Fort Pierce - Animals

Day 6:

Today was our last day serving with Save the Chimps. We went into the day with high spirits, ready to give our final day our all. We started the day in two groups. The first group stayed back at the maintenance building with Whitney. We made tire swings from donated tires, rolls of seatbelt straps and rubber hosing. Whitney also had us power wash some woven fire-hose segments and remove and replace the rusting hardware. Working with Whitney was always a great time. Whitney has incredible work ethic, but knows how to add a bit (or a lot) of humor to her work.
The second group went to the kitchens and prepped more raisin boards, tennis balls, “surprise” boxes (treats are hidden in paper shavings), and birthday presents. The birthday presents were handed out later in the afternoon to all of the chimps born in December through January. The treats and presents were gift wrapped and bagged by yours truly- and they were super cute.
We broke for lunch around our usual time, but when we arrived back at the break room we had a lovely surprise from Monica, our volunteer coordinator, and the rest of the STC staff: a pizza party! We were also given gift bags with STC calendars featuring our favorite chimps, and artwork painted by September, a chimp resident of the sanctuary. On the wall of the break room was a thank you banner made just for us. This moment was quite emotional for us, as we realized that our time with our site was truly coming to an end. The group lunch allowed us one last time to socialize with the crew and reflect on our time spent there this week.

After lunch, some of us went to Al’s Red Barn and Grill to pick up a large donation of fresh oranges, while some went out on the boat with Jeff. Jeff had us installing more screws into the fencing to stabilize the wooden extensions of the enclosures. Jeff is another incredible employee of the sanctuary, and a genuine joy to work with. While making our rounds on the boat we saw a 9 foot gator soaking up the sun on the bank of the moats, which was super cool at first but gave us the heebie-jeebies when we watched it slide back under the surface.
Our last event of the day was watching a feeding on Lou’s island. The chimps took their turns patiently collecting their dinners, and we got to see some tennis balls and birthday presents that we had prepared be distributed as well (which was very rewarding). S/O to Greg for letting us shadow his feeding shift.
Our day unfortunately ended with some tough goodbyes. We had an incredible experience throughout our week of service, and are so honored to have been welcomed into Save the Chimps. We can’t begin to thank the staff and volunteers at STC enough for opening up their doors (and gate) to us and letting us be a part of what they do every day for these chimps. The work was often physically demanding and tedious, but the wellness and excitement brought to the chimps made it all worth it. We have so much respect for all the work the STC staff and volunteers put in each day to keep this facility so well maintained, and to keep the chimps happy, healthy and entertained. Our on-site service may end today, but our relationship with this site has hopefully just begun.
- The First Fort Pierce

Fort Pierce - Animals

Day 4 has come to a close and we cannot believe we only have one more day remaining of service at Save the Chimps. This week so far has been an incredible experience. One in which we have to remind ourselves every day that this is real life.

Upon arriving to Save the Chimps, we were told we would be going to the "thirteenth island" where we would be doing hard labor with some of the maintenance men (S/O Jeff). After hearing this, we were all confused as we did not know there was a thirteenth island. Once we arrived at the "thirteenth island" we learned that it was just an area of land at the back of the sanctuary where they are hoping to build a future island or another primate dome that houses special needs chimps in coming years so they are able to house more chimps. Our task for the morning was to take apart 6x6 palettes that were covered with weaved fire hoses on one side. These palettes were originally made for the chimps to play with on their islands. This task was some-what difficult because it was more labor intensive than our other work that we had done previously this week; and not to mention the hot Florida sun beating down on us the whole time. With only three drills to use, our group figured out a system and was able to unscrew all the nuts and bolts within a few hours. Then came the fun part….demolition!! Each person got the chance to use the sledge hammer (if they chose) and take a whack at the wood palette. Huge shout out to Baylee and Josh for leading the team in their super strength and hitting the sh*t out of it…they made it look easy, and let me tell you it was not - shout out to Kylie for dropping the mallet during her first attempted hit, Morgan for almost hitting her foot, and Anna for actually hitting her foot. Within three hours we had the wood torn apart and put into a pile to go to the burning grounds and un-weaved the fire hoses and put those in a separate pile to be recycled for future use.

