Saturday, July 1, 2017

The journey

Hello my name is Maya and this is my 3rd year involved in Young Neighbors in Action. This year I spent my week at the Yaqui Reservation painting their religious education building. It was a hot week to be painting outside for five days but it was still fun and i learned life changing lessons during this week of service. I was able to step outside of my comfort zone and go up high on the ladders when I used to be afraid of heights.

Meeting the members of the Yaqui tribe was touching for me. I met Veronica, Maria and Francisco, all members of the tribe who welcomed us into our community and made us family. Francisco was the maintenance worker who came every morning bright and early to paint with us, show us what paint to use where and help us set everything up. Today when he was saying his goodbye he told us that we will always be his friends and his friendship comes from the heart. That touched my heart because we worked hard alongside him all week and shared our love and through God's communitywe have made another life long friend.

Another experience that touched my heart this week was when the teens in the Yaqui tribe came to help us paint. It was interesting to get to know who they are as people, their culture, and what they like to do everyday. I met Amy who plays almost every sport you can imagine. Also, her mom today gave us flowers from her father's funeral because it is Yaqui culture to celebrate death with flowers as the Yaqui believe that the entrance to heaven is filled with beautiful flowers. When she was giving them to us she told us that her father will watch over us in the rest of our journeys.

The Yaqui tribe taught me so much about community and what it means to be family. They welcomed us into their culture without a second thought and told us on the last day that there is always a place for us in their tribe. I made so many new friends, learned a lot about myself and strengthened my connection to God. I was blessed for these 3 years so far and can't wait for more.

Culture Night- Pascua Yaqui Reservation

Mural at Casa Alitas

Casa Alitas goodbyes

A new garden for Dora

Love our crew

Darius, our fearless leader

Friday, June 30, 2017


Hi everyone, my name is Nicole Sanderson and this is my second YNIA trip. I recently just graduated Holy Name High School in Worcester, MA and I am heading off to Western New England University. This week I have been serving along side 5 other students and one chaperone at GAP Ministries. GAP Ministries began in 1999 as a nonprofit for people in need in three core areas: Family, Community and Ministry. In the beginning of the week we were all working alongside Chef John and Chef Cassie in the kitchen at GAP. On the first day we made sandwiches after sandwiches after sandwiches (I never wanted to eat another sandwich again). Throughout the week, we continued to work in the kitchen all day until the middle of the week when we started taking shifts between the kitchen and the warehouse. My first job in the warehouse was sorting through bags that the foster kids receive when they enter one of the GAP Ministries foster houses. We checked to make sure every bag had a blanket, toothbrush, toothpaste and a few toys and possibly a stuffed animal. Most of the foster kids get taken from their homes in the middle of the night and don't come with anything other than the clothes that are on their body, so these bags are for them to have something of their own, just for them. On Thursday, we sorted through boxes and boxes of medicines and health care products and organized them all into bins, which the medicines and health care products would later be put on a shelf for the foster parents to take for free.
Personally, working at GAP Ministries has opened me to a whole other world I could never have imagined before. Hearing stories of the some of the kids in the GAP foster houses absolutely broke my heart. They struggled in their younger lives but fought back to make sure they made themselves have a good life, where they are happy. One girl that we met while we were there was Val. She had a tough life but is now living in the GAP foster home and changing her life. She got to meet up with her younger brother, who lives in another foster home, for the first time in 4 years. Her brother immediately reminded her and when she was telling our group about that experience, I was completely moved and could never imagine not seeing me sister for 4 years.
This experience has undoubtedly changed my life. My group and I hope to come home and make bags for kids in the foster system just like we did at GAP, along with blessing bags that we will keep in our car to give to the homeless on the streets while we are driving by.

Eyes wide-open

This week has had a major impact on me and my life! This week I worked at casa alitas  which is a home for immigrants that have been captured by ICE as a safe place to get food clothes a shower and a good night sleep. We met two women with little children who have traveled to America and unfortunately there husbands are detained. This week has not only opened my eyes to immigrants it has opened my heart. Seeing the kids open up to us the first day even though we were strangers it was crazy. We painted a mural with our lady of Guadalupe and quotes in different languages saying "all under the same moon" to represent those that were left behind as the others traveled on. My life has changed.  Seeing the impact eight of us had in the backyard that looked so dull and bland to the beautiful garden planted and mural we painted. God has worked through me in many ways this week with my love of playing with children, being creative with the mural or just talking with Dora and doing whatever she needed me to do was incredible. I will treasure the experiences I have had this week the memories I've made the people I've met and the lives I've touched even if it was in the smallest way like holding 5 month old John and letting him fall asleep in my arms he may not remember me but I will remember him and always making him giggle and holding him. God has challenged me to step out of my comfort zone but was by my side the whole time. God has opened my eyes with first hand experiences and sad stories but everything happens for a reason and I will use this experience and hold it in my heart the rest of my life. 
Annemarie Haas

A Week in Tucson

      Hello. My name is Belle. I have just finished my first year in high school and as of tonight… my first YNIA trip. Despite being a newcomer, I had some amazing experiences and was tasked with more responsibility than I could ever have imagined. My week was supposed to be spent with World Care, an organization that distributes school supplies to schools and students in need. However, I was taken away from my post a few days in to serve a different role.
      The group working with 'Casa Alitas', a temporary home for immigrants, needed a figure as the center of their mural. They wanted to paint Our Lady of Guadalupe and no one felt like they could do it. I was asked to try it out because it's known that I enjoy drawing. Now I'm a pretty anxious person, right? Nervous about anything and everything. So the thought of painting a *permanent* figure that held so much significance to the Christian communities in the southwest terrified me. I accepted the offer though and really tried my hardest to make it look as good as possible.
      This part of the mural is the center of the alter. It's meant as a space for the migrant families staying there to pray before and remember loved ones who are no longer with them. It's… a big deal. It took so much hard work. It tested me in ways I had never been before. I endured blazing heat, the struggle of replicating a drawing onto an uneven brick wall, and the pain of sharp rocks digging into my knees. I kept a mantra to myself as I worked. "For them." This was to remind me that no pain I felt came even close to the pain these immigrant families experience. I am incredibly thankful to have the stability and luxury that they lack in their daily lives. I persevered through it, holding the image of the people who would bow in my place close to my heart.
      Normally I hate my own artwork. I look at it and see only flaws and mistakes and 'what-if's. This time I saw only love. I'm so proud beyond words of my mural. Of my artwork. I'm grateful to the people of Casa Alitas and to the other, older girls who helped me through the process. This is the most meaningful thing I've ever created. In the sense that I'm leaving a piece of myself here in Tucson of course, displaying my signature and painting for years to come… but again, my meaning isn't what's important. This mural will mean so much to everyone who sees it, everyone who prays before it, and everyone who starves for a better life. I hope that our artwork can be a bit of hope in a strange, scary new world. I hope the love I poured into it is returned and felt over and over again.