Instead of vacationing for spring break, a group of 35 Leaders Club teens spent their time off school focused on the hungry and the homeless in Nashville, Tennessee.
Teens from Taylor, Northwest Cary, Kraft, Alexander, Kerr and Finley YMCAs learned valuable lessons about what life is like for the less fortunate while serving in unique and creative ways.
The students suited up in coats and gloves before spending three hours inside the Nashville food bank’s freezer sorting frozen foods. They planted an urban garden and served in soup kitchens. They also spent time getting to know the homeless, offered up prayers at a health clinic for the uninsured, the homeless and refugees, and had discussions with Nashville police officers to get perspectives on homelessness in the city.
“These teens could have gone on vacation with their friends or family, but they chose service,” said Katherine Vance, Senior Director of Youth and Teen Programs at the Alexander Family YMCA. “A mission trip gives these students a sense of purpose and gets them thinking about other people. It gives them an opportunity to see a different city and how different people live. It helps them gain independence and build relationships.”
“I had not had the experience of a whole week in a place I wasn't familiar with, to serve others,” Morgan said. “An opportunity like this is so important for people to experience. It's important for us because we are able to step back and say ‘less of me, and more of others.’ Giving up time that I’d spend on myself, I decided to reach out to touch someone else's life.
No good things in this world come from people sitting back and just watching. They come from us being selfless and having the heart to go out and change circumstances for the better. That’s the meaningful part of this trip. Doing something for others that many people wouldn’t.
"When I help others I receive a joy that goes far beyond words," Morgan added. "It makes you feel good and it makes that community even stronger. Mission trips like these help you to realize that it only takes one person to start something wonderful. On this trip, I was able to be a part of that something wonderful."
Sarah Ansbrow, a sophomore, has been part of Leaders Club at the Taylor Family YMCA for two years. The trip to Nashville was her first mission trip.
"I don't consider giving up my time to serve others a sacrifice at all," Sarah shared. "I think that going on service trips and just generally volunteering is something that everyone should do. It not only helps other people, but it also helps you.
Serving others makes me happy; I love feeling that I made an impact in someone's life, no matter how small.
"I loved working alongside other Leaders Club members," Sarah added. "It was incredible spending the week getting to know such generous and kind-hearted people. I made a lot of amazing memories with the friends I made on the spring break trip. We still talk almost everyday and we get together every once in awhile to catch up. They were the most meaningful part of the trip to me, and being able to serve alongside them made it one of the best weeks of my life."
YMCA Leaders Club is a nation-wide community service based program that helps teens discover their full potential as leaders. It is a safe place where teens from all over the area can come and simply be themselves. Our goal is to challenge teens to serve the community, and to help them grow in who they are and lead those around them.