Because we finished our work early this morning, we were able to have a little extra lunch break where we enjoyed the Florida weather and went outside and some of us threw the ball around or soaked in the sun. After lunch was over, Monica came over with the best news we could hear- CHIMP TIME!! Heck ya! She took us in two groups over to the "special needs" habitat where we were able to interact with some of the chimps. It was a grand time being able to watch Jon (a cool participant) play chase with Clay (fav chimp), watch Clay and Mr. T (cute chimp) play tug a war over a rope, being able to use tickle sticks with Cheetah and Timmy (friend chimps), and watch Kylie (human participant) use her "chimp whispering" skills. We always love having the opportunity for chimp time which a lot of other volunteers normally don't get.

Once chimp time came to a close we were divided up into two groups, minus Josh who was taken away by Jeff to help the maintenance guys replace wood on the islands against the river. One group was assigned the task of putting hundreds of pinecones into large gray trash looking bins in order to get them off the ground so that they are able to last longer. The other group helped out in the kitchen making flour bags, which are brown lunch bags comprised of flour and a trail mix that are rolled and taped. They also had to make apple cartons which are drizzled with honey and covered with sunflower seeds and cranberries. We were able to finish these tasks early and get one more in before having to leave for the day. Monica took us back to the maintenance building where we were tasked with counting up all the leftover "Chimpmas" presents that were in the break room and then dividing them in separate equal piles. How many people does it take to count presents? Clearly not 12 because we could not figure it out. With this task being at the end of a long labor-intensive hot day, it took us a little bit to figure out a working system to count and divide. With trial and error (and a little patience) we were able to divide the presents and send one pile up to the kitchen while the other was put away into storage.

After a long day of work, we decided to just come back to the house, hang out, and play a game of whiffle ball outside before making dinner.

We are sad to realize that tomorrow is our last day of service but very thankful that we were able to stay and finish out our week despite the crazy weather coming. Our time with the chimps may be coming to an end but we will always remember the memories we have made with each other, the workers at Save the Chimps, and most importantly, the time spent with the chimps.

~ the funky fresh crew of Fort Pierce ~

Johns Island - Habitat for Humanity

Mizzou Alternative Breaks

Johns Island

Day 1- Friday

We pulled out of Columbia ready for a cross-country road trip to Johns Island, South Carolina. Our group of 12 students is excited to work with Sea Island Habitat for Humanity. We had a couple pit stops and after about 10 hours of driving we stopped for the day at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville, Tennessee. We played Codenames, told some funny stories, took a couple pictures with the cardboard cutout of Pope Francis and went to bed.


Day 2- Saturday

We loaded up the cars again and jumped on the road. After a few more stops including lunch at Bojangles and 9 hours of driving we made it to Johns Island. We were supposed to be staying in Habitat for Humanity's volunteer housing, but they were allowing individuals who had their homes damaged during Hurricane Matthew to stay there. They set us up in a beautiful beach house on Folly Beach. After settling into our spacious beach house, we went to Walmart to get groceries for the week. Proceeding three hours at Walmart, we got back to the house, made pasta for dinner, and played Mafia for hours. After making a game plan for Sunday, our free day, we turned into bed.


Day 3- Sunday

We went to explore all the sights of Charleston headed to Market and King Street. We walked all around downtown Charleston, checking out the Citadel and Waterfront Park. The locals recommended Fleet Landing for lunch and everyone really enjoyed their entrée, except Jordan. We planned to see more, but due to the 35 degree weather we decided to head back to the house. We ate tacos for dinner, played Spoons, and had a couple heated games of Mafia. We are ready to see what tomorrow has in store for us.

