- My project was a community service project focused on environmental sustainability. We took on three different projects including: Invasive species removal, native species restoration, and trail building/maintenance.
2. When I arrived on the island, I immediately began walking to my first destination. Upon arriving to the first beaches, I saw many homeless people posted just outside the beach with tents. My project group was primarily people who were in their 50s or older. Our group was also small. We came to Kipahulu national park and began doing invasive species removal. Throughout all of these processes, I learned something new. I learned that poverty is a struggle even in a tropical paradise. I learned that age is not a barrier to a wholesome relationship and friendship with people. People can connect with all people. And I learned that the Earth requires a delicate balance to maintain its biodiversity that we are constantly tampering with. Small islands are among the last places on Earth to have been altered by humans, yet the invasive species were running rampant where we were working.
3. The relationships that I built with my project group were very powerful and impactful. Some of the most impactful moments were after the hours of volunteering when we were just hanging out back at camp. This is when I had the opportunity to learn about the lives of my group members in detail. I will never forget this piece of paper that our group leader Tom gave me. It said: Teachings of the seven chakras: 7. Live in the present 6. Seek only the truth 5. Surrender personal will to divine 4. Love is divine power 3. Honor yourself 2. Honor one another 1. All is one. He gave me this after I showed him the book I was reading. We were discussing our life philosophies. My biggest take away was that, if all these people are this old and are doing ok, then I can be doing ok at that age too. And there is some comfort in that, being as young as I am and still having so much uncertainty about my future.
I spend a lot of time alone during my travels. To get to my campsite where I would begin volunteering, I hitchhiked. Throughout this experience, I met so many brilliant people and world travelers. I met a lot of people who left where they were from because they were unhappy and looking to battle their demons in a better place. I stayed in an international hostel for some of my time on the island as well. This was all a part of the process of being reminded that your problems will follow you everywhere, regardless of where you are, what you’re doing, who you’re with or where you’re going. No matter what life looks like on the surface, everyone is always battling their own demons. Everyone always has tension underneath the surface that you don’t always see. It is easy to look at the world from this surface perspective and forget about all of the emotions that people carry. The problem with raw emotion and feeling is that you can’t see them. You can’t physically see them. So many people forget that they exist.
I also met a man named Jim during my time volunteering. The interesting thing about Jim was that he was A LOT like me. We had vast similarities. The only difference, Jim is 60 years old. I learned so much from Jim during my time volunteering in Hawaii. Jim faced many of the same struggles when he was my age. He had a girlfriend that he didn’t know what he was going to about when he graduated because he was moving. He also graduated with a low GPA which is the situation that I am in. But he got a job nonetheless. And now he is the senior vice president of a large private securities company. He said he struggled to get his first job but he got one nonetheless. Talking to Jim taught me a lot. Jim taught me to be patient and let things play out. To make decisions for myself and not let anything get in the way. Observing Jim and all the other people in my group gave me a sense clarity. I often feel caught up in the stresses that come with being a 21 year old but spending time with people who are much older than me reminded me that everything is going to be ok. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and everything will be alright. I can’t let small hurdles keep me on the ground. I can trip and fall, but the most important thing is that I get right back up and keep going.
4. This change is valuable because it helps shape me into a better person. A person who is ready to take on adversity. A person who is ready to face my fears and keep on going. It’s important to recognize that time heals all. With time, everything will play out. And odds are, I’m not going to die. Sure there are many trials and tribulations of being a human being but the only thing that you can do is be you and keep moving forward. It is vastly important to take setbacks as they come and to just keep moving forward. It is easy to get caught up in the monotony and clutter of life. But all you have to remember is to look past it. Live in the now and appreciate life for all of things that are right in front of you. Not look back too far, or forward either. But to focus on right here. There is so much more to life than the things that keep us consumed on the average or typical day. We just need to take those things in stride and use what we have to our advantage instead of our disadvantage.
Fresh picked avocado.
Native species restoration/ Invasive species removal.
Trail building and trail maintenance.
Park ranger Matt leading our project at Kipahulu National Park.