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The Westcoast Connection Blog

Life Changing Experiences

If I Had a Hammer-California Community Service

Dear family and friends,

It’s been a busy time since you’ve last received a blog update from us – we’ve completed our time at Habitat, enjoyed some of San Diego’s biggest attractions, and made our way up the red carpet to . . . LOS ANGELES! Here are some of the highlights we’d like to share with everyone back at home.

After four days of tough physical work, our time with Habitat for Humanity finally came to an end. It was exciting to work with Vanessa and the whole Hernandez family, getting to know the people who would live in the houses we have helped to build. We continued to make excellent progress on the houses, particularly on the final day when we combined forces to “raise the roof” – we cut, lifted, and nailed down the plywood on the roof of one of the houses. Arielle, Danielle, and Sara were with the roof crew all day, honing their hammering skills and leading the team on this enormous undertaking. On the final day of building, Roman also discovered his talent for using a chalk line. A special thank you should go out to Joe, our master builder and on-site supervisor, for his willingness to teach us new skills and to help us problem solve when we found tasks difficult. Joe also encouraged us to learn the lyrics to “If I Had a Hammer,” by Peter, Paul & Mary so that we could sing the song together as he accompanied us on the guitar. Please check out our video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMF-ypcS2e4&feature=youtu.be. Sharing this song with Joe was a great moment . . . though perhaps we don’t have a future as a choir? One thing that we can say with absolute certainty is that Habitat for Humanity was an experience that we will not soon forget!

Surf’s up! One of the most memorable group activities so far was surfing along the shore of Encinatas, a beach town just north of San Diego. After a dry land lesson to learn the techniques that would help us get on our boards, we headed into the water to catch some waves. It seemed like within seconds of entering the water, Judith, Gabby, Jake L. and Ilana were up on their boards and riding them right to the shore. We had shaky legs to begin with, followed by some comic falls into the water, but we all made great improvement by the end of the lesson and everyone managed to stand up at least a few times. Our surfing day was also the most perfect weather that we experienced in San Diego, and we were able to enjoy an afternoon of swimming, building a castle, and playing sports on the beach. Nour had everyone howling over her dance moves, all performed behind unsuspecting counsellors and caught on video. To cap off a great day, we headed to Belmont Park for an evening at a classic boardwalk amusement park. After riding the wooden roller coaster (which was significantly scarier than it looked!), we headed over for a group session of bumper cars. It really was an amazing day!

On our final day in San Diego we headed to the city’s world-famous zoo! – lions, and tigers, and bears . . . oh my! After taking the tram around the park and learning about various conservation efforts, we split into groups and visited our favourite animals – although we may not have known what Sabrina’s favourite was, it became apparent when she returned with her entire face painted as a panda with a mouthful of bamboo! Finally, our last night in the city was spent at a Padres baseball game . . . sadly, it was time to say goodbye to San Diego and move on to the big lights of the City of Angels!

Our time so far in Los Angeles has been just as jam-packed as the first ten days of the trip. On our first full day in the city, we visited the Museum of Tolerance, an interactive educational centre devoted to remembering the Holocaust and encouraging all people to act when they see any form of prejudice or discrimination. Visiting the museum had a great impact on our entire group, especially having the chance to listen to a survivor of the death camps. We were also impressed by Matthew, one of the managers at the museum, who shared his experience of a near fatal homophobic attack and the twist of fate that allowed him to meet his attacker years later, and eventually form a friendship with him. Blake impressed group members and our guide at the museum with his knowledge of history and his passion for his work with Holocaust remembrance back home, while Ricki demonstrated insightful thinking and engagement in the museum throughout the day. All trip members should be commended for their participation, respect, and complete commitment to the experience.

On Thursday we started our second service project at the Orange County Rescue Mission located in the city of Tustin, just south of Los Angeles. This facility provides food and shelter as well as a stable place for homeless people and their families to build the skills necessary to find work. We began the day with a tour of the building, then broke into groups to work on landscaping and sorting food into boxes at the food bank. During our lunch break, we had the chance to meet some of the residents of OCRM – Erin and several other trip members connected incredibly well with the children in the lunch room, and are excited to use these skills at the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Monica next week! Shoshana spent her lunch hour with a woman and her shy daughter. Jake C. played the important role of “mac and cheese” supervisor in the food box assembly line, while Gianna led the box construction team. Lindsay and Erica had a great afternoon keeping the grounds of the OCRM looking fantastic with a team of other weeders. Great teamwork was demonstrated by all!

Hoping all is well at home! It’s hard to believe that our trip is halfway over . . . but there’s still so much to see and do! After one more day at the Orange County Rescue Mission, we’ll be checking out Venice Beach this weekend and then heading to a water park. See you in just over a week!

The Westcoast Blogger