Day 4- Monday

We met the Sea Island Habitat for Humanity team. The Volunteer Coordinator ran through a brief orientation, the Director spoke about the families they have given a hand up to, and the Site Leader gave us a heads up on what projects we would be working on. After orientation, we drove to a site to work on laying the rebar for the foundation of a new build. Some highlights of our first afternoon of service included Jordan and Tyler cutting the rebar; Ben and Zach bending the rebar; Nikki, Allie, and Shivani using a surveying level and relearning fractions; Krista and Katie measuring out the foundation; and Maddy, Holly, and Regan tying the rebar to the chairs. Our first day of service was a success to say the least. We had chicken, green beans, and rice pilaf for dinner. Watched the Clemson and Alabama Championship football game and then turned in for the evening. Go Tigers!

Day 5- Tuesday

Our second day of service included working for another group of students from Marquette University. We spent the morning deshingling the roof of a one-story house owned by a veteran. Highlights from the morning included: Allie and Nikki conquering their fear of heights, Zach and Shivani replacing some rotten wood on the roof, Holly using a hammer for the first time, and Krista becoming fascinated with how handy the nail picker-ups was. We took a break for lunch and then went back to our original site for the afternoon. We finished setting and tying the rebar, so Habitat will be able to pour concrete for the foundation next week. Exhausted from our full day of work, we went back to the house and took naps. We woke up for dinner and played Never Have I Ever and turned in early.

Day 6- Wednesday

Our third day of service with Habitat for Humanity included deshingling another roof. Highlights from the day included the group learning to use a nail puller, learning to lay and nail drip edge, rolling out roofing felt, and replacing some rotten wood. The day wasn't complete without Zach busting his foot through the ceiling, which led to the construction coordinator having to plaster and repair the sheetrock. The biggest accomplishment of the day was preparing the roof with felt paper so we would be ready to lay shingles the following day. When we got back to the house the boys grilled burgers and vegetables then followed with banana foster for dessert. After dinner we drank some coffee, played yet a couple more rounds of Mafia, and talked into the morning hours.

Day 7- Thursday

We went back to the same house from the previous day and began laying out the shingles. We learned all about the pattern in which to lay shingles and how to nail them down. Our construction coordinators, Mike and Dan, also showed us how to measure and cut shingles when you get to the edge, along with how to weave the shingles at the seams of the roof. We worked together in groups of two to tackle half of the roof. We are planning on knocking out the other half tomorrow morning. After leaving our job site, we came back to the house and then went for a walk on the beach to see the sunset. The evening came to an end with stir-fry for dinner and a couple rounds of Codenames.

Fort Pierce - Animals

DAY 3:

Today's day began bright and early with the majority of our group getting out for an early morning run. We ran with the company of a beautiful sunrise and the nearby moo's of dozens of curiously watching calves. Shortly after, we packed our lunches and were prepped and ready to go for our third day of service at Save the Chimps sanctuary.

Upon arrival, we were given our main service focus for the day: painting. In Misery -oops, Missouri-, the task of painting a couple of buildings may not seem too desirable. With the sun forcing eyes to squint and skin to burn, it could be seen as quite a laborious task. However, with the help of 11 friends, an extremely helpful and encouraging staff (S/O Jeff), the mutual entertainment flowing between us, and the anxiously watching chimps peering through the windows of the buildings, the day flew by. Within no time, the 'Air Force' island was covered in a new coat of paint and everyone was in high spirits.

After completing our first task of the day, our group also had to work on practicing one of our key MAB principles: being gumby. This morning after we had already parked our cars in our service location's parking lot, we noticed that our carefully packed lunches were still happily perched on our kitchen counters. We took the misfortune in stride and decided to take a quick trip downtown to support the local economy. After hearing recommendations from the staff, Al's Red Barn Grill was the lucky winner (S/O Monica). We all enjoyed the likes of burgers, "wet" burritos (idk what that really means), quesadillas, and fried mac-n-cheese bites. It was delicious!

When we arrived back at the sanctuary after lunch, our group was split in two: one group headed on to paint 'Kylie's' island building and the other half worked on enrichment and nourishment activities. These activities would range from spreading honey over pages of magazines, slicing limes to be hidden throughout the chimp's islands, and stuffing craisin's into holes in bricks, which created a fun little puzzle for the chimps with the reward of success being a tasty snack.

