By Thomas Poegel
Lakes Area Leaders 4-H Club
June 27th, 2019
What makes you happy? Eating ice cream? Catching a big bass? Hitting a homerun? This summer I experienced true happiness when I decided to serve others. My trip to Washington state was a life changing experience because it taught me new things. It taught me to think more deeply, have a better listening ear, and remember that we aren't the only ones on this planet. Life is not perfect yet we dream that it can be. What really makes me happy is not money, fancy clothes, or a nice house. It’s seeing other people laugh and smile. I don't know what makes you happy, but I hope that whatever it is brings you great joy and that my report will inspire you to serve others.
Why go to Washington?
This summer I went on a seven day mission trip to Washington state with our church youth group. Our mission was to build relationships with kids of migrant families while their parents were at work. Some students, like me, lead soccer or basketball camps while others provided activities and a listening ear to children. This was important to me and my congregation because we could offer a smiling face to those who didn't always have one. For example, since they move a lot it is hard for them to make solid relationships. The church I attend has gone on mission trips to help people in need around the country. I was inspired by this act of courage and I wanted to be part of their work, so I went on the trip.
Impact at Missionary Site
Since most of the children worked in the morning we held the sports camps in the afternoon from 3:30-5:30. The first day of soccer camp we waited and waited but none of the kids came.We were not discouraged because we knew the migrant kids might feel uncomfortable playing with people they had never met (plus it was ninety-five degrees that day).
The second day when we went out to the site five brave kids came and some of them wanted to play basketball. Luckily the other sports camp group traded us for basketballs the day before so both groups could play multiple sports. The kids that came out and wanted to play basketball were: Diego, Hashus, Aaron, Kevin, and a little 3 year old girl.
On the third day we brought more basketballs, some tennis balls, and some footballs. We weren't just there to play sports. We were there to listen to their stories so we could understand who they were and what their life was like as a migrant child. One of the kids, whose name is Kevin, has to wake up every morning at five. He goes out and works in the orchards until twelve. Many of the people we talked to had the same story of moving from California to Washington and back just for work. It would be so hard to move every single year and leave your friends behind. What I took from my experience is that even with all this crazy stuff happening they kept pushing through and still smiling when it seemed so tough.
What I learned from my Experience
I used to think that if people were homeless it was because they had suffered from some sort of substance abuse, but when I was in Washington I learned from a speaker that only one in five people are homeless because of substance abuse. After what she had told me it made me think how did these people become homeless? Some reasons she listed were: rent was too high, people didn't get paid enough, or they had no family to go to if they needed help.
Many people think that if people are without a home that they can go to a shelter and they will be fine. The truth is that you are not just accepted right away. There are rules about how you can get in. In some places you need a cellphone, working car, and need to be sober for six months. It's not easy to get into shelters, and if you do they are not very nice living spaces, they are tight and cramped. Many of the shelters in Washington house only women and children.
One of the most important things that I learned from this trip was that you shouldn't assume things. What I also took from the trip is that it feels nice to do something good for people. This trip changed my mind about the world. I might not be able to solve homlessness alone or right away, but I can give support to those who can. Ultimately, serving and loving others is the most important thing I can do for this world.