I Chaperoned a Service Trip, and it Changed My Life

Author: Maria Pappas, Real Life Stories

In 2013, when I was a sophomore in college, I participated in a life-changing trip to Tupelo, Mississippi, through a program called Global Outreach.

For a Global Outreach trip, you’re placed on a team of ten students, a leader (who is also a student), and a chaperone. These 12 team members get to know each other throughout the semester via weekly meetings, and this culminates in the service project. 

The trip I went on allowed me to serve as a counselor at a summer camp for Catholic children, called Camp Friendship. The experience was, in a word, transformative.

Participating in Global Outreach Mississippi changed the way I viewed the country I’ve lived in my entire life, my faith, summer camp, and my relationships, just to name a few. The campers were the sweetest, and my team members were amazing individuals who I still look up to long after our trip ended.

So, naturally, when I got the chance to chaperone the same trip, for a new group of students, I jumped at the chance (actual jumping may or may not have been involved).

As a chaperone instead of a participant, though, the team-building process leading up to the trip was much more difficult than I expected. It involved trekking to the Bronx once a week on a Sunday night and arriving home after midnight (like, way after) before work on Monday. It was a huge time commitment and a test of patience as well. Like, “how many times can I hear the same question about what to pack for Mississippi without rolling my eyes” test of my patience.

It of course was all worth it when we got to Camp Friendship. I was ecstatic to find that the magic that had made me fall in love with the camp the first time was still there. Yes, the beds were still glorified pieces of foam, and the bugs were way larger than I remember (or could ever imagine).

But, being a counselor at the camp was also just as fun as I remembered, if not more so. The campers were just as sweet and hysterical, and each one of them took a small piece of my heart when they went home at the end of the week. I’d have to say that watching my team members be transformed in their faiths, relationships, and world views- the same ways in which I was transformed four years ago — was probably the most rewarding part. I learned a lot from my team, and was able to grow from working with them. 

I think it’s important to give back to what shaped you.

Global Outreach Mississippi 2013 made me into the person that I am today, and I wanted to give some students that experience by chaperoning the 2017 trip. It made me love summer camp and working with kids. As I continue on in my life, it’s nice to know that I can have these experiences any time I’d like, by doing some kind of service. I can continue to serve without wanting to change anything, and without expecting anything back. 

As a chaperone, my goal was to give students that same opportunity that I had to experience something new with an open heart, to fall in love with something, and to change their lives. 

So, instead of a glamorous beach vacation, or traipsing around Europe, my memories consist of tie-dying shirts and making up songs about fried chicken with nine year olds. And I absolutely think that I made the right decision — and returned with a slightly fuller heart.

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