Spring Break is a time for college students to kick back and relax, but one of our sisters, Bella, decided to do something different. Bella went to Biloxi, Mississippi on a service trip through the University of Iowa and provided meals, education, and physical labor for those needing it in the community. Bella exemplifies our symphony in every way and was able to spread kindness by simply choosing to serve rather than relax over spring break. Read below to hear the impact this trip had on our sister.

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My journey for Spring Break 2018 all started when one of my old professors told me she would be leading an Alternative Spring Break trip this year. She, along with Karly Lent, who attended the Alternative Spring Break trip to Atlanta, Georgia last year, encouraged me to apply. Before I knew it, I was meeting with 15 strangers with whom I would spend my spring break. Along with the trip, I was enrolled in a class where we learned about the importance of community as well as how we should do service with members of the community rather than to the community. During this class time I got to get to know my class mates and soon-to-be travel partners even better and before long we were packing the vans at the IMU at 3:00 in the morning. The whole team took turns driving and after about 18 hours in the car, we had made it to our destination in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Our schedule was full and we were all excited to get our week started. On our first day of service, we made our way over to the Moore Community House, which is a daycare that provides early education to low income families. There, each of us picked a classroom to help out in and take the kids to recess. During nap time, we made some posters for the classrooms and helped in the garden. Directly following the Moore Community House, we headed over the Boys and Girls Club of Biloxi where we hung out with kids after school, playing basketball, heads-up-seven-up, picture bingo, and so much more.

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The next day, my team and I got up early to go to the Mental Health Association of South Mississippi which provides resources and support services for those seeking mental wellness and recovery in the Biloxi area. As soon as the members came in, we immediately began bonding with them. The day was filled with some amazing sheppard’s pie, a few rounds of bingo, a meditation practice, and a beautiful trip to the park for some volleyball and football. Although some of my friends and I admitted to being a bit nervous going into the day, not knowing what to expect, we all walked out of the mental health association with the feeling gratitude for our newly formed relationships.

On our final day of service, the team and I headed to Bread and Loaves, where we helped prepare breakfast and dinner for the homeless. It was really cool to spend time with the people that prepare these meals regularly because I got to witness the genuine love they have for the service they do. They work so hard to have everything ready for the meals, but still have time to catch up with the people that come in to eat. Once lunch was over and we were done cleaning, we said our “fair wells” to Bread and Loaves and drove to the YMCA where we helped with yard work.

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Before the trip, my friend Karly told me how close her team had become in just that one week together. Although I believed her, I never imagined that I would have become so close with 15 other students that were recently strangers. We often found ourselves in the kitchen cooking together, playing games around the church we were staying at, taking crazy pictures in New Orleans, and of course playing soccer at the beach. Since returning to Iowa, I talk to my friends from the trip every day, hoping that we can return to spend time with some of the greatest people we have ever met in the beautiful city of Biloxi, Mississippi.

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