While working on our respective service tasks, we were still able to find time to fit in some fun. This fun, of course, was centered around the chimps. Some of this was planned, such as our time spent with Clay, one of our favorite chimps. We helped Clay get his daily exercise in through games like tug-of-war (we didn't win) and a bit of racing back and forth outside of his enclosure. We also had some more personal contact with him in the forms of touching with a 'tickle stick', which is a three foot section of rubber hose that allows human and chimp to interact without violating the strict no-touch policy on the sanctuary, and by exchanging funny faces. The other half of the group got to have some different experiences, such as discovering the range a chimp has with a full mouth of water (it's far, and he came back repeatedly, which made painting next to the enclosures quite difficult) and seeing how the chimps are fed, thanks to the gracious keeper of 'Kylie's' island, Greg (Greg's a human if that wasn't clear). Also, as a full group, we got the rare experience of getting to actually go out on one of the chimp family's island. The chimps were all in their respective indoor enclosures in order to be fed, and we leaped at the opportunity to get to experience the sanctuary as the chimps do. Topped off by a two second chimp impersonation by Anna, one of our fearless site leaders, and the fantastic views from the top of the hilly island, it was quite the experience.

At 4 o'clock, we headed to Jimmy and Billy (Jimmy and Billy are not chimps or humans, Jimmy and Billy are cars) and drove east to the ocean to do a little sight seeing. We stopped by Fort Pierce's Manatee Center and caught a glimpse of a sleepy manatee, and then decided we might as well work on another principle: this is it. When one is five minutes from the beach, one does not just simply not go to the beach.

What started with just a couple pictures quickly escalated to people sprinting into the ocean, and we returned to Jimmy and Billy wet, sandy, and in the need of a shower. We finally reached home base, and were thankfully greeted with the news that we would not be heading back north soon due to weather concerns, but instead would be staying an extra day! This was definitely a big stress reliever for all of us and we finished the night with some tasty stir fry and a couple card games.

We can all agree that our third day of service was extremely eventful and we can't wait to see what's in store for the second half of the week!

- Fort Pierce Crew -

Always be Gumby, Some Ice May Get in the Way

As we stepped outside on our fourth day in Guin, our spirits and the temperature had significantly increased. We relived our elementary school days with packed bagged lunches and filed into our vans headed for the house. After a potentially missed stop sign but uncountable laughs and blasted music, we unloaded onto the sight ready to work. From the second the house came into view, there was already a noticeable difference between the house we had once seen, and what it was now. What was once a deteriorating house overrun with foliage and a porch piled high with trash had transformed into an active project that was being worked on with love. We spent the day raking piles of leaves, painting ceilings, and sanding doors. What may seem like mundane activities led to discussions of careers, horrifyingly awkward middle school relationships and everything in between. After hours of working, the dedication soon gave way to a built up of energy that manifested into an intense paint fight that left the walls but mostly our bodies covered. Our long work day ended in some lukewarm showers and combing paint out of our hair, until we were sternly called into the kitchen by Blake. With trepidation, we headed into the kitchen to hear that we were being sent home early in response to the No Travel warning issued by the state of Missouri. Our amazing couple days in Guin were coming to a premature end due to forces out of anyones control. However, our group was quick to look on the bright side: we began to plan staying together while in CoMo, volunteering together at the Columbia Habitat, and keeping our Groupme active. Our melancholy was soon forgotten as we entered our dinner with the Methodist Church. Each family had volunteered to "adopt" one of us, giving us all name tags and personal attention. We spent our final night truly connecting with the people of Guin, once again being spoiled by the unadulterated love that they never fail to give us. Whether it be home-cooked meals or just genuinely asking us about our plans for the future, we never felt like we were in a completely foreign place. Although our time may have ended early, the connections made with each other and the community have developed so quickly that it feels as though we've known each other forever. Our MAB may be over in Alabama, but it would be impossible to discontinue the friendshops we have made here. We ended the night with a bonfire, reading the notecards we wrote at the beginning of our first meeting, and all realizing that we have truly become a part of the MAB family. Whether it be site leading, participating, or even graduating college, each mmeber has gained something from these past four days that is irreplaceable.