Sequoia National Park- Environment

We departed from Columbia 7:00am Monday morning and everyone was eager to get on the road. Although it rained over Kansas the entire drive, we finally arrived at Colorado Springs, CO Monday night. Tuesday morning we left early at 6:00am. We drove through the southern half of Colorado and the drive was beautiful! We saw the edge of the Rocky Mountains, and we were able to drive through many small historic mountain towns. In the afternoon, we finally arrived at our first National Park; Mesa Verde. 

We were all so excited to finally arrive at our first park, and we were able to learn and discover a lot. We learned that Mesa Verde National Park protects land previously inhabited by nomadic indigenous people and communities. The park preserved historic cliff dwellings created by the indigenous people which including housing, ritual sanctuaries and hunting grounds. The park was beautiful because it hosted deep canyons with flowing rivers at the bottom, and in the sides of the canyons were the communal dwellings. The most curious aspect of the park was that most archaeologists know very little about inhabitants of the cliff dwellings, so many questions pertaining to the building structures and landscape remain unanswered. Mesa Verde was a beautiful and educational experience, and all of us wished we had more time to explore and discover. 

After getting back on the road, we finally arrived to North Rim, Arizona later that night, which borders the Grand Canyon. Wednesday morning we all woke up to rainy and cold weather, but we were all so excited to see the Grand Canyon. We quickly packed up the tents and ate breakfast so that we could explore Grand Canyon National Park. As we drove towards the Grand Canyon we were all confused because we were surrounded by forest and greenery. We expected the Grand Canyon to be in a dry desert, surrounded by clay-like mountains and tumble weeds. Before we knew it, we entered the park and saw the edge of the huge and magnificent canyon. The Grand Canyon was gorgeous! The park offered accessible, paved trails to walk and explore on, as well as a museum. We were able to climb around on rocks (safely), see blue streams flowing at the bottom of the high ridges and view dozens of miles of red and brown plateaus. The museum explained how the Grand Canyon came to be and we learned many aspects of its' geological heritage. We discovered that after millions of years of flowing rivers, the water slowly carved the canyons and created the steep walls. We learned that if we looked closely, many fossils and ancient artifacts could be seen in the sides of the canyons because the rock and walls are so old and preserved. Although we could have explored the Grand Canyon all day, we all loaded back in the cars to finally arrive at our destination in California. 

Sequoia National Park was beautiful, even in the night time. As we drove through the park for the very first time, we vaguely saw the bases of the giant trees. We were so excited to see the park in the day time that we quickly set up our tents and went to bed. In the morning, we woke up to a beam of sunlight, singing birds and brisk air. We felt like we were camping in a magical forest because everything was so much bigger! Not long after waking up and eating breakfast, our service coordinators drove to our camp site and gave us our first volunteer tutorial. We met Dawn, Skyler and Steph. Skyler and Dawn were park rangers in the park and Steph was an intern for the summer. All had great experience in the outdoors and in the park, and it was thrilling to finally meet the individuals we'd be working with. 

Our first service task was to refurnish a building that would be used as a transportation office for the park. We taped over all of the wires, pipes and outlets and painted all of the walls and ceilings. After we finished painting, we left the office so that the paint could dry. Later that day the rangers took us to the outdoor amphitheater. Because the winter season brought in a lot of snow, the amphitheater needed a lot of cleaning so that it could be used for the busy summer season. We swept and brushed all of the pathways and cleaned the trails surrounding it. We cleaned the stage and the seats as well. After service, we all headed back to our camp site. As soon as we got out of the car, we set up our hammocks and went hiking! 

Next to our camp site was a beautiful river. The river was rushing due to the melting snow at the top of the mountain. After walking alongside of the river we discovered natural water falls and pretty meadows. Laying in our tents that night, we could hear the river flowing down the mountain. 

