aB South Africa: ‘I committed to this trip to connect with those around me’

Nine members of the university community made FIU alternative Breaks history April 30, 2013, when they departed for South Africa to work with children and adults with HIV/AIDS. Theirs is the first aB group at FIU to travel to the African continent. FIU News will be following the team’s journey.

May 3, 2013

Our Work Begins

ab 2Today, on our second day at work, we began the projects we have planned around the clinic. Our first order of business involved repainting the concrete walls that surround the entrance and parking lot of the clinic. Pumped with excitement, we began covering the walls with a yellow and a brownish-purple stain. We had all eagerly anticipated beginning this particular project and, although it was physically demanding, we successfully completed the entire project before the end of the day. In addition, we also started a garden project on the grounds and prepared rooms for painting.

ab 1Although starting service was amazing, the day was also extremely impacting as a result of our interactions with those in the community and at the clinic. The day was filled with inspiring and meaningful moments. The first of these was when a local woman, who was walking by the clinic, approached three of us as we painted. She began by asking us about the clinic and about the nature of our service. After we explained it, she expressed that she was inspired by our service; her gratitude was undeniable and visible in her eyes and body language. For the three of us that spoke to her, it was an incredibly touching moment.

ab 3Although we have just begun our service, the persons around us are already being affected by our actions. Her words and her appreciation were a moment of unbelievable gratification and validation of our service. In fact, as she bid her goodbyes, she insisted on kissing our painted hands goodbye as another expression of her sense of inspiration. It brought tears to my eyes, literally, because the reason I committed to this trip was to connect with those around me.

Although there are several other moments that I could write about for days, I feel that this one particular instance truly captures the essence of Alternative Breaks and the impact that these trips have on students and communities. Not only did we beautify the clinic, we inspired a member of the community and were, in turn, inspired ourselves.

–Tracy Argueta

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