Adele | Topanga, CA
Stacy | Randolph, NJ
JAM: Colorado Springs 2016
Today is our 4th service day of AJSS. This trip has provided so many firsts for us. We have noticed many of us have stepped out of our comfort zones and tackled challenges we never thought possible. Beginning on the first day, when we all arrived in our home, Temple Shalom, the fourteen of us instantly clicked. Many of us had never had the experience of meeting new people and feeling so comfortable. There was no need for icebreakers or awkwardness. We quickly opened up to each other. What made this so possible was realizing that we were all like-minded teenagers, wishing to make a difference in the world. Meeting each other in such a positive way set the mood for the days that followed.
Another notable first was on the actual service sites. So far, we have participated with three organizations. The first was Black Forest Together. We worked with them on two separate occasions. The organization’s purpose is to clean up damage from a horrific fire that struck the Black Forest area in Colorado three years ago. On the first day we fed charred logs and limbs of burnt, cut down trees into a wood chipper. We were working on land that used to be occupied by a house that raised several generations within it. The family had no insurance when the fire struck and were not in the ideal health to clean the land themselves. We worked with two amazing people, Donna and Chuck, who were instructing us. We managed to clear the entire lot. The next time we worked with this organization was on the third day. We gathered with Donna and five members of the Black Forest fire station to help with fire mitigation. We lifted chopped trees into hut formations to be burned this winter. By clearing parts of the forest, larger wildfires are prevented in the future. On the second day, we weeded a community garden. The head farmer, Mercedes, was hardworking and passionate about her garden. And today, we worked with an organization called Care and Share. It is a food bank with many volunteers that serves most of southern Colorado. We were directed by two strong and informative women named Ginger and Wanda. On each of the sites, firsts occurred. Never had we ever seen with our eyes the difference community service makes. The work we did in the garden in one day would have taken Mercedes an entire week. The Black Forest sites were noticeably cleaner and organized than when we arrived. Today, we packed 11,000 pounds of cans and packaged foods to be distributed to families in need. We also had never been so inspired by true community leaders, dedicating decades of service to their communities. As Ginger put it, “My community gives so much to me, I have to give back to my community.”
Lastly, we all have experienced a first in feeling independent. We must take individual initiative to complete all tasks for our health and well-being. Different groups prepare and clean up meals which we have the privilege to share together three times a day. Another way in which we have gained a sense of independence is having the ability to plan our own actives based on our interests.
In all, AJSS is a trip of firsts for everyone. There is so much learning to do and time to try new things for the first time as a group. We can’t wait to share about all of the incredible firsts yet to come.