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Traveling for Change

Olivia Catelani

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L’Arche Tahoma Hope Immersion

This year, the L’Arche Tahoma Hope Immersion Trip became the newest Presentation service opportunity.

Accordingly, the girls who went were not exactly sure what to expect. “I thought I was going to help people with disabilities,” says junior Kaitlin Rooney. “But from the moment we got on the farm, it was clear that they did not need our help.”

Based in Tacoma, Washington, L’Arche works to make known the gifts of those with developmental disabilities by fostering relationships and works towards a more human society by engaging in their diverse cultures.

During the trip, the nine Pres girls worked together with ten CORE members and other volunteers. “We worked all week on their farm,” says senior Grace Bernal. “Typically, this meant shoveling horse poop and carrying it across the farm.”

Other daily activities included feeding the chickens, seeding, weeding, and digging rows on the farm. Even when it snowed at the end of the week, the girls were still out working on the farm.

In the evenings, the students would also visit other L’Arche houses in the area and eat dinner with the CORE members and volunteers there.

Through working on the farm and having dinner with the different CORE members, the girls were able to make real friendships throughout the week.

“My favorite memory from the trip is definitely eating dinner at Anawim, a L’Arche house, with Mark and Leana,” says Rooney. “I don’t think I have ever laughed more at a dinner.”

Not only was Mark funny, but he was also very genuine and sweet. “He wanted to know everything about our flight and he wished us a safe trip home,” says Rooney.

Bernal also got to know another CORE member, Les, very well. Although he was very quiet, he would laugh at Bernal’s jokes and wait to go to lunch with her. Together they bonded over their shared love of baseball, especially the Mariners.

One lunch, they looked at a photo of a Mariners pitcher. “From this picture he taught me how to act out a perfect pitch,” says Bernal. “When the snow came later in the week, we both had so much fun throwing snowballs at each other and joining in laughter.”

Because of these connections, the girls on the trip learned not to judge a book by its cover, however cliche that may sound.

The girls also gained a better understanding of people with disabilities and that they are no different from those without.

“As the trip progressed, I realized that the core members at L’Arche did not need to be served,” says Bernal. “We were there to work with them and experience all the love they had to offer to us.”

Through the new friendships and the work on the farm, the L’Arche Tahoma Hope Trip was truly one of love.

“This trip will truly change your life,” says Rooney. “You will meet some of the most genuine, funny, and kind people you have ever met and make so many new friends!”

LA Immersion

Over the February break, seven Pres girls participated in the Los Angeles Immersion Trip where they volunteered at the Presentation Learning Center and served at shelters like Midnight Mission and the Santa Monica Shelter (SAMOSHEL).

“Before going on the trip, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect,” says junior Mary Taylor. “I was definitely a little nervous, but was prepared that at times I would have to be taken out of my comfort zone.”

In the mornings, the girls would attend an all Spanish mass in Watts and then head to the Presentation Learning Center across the street. There, they would spend a few hours helping in various levels of English and computer technology classes, as well as playing with the young children at the center.

“Teaching [English as a Second Language] classes was one of my favorite parts of this trip because the women were so kind and we both shared about our lives,” says junior Lidia Grbic. “Through this, I became good friends with some of them.”

In the evening, the participants  would help out at soup kitchens, making and serving dinner to those experiencing homelessness. One night, the girls and other volunteers made a chili dinner for over 50 people.

“It was such a cool experience to be able to make such a huge dinner such as the one we made, knowing that none of it would be put to waste and that it was going to people who truly needed it,” says Taylor.

On the final day of their trip the students also got the chance to visit Homeboy Industries. While they did not help make meals there, they did have the opportunity to receive lunch and a tour, as well as talk to some of the Homies.

While the purpose of this trip was to become more aware of the issues of homelessness and poverty in California, the girls also gained a better understanding of the people experiencing homelessness.

“I thought we were going to LA to help people going through hard times,” says Grbic. “But instead, we were there to stand with them and talk to them. Sure, maybe we could help them with one meal out of their day or with an English worksheet but we were not going down to solve problems.”

The girls were also able to create meaningful relationships through their work at the Presentation Learning Center and the meals at the soup kitchens.

“I had the chance to talk to a remarkable man at SAMOSHEL, who greatly changed my perspective on the issue of homelessness and the fact that you should never judge someone’s character based on their living/income situation,” says Taylor.

The bond between the students and the people they were working with were so strong that some women even volunteered to teach the girls Ballet Folklorico, a traditional Mexican dance.

Through all of these actions and connections, the students on the LA Immersion Trip learned important lessons about serving others and working to bring about change.

“The change starts when we come back home and start advocating and getting involved,” says Grbic. “These issues are much bigger than a group of seven  girls; we need to promote change.”

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Traveling for Change