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The Inevitable Return Home


Today's the day. We all knew that we would inevitably have to leave this jungle paradise, and I wish that that made it easier. The fact is, that it doesn't. It hurts. It aches. We have all given a piece of ourselves that we will never get back, and to leave it behind leaves me with an absence inside. We have all shed blood, sweat, and tears, pushing physical and emotional boundaries to the brink. We are battered and bruised. We are sore and exhausted. With everything I have given, I have received 100 fold. In the absence I leave with, I am filled with the smiles of the children whose lives we affected. I am comforted by the thankful embrace of the locals who, enlightened by our presence, greeted is like long lost friends. I am humbled by the extreme poverty these people live, and flourish in. I am hardened by laying countless tiles, mixing concrete, painting, scraping, and grouting together a brand new library for the students to use for years to come. I am bonded forever to the 17 others that made this inspiring journey, starting as strangers and ending as family. We all came with aspirations of making a difference, and that's precisely what we did. As I am nearing graduation and attempt to answer the question, "what do I do with my life?", I have stayed up late at night in fear of living and dying having not made a difference. When I get home tomorrow, I know I will sleep peacefully.


Post by Beyond Bama Nicaragua SB participant Mike Kallay


Friday/Looking Back

Today was our last day in North Carolina. Mother Nature, at least early on, did not provide us with a very friendly send-off: we awoke to a downpour that lasted through our first hour and a half of work, or so. Nonetheless, being the troopers we are, we arrived at Possumwood at 9 and got to work; other students cleaned cages or refilled food dishes while I worked on refilling the water tubs for the (rather territorial) ducks and geese. Later we moved on to cleaning up the surrounding area, removing many bags of various sorts of trash picked up from the sides of the road near Possumwood. After lunch we received a long-awaited opportunity to meet and take photos with some owls and hawks (see the photo below - I made a new friend!). By the time we got back to the house the rain had stopped and the sun had come out, so we had an enjoyable, relaxing last few hours before having to pack our stuff up and get ready for tomorrow's trip.


If I had to choose a word to describe what this week has been to me it would be "necessary". On top of the usual schoolwork responsibilities, the last few months of my life have been devoted to passing the actuarial exams, and a week of caring for wildlife and helping to maintain and improve their homes proved to be an excellent and very much overdue way to unwind after all those weeks of cramming insurance math into my brain. The warm, sunny ocean locale didn't hurt either; nor did my fellow trip-goers (tripmates?) with whom I formed friendships that I expect will last a very long time. I return to Tuscaloosa and my usual day-to-day life on Monday both fulfilled by all the hard work we did this week and refreshed by all the fun and relaxation I had time for in spite of it. I'm very grateful for all the wonderful experiences I've had this week, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.


Ethan Hart


Another Successful Day at Al's Pals!

"This week went really well! Both mentors and AlsPals2 mentees absolutely loved the animal themed curriculum and learning about zebras. During opening circle, I asked mentors and mentees, "If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?" The mentors and mentees got really into the question and put a lot of thought into their answers. When we started making the zebra masks, a mentee came up to me who had said their favorite animal was a zebra during opening circle. She said how excited she was to make her favorite animal that we had just talked about in opening circle. Mentors read the story about zebras to their mentees and had so much fun making the masks with them. At the end AlsPals of the day, I asked the mentees, "What is one thing you learned about zebras today?" and everyone started shouting out answers. As I called on students, they shared what they learned. You could tell the students saw the connection between the animal themed curriculum and zebras. They saw how making the zebra masks was related to what they learned. It was a great day!"


-Allyson Pitzel, 2nd grade Student Leader at Northington Elementary School

Hands on Tuscaloosa


On February 28th, 100 Students from The University of Alabama, Stillman College and University of West Alabama attended Hands on Tuscaloosa day. Two of our Al's Pals sites benefited from it: Central Elementary and Maxwell Elementary.

We have been trying to build an outdoor schoolhouse at CentrIMG_0074al Elementary school since August and we finally finished it during Hands on Tuscaloosa! The volunteers did two types of jobs during the day: landscaping with mulch, rocks, and filler dirt and painting planks with animated characters which were used as the classroom "walls." We were very proud as to finish the project just in time for spring and the children to enjoy the classroom with the great weather.





At Maxwell Elementary, volunteers helped with landscaping outside, doing paint touch ups and animation in bathrooms, and window cleaning. Although the Maxwell project wasn't as "glamorous," the students and school benefited just as much. We have also been volunteering with Maxwell Elementary since August - repainting the interior of the school by creating murals in the cafeteria, hallway, and bathrooms. Now the school is filled with colors and happiness everywhere.


Both projects have been a work in progress since the beginning of the school year. Al's Pals and the CSSV are extremely thankful to the hundreds of volunteers who have helped to improve and add some color to our Tuscaloosa elementary schools. We couldn't do everything we do at Al's Pals without our dedicated volunteers. Thank you so much for all who have served!