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.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

2017 YNIA Tucson Trip

As my second YNIA trip comes to a close here in Tucson, Arizona, I'm able to take time to reflect on what I've learned over the past week. This trip has been full of emotions, happy and joyful, all of which contributed to our understanding of what it means to truly serve a community. My group spent the past week painting the outside of a religious education building located on the outskirts of the Yaqui Tribe's reservation. The work was arduous and painstaking, and seemed to never end. The painting was messy and required meticulous brush strokes to give the building a clean aesthetic. But the effort we put in is dwarfed by the efforts of those we served this trip. The Yaqui Tribe has a long history of the challenges that were placed before them as they tried to keep the land they lived on safe for themselves and their loved ones. However, by being a resilient people and enduring through the challenges that faced them, the Yaqui people are now thriving. But they still are gracious and kind, and thank their ancestors for everything they have. I think that working on this reservation has changed me tremendously. I have learned that through hard work, loyalty, and solidarity with those who surround you, anything is possible. Kindness and love binds people together so they can work towards a common goal. It is thanks to the people at my work site like Veronica and Francisco, who helped us along our journey, that I have truly learned what it means to be a moral person. In closing, I'd like to thank all the chaperones and staff who made this trip to Tucson possible. Until next year…

YNIA 2017 Tucson Trip Blog

                 The trip to Tucson, Arizona for the 2017 YNIA trip is my second YNIA Mission trip, and it has lived up to all expectations, and then some. Every part of the trip is great, making every second of the day the best it can possibly be. My site this week is at the Yaqui Reservation in Tucson, and my group's job is to repaint a Religious Education Center located on the Reservation. Most of us in the group probably thought that the task would be worthless and just a time filler, when we first read the email the week prior. Little did we know that we would be indirectly impacting a lot of both adult and children's lives. We directly worked with three wonderful people; Veronica, Maria, and Francisco. All three work at the Religious Ed. Center, and all have made the job enjoyable and fun to be around. I never thought that I would have so much fun sweating through shirts while endlessly rolling