Paula received a Farther Foundation scholarship to travel to Hawaii where she provided volunteer service to the community and challenged herself physically with outdoor adventure activities. Here are excerpts from her essay about her program.
My experience in Hawaii has inspired me to make changes in my life and my plans for the future. After being in Hawaii for three weeks I have become much more aware of my surroundings. I have learned a lot about the negative affects people can have on the environment and I would like to make a conscious effort to have less of an impact. Coming into contact with native peoples of the islands has helped to expand my horizons and to be a little more patient. The trip has also encouraged me to take initiative and volunteer whenever I can.
Reading about the negative effects people have on the environment out of a text book is nothing compared to experiencing it with your own eyes. The growth of invasive species that have taken over Hawaii is devastating. Trying to restore its natural beauty is also not the easiest work. On the trip I learned a lot about the problems the Hawaiian Islands are experiencing with garbage and landfills and the importance of recycling. Being mindful of recycling and producing unnecessary waste has prompted me to be more conscious with the choices I make that effect the environment.
Learning about the Hawaiian culture was one of the advantages of this trip. I not only learned about their culture I also learned to be mindful of the affect my presence could have on them and to respect the customs and traditions of the place we were in. It was truly an intriguing experience to give thanks for our food in Hawaiian! Even though that is not something I am accustomed to, it is a part of Hawaiian culture and was much appreciated. Reflecting on this trip I feel that I have become even more open and understanding to people and other cultures.
I was excited to get to volunteer to help the people and the community of Hawaii. As soon as the labor began though, it was sweat and physical labor like I had never done before; working with Habitat for Humanity was a demanding job. Working to restore indigenous species at Waipa was not any easier, while strenuously working in the summer heat, the pleasure in volunteering can be hard to find. At the end of each day though, when we could see the result and look at it with pride, we all felt rewarded for the effort we had put in and we each knew that we had made a difference in someone’s life. I admire the people who work that hard every day. It has inspired me to seek out volunteer work to help the people and communities around me.
I met so many new people and learned many things about myself. I pushed myself to test my limits, I surfed and kayaked and saw a whole other world in what the United States calls their fiftieth state. Hawaii is so much more, and it has shown and taught me more than I could have hoped for.