By: Ryan Rohlf, ’14
When you think of spring break, what comes to mind?
Finding a sunny beach in Florida to work on a tan?
How about heading north to Canada to help poor and homeless people?
That was spring break for 10 members of the Simpson community, and while they may not have needed suntan lotion, they wouldn’t have traded locations.
In fact, they say the trip changed their lives.
The group spent time helping the less fortunate by volunteering at Siloam Mission in Winnipeg, Canada. Siloam Mission is an organization that assists the poor and homeless in Winnipeg by helping them make the transition into a self-sufficient lifestyle. This is the second year a group of Simpson students has spent their break in Canada helping Siloam Mission.
Throughout the week, the group served meals to patrons, sorted donations at the mission’s clothing center and interacted with the patrons throughout the whole process. At the end of each day, the group reflected about service and their impacts to Siloam Mission’s community.
For freshman Jacob McLain of Adair, this experience hit home. McLain said th he has relatives in the Des Moines area who are personally battling homelessness.
“It was inspirational because at the end of the day you sit down and you probably have Buckle jeans on, you have an iPhone in your pocket, and you have a Mac computer sitting in front of you, and you think your day was bad,” McLain said. “To see that some of them have so little and still have so much joy is very humbling.”
Sophomore Trina Elam of Yuma, Az., who went on the trip last year as well, said that she was humbled by how philanthropic and service oriented the less fortunate were.
“Seeing people without much to give that are still willing to give something just kind of made me think that I’m a relatively well-off college kid, I should make more of an effort to help out,” she said.” It just hit me again like, ’Oh wow, I could be doing so much more.’”
Freshman MacKenzie Bills of Altoona said the decision to go was two-fold. Bills said that she initially wanted to see Canada and learn more about its culture, but the trip also paralleled her passions for philanthropy and combating homelessness.
“You forget what it is like to not be able to clean yourself on a daily basis, to not be able to choose what you would like to eat every day, to have to succumb to the thought that you are helpless in some ways,” Bills said. “Just being there changes how you view life, and I think that is important.”
Luke Behaunek, the director of Residence Life, accompanied the students. He said everyone came way with a feeling of, “What else can we do in our community?’ For Behaunek, the most rewarding experience was seeing the students have their eyes opened to new experiences and to new realizations that their lives are relatively easy compared to some of what the patrons were experiencing.
“On a day to day basis you don’t really realize the privileges you have,” Behaunek said. “Those small things we take for granted really do mean a lot for other people.”
Simpson’s Engaged Citizenship curriculum encourages the Simpson community to explore and an evaluate pathways to social change through a variety of avenues, including civic engagement.