Cay, Peru last year, and now I am preparing to help lead a team in Quito, Ecuador.  Being a part of the Peru team as a freshman and having the opportunity to learn and serve in a completely new environment was a humbling experience and one that has helped define my college experience thus far.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to continue my growth with CHANGE Break this year and help other student leaders also embark on an incredible service learning experience.  With only about ten days until we depart, I am anxious but also very excited.  I hope that we have covered all of our bases to help the students prepare; however, I am confident that we will be flexible and make the best of our experience.  My greatest wish is that this experience is impactful for everyone in some way.  Our intentions are not to “change the world” in this one experience.  Instead, we hope to help enact some change, but mostly to help the students discover personal change–a change in perspective, mentality, and understanding.  Upon returning, I want to challenge the team members to continue their service and also advocate for others to find their passion to serve.

We have had many meaningful conversations this year about what it means to serve and the importance of perspective.  I was very inspired by the team member’s ideas, and I hope to continue these conversations while we are in-country and after returning to our daily lives here.  The experience does not end once we land on U.S. soil.  It is our responsibility to constantly reflect on what we have learned and use these lessons to improve the community around us.

I am most looking forward to watching the team transform from a group of people who have gotten to know each other casually while meeting throughout the year to a team that has shared experiences that will stay with them for a very long time.  It is the group transformation, as well as the individual transformations that I am most excited to experience.  Additionally, I am excited about the opportunity to listen, observe, and learn from those I encounter in Quito.  It is not all about what I can give, but what I can learn.

I am ready for round two.  Ready to forget all of the chaos of day to day life and take the time to enjoy the beauty in people again.  One of my favorite quotes describes my feelings towards CHANGE Break and volunteering in general: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” by Mahatma Gandhi.  With this experience I hope to continue on my journey of self discovery by serving and learning from others.  More than that, though, I hope to help my teammates personally grow.

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