The next day, Skyler came to pick us up at our camp site. It was a cold morning, so all of us were ready to get moving and warm up! Because two tasks needed to get done that day, we split up into groups of six. Half of the group build wooden fences while the other half of the group worked with at a children's day camp called "the BioBlitz." The fences project used hammers, drills and other tools to create bench-like structures to organize around delicate environment in order to keep visitors from parking their cars on top of it. In one day the group of six built nine fences, which was a great accomplishment! The other half at the group working at the BioBlitz had a fun and energetic time working with the children. There were over 100 fourth and fifth graders on a field trip touring and learning about the park, so the volunteers had a lot of running around to do! The BioBlitz was a blast because we got to sing songs, dance and teach the children about the park. After service was over, the rangers offered to take us on a tour through Crystal Cave, which is a popular site for environment enthusiasts in the park. The cave was gorgeous and made all of granite. The structures inside were millions of years old, and we learned the park has done it's best to preserve it's natural beauty and structures. After a long day, we traveled back to our camp site. 

The next two days of service went around the park and worked on trail restoration projects. We cut large logs blocking the trails, pulled invasive plant species, raked away pine needles and brush, cut down hanging tree limbs and cleaned of seating areas and picnic tables. Because there are many camp grounds and visitor areas in the park, there were a lot of trails to repair due to the snowy winter season. After a long day of service, we were excited to go to the museum and look at the giant Sequoia trees! The large Sequoias were incredible to learn about and to see. We learned that the Sequoia trees are an ancient species that has survived for millions of years. Some of the trees in the park were almost 3,000 years old! Later that night, we went on a guided hike and were able to see the full moon and stars. 

Our last day of service we were able to finish the transportation office. After all the paint dried we tore off all the tape, uncovered the new carpet, washed the windows, replaced the electric outlet plates and hung up the blinds. After we were finished, the office looked brand new! As a final touch, we decided to make a poster which welcomed the new transportation staff to the park. 

Later that day we went to Kings Canyon National Park, which neighbors Sequoia National Park. It was only an hour away, but the park was so drastically different and beautiful! At the bottom of the massive canyon flowed a blue river. We decided to drive all the way to the bottom of the canyon and go on a hike. The trail followed the river and opened up to a gorgeous valley. We crossed a bridge overlooking the river and the walls of the canyon. The hike was fantastic, and it was very warm!

Although we dreaded leaving Sequoia National Park, we were excited to continue exploring other national parks on the way home. Our first destination on the ride home was Yosemite National Park. Although we did not have much time to explore the park, we were able to hike up to one of the massive water falls. We were also able to tour through the museums and learn about the history of the park. We learned that Yosemite was the first national park established and that John Muir, who is known as America's first environmentalist, discovered it. After leaving Yosemite, we arrived at St. George Utah. We stayed at Snow canyon state park which neighbored Zion National Park. The landscape hosted gorgeous red mountains and canyons. We were lucky enough to arrive before sunset, so we hiked up to a good lookout spot and watched the sun go down. 

 Because the weather was so warm in St. George, many of us slept in our hammocks or laid out our sleeping bags on the warm red rocks. The night in St. George was the best night for sleeping because it was the warmest. All of us woke up refreshed and ready to go the next morning!

The next morning we packed the car quickly and hit the road. The drive through Utah was absolutely gorgeous, and it seemed like the entire state was one big national park! Around lunch time, we finally arrived at our last national park. We decided to visit Arches National park, and it did not disappoint! We hiked up to the famous Delicate Arch and saw many miles of red rocks. It was a very beautiful sight!

That night, we stayed in a cabin owned by family friends in Evergreen, Colorado. The cabin sat on a bluff overlooking the Rocky Mountains. We were lucky enough to be fed a hot dinner and breakfast, and we even got to play with their dogs! The last night of our trip was a fun and memorable bonding experience. We reflected on all of the things we learned, the ways in which we grew and the experiences we wanted to remember forever. The summer trip to California was an unforgettable experience, and we are all blessed and thankful to have has the opportunity to explore and serve! 

MAB Weekend - Jefferson County

On the first day of service, my service site gave to me…

3,000 barrels of dirty dirt.

100 bottles of water.

11 games of Mafia.

10 4-H Bluebirds.

9 matching outfits.

8 hours of working.

7 accusations of Stacy being Mafia.

6 people to lift a stone table.

5 wooden splinters.

4 home cooked meals.

3 broken shovels.

2 people shooting blanks out of muskets.

1 unforgettable experience.

And a lot of ivy.

MAB Weekend - McDonald County (Student Nurses Association)

10 easy steps to have the best MAB trip of all time:

1) Score killer housing like the River Ranch Resort, who graciously gave us a cabin with 6 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and huge living room and kitchen overlooking the Elk River.

2) Beautify a nursing home courtyard so the residents have somewhere cheery and safe to go; make a frog friend while you're at it. 

3) Get all your groceries at a locally owned place, like Harps, and say hello to all the locals asking why you're wearing matching pink shirts

4) Hold a health clinic for the Burmese population screening blood pressures, BMIs and teaching on handwashing and good nutritional habits and...okay, mostly just ask them their 'story' and play with their kids :) 

5) Attend a yummy dinner hosted for and by volunteers at the Senior Center so you can see how service extends through a lifetime and experience firsthand small town community pride

6) Be in three states (Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma) at once by standing on the Southwest City cornerstone and taking plenty of selfies

7) Stuff yourself until you're almost sick at a breakfast buffet made by gracious parishioners of the United Methodist Church

8) Clean up, ride on and maybe fall in the Elk River when you Big Elk Camp gives you canoes and a view in exchange for picking up a tire or two (a little easier said than done...)

9) Powwow and reflect on your opportunities any time you can with each other to figure out what's going right, what we could do better and where we should go from here -- and always have plenty of snacks while doing so

10) Take a long nap in the car ride home and think about how "little by little" the relationships and impacts made in McDonald can be built upon in order to bring the MAB message back to good ol' MO

MAB Weekend - Morgan County (Theta)

Hi everyone! We are the women of Kappa Alpha Theta, and we spent the weekend in Morgan County. This was our first MAB trip as a sorority, but we hope to lead a trip every semester going forward. We come from different pledge classes, socio-economic statuses and hometowns. But as we traversed through the windy roads beyond Jefferson City, verging on car sickness, we never expected that the families in Versailles, Missouri would teach us so much.

We found our home for the weekend in Loving Hands Preschool and Daycare (a vague rendition of Sunny Side in Toy Story 3). Even more exciting than the Disney decals on the walls, was the abundant collection of VHS tapes. We even had the chance to pop in Sleeping Beauty for an afternoon catnap on Saturday.

On Friday night, we had the chance to go with the local 4-H club to buy groceries for families in need. Additionally, we met Sheila. Sheila was our coordinator for the weekend of service, and her story is phenomenal. She is one of the most giving, selfless people we have ever met. She will do anything for her family and her community. At the grocery store, she even saved extra money to bless a family in the parking lot with a $50 gift card. Just to give you an idea of her character, we'll tell you about one of our favorite parts of the weekend. She only bakes her famous "50 lb." lasagna once a year. When she found out this weekend was prom night, she concocted this wonderful homemade meal for us. She even went out of her way to invite us to her daughter's after-prom bonfire.

She taught us what it means to be a leading woman in your community. Later on Friday night, she took us to deliver food to a local family. This family had six children and no income. One of the girls wants to be a police officer and earn a living. Sheila encouraged the family to bring their daughter to 4-H and even offered to waive the participation fee for the young girl. This is what a leading woman is.

For the majority of the weekend, we served Sheila's daughter, Leah. Leah lives near her mother, but she has two children, one of whom is partially deaf. We served Leah by painting her house and assisting her with re-decorating.

Parts of our service were very tangible. We physically brightened the rooms with each layer of green and blue paint. Our work was unveiled before our eyes as the house turned into a lovely home.

But parts of our service were not so evident. The majority of our weekend was spent listening to Leah and addressing her needs. Leah is a victim of domestic violence, and she now has several disabilities due to her injuries. Although she is a very introverted person, we witnessed her bloom before our eyes as she shared more of her story with us and lit up when the sun came through the windows onto her newly-painted sand dollar walls.

On Sunday morning we painted the infant room at Loving Hands Preschool. We loved being able to give something back to the wonderful people who provided housing for us for the weekend.

Overall, our time in Morgan County was simultaneously very rich and extremely raw. We ate wonderful food, and Sheila's wonderful family never let us go hungry. We tickled and chased Leah's boys around their backyard. And we even sang "Happy Birthday" to one of our own in a Mexican Restaurant while the waiter smeared whipped cream in her face.

And yet, there were moments that were extremely hard. We were exposed to human suffering and pain. We met a family in Walmart that didn't have shoes for their son. And we learned about PTSD and sexual violence.

But then we met people like Sheila who care for the people of Versailles, Missouri so much, and we realized that wherever there is suffering, there is also hope. Wherever there is fear, there is also love. More than anything, she taught us to communicate love with our hearts and our hands. And for that, we are extremely grateful.

MAB Weekend - Scott County

Our MAB Thoughts:

1) The biggest takeaway from my first MAB trip is the power of teamwork. We were able to accomplish all of the projects we did today because we did it together. It is amazing to see what coming together can accomplish. #sikedforsikeston -Simon Capp

2) Today we helped out at a community garden. Although I was nervous because I am notorious for killing any plant I come in contact with, it ended up being a success. From picking weeds to painting tables, it was a really fun and rewarding experience. -Alexandra Larson
3) I love small town America. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone wants to make you feel like you're at home. Serving at the community garden, and getting to know Mike and Maude, really made me realize how beneficial something so seemingly small can make such a big impact on a group of people. -Emma Smoczynski

4) I Thoroughly enjoyed learning new efficient ways of gardening. Specifically including tilling, and planting. What a rewarding experience I had visiting with the wonderful citizens/family of Sikeston. The hospitality was beyond expected. #throwinRolls -Zachary Tallevast

5) If you're considering going on an MAB trip, go! I was hesitant to go, but I am so thankful I went. It was incredible to serve alongside a group of selfless peers I wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet without MAB. It was so awesome to see how much can get done when we all worked as one unit. -Molly Arand

6) The best part about today was the multiple connections we made within the MAB family and the residents of Sikeston, MO. The amount of love and appreciation we received was unreal. Definitely can't and won't forget Maude and Mike fersure. Lastly, It was really cool getting to see how teamwork can knock out days of work in some hours. Shoutout to the team! -D'Anthony Carter-Marshall

7) My MAB experience surpassed my expectations by teaching me that not all service needs to yield results right away. We may not be around to watch all of the benefits our service will produce, but the small steps will continue to make a tremendous difference in Sikeston's community. The church and community leaders were wonderful and welcoming, and I feel honored to have met them and been able to do some good for the home that they cherish so much. -Jamie Bachman

8) After my first day of service on an MAB trip, I couldn't be more pleased with how the day went. We accomplished so much in such a little time and the people we encountered were so grateful for our service. I was able to learn so much about community gardens and was inspired to attempt to plant my own garden! -Meghan Stuckel

9.) All throughout our service, I realized how passionate Maude and Pastor Mike were about their service to the community. After serving at the Nutrition Center, Lisa Hicks, Maude and Pastor Harris continued to express how appreciative they were to have us serve them. I loved how so much love was reciprocated between each MAB participant and our service contacts which made serving a lot easier and more enjoyable. Serving in Sikeston this weekend was definitely an experience of a lifetime! -Dionna Williams

10) I especially liked the community aspect of the trip. Everyone has worked to serve each other and to try to give back to each other and the community. A lot of times people forget that we are all here to serve each other and get caught up in our individualized lives. Instead, we tried to serve in any way we could, and thought about other people's needs. MAB's principles remind us of this and I would recommend an MAB trip to anyone! -Rokeith Daley

11) I absolutely loved seeing everyone serve today. Their willingness to do various tasks was incredible to watch and I couldn't have imagined spending this weekend serving with any other group. We accomplished so much, learned so much, and loved so much. The things we saw and learned today have left a permanent impression. I will forever be thankful for the opportunities MAB provides, the relationships we are able to forge as a result, and the service we are able to complete. Today was an incredible day of service. -Karen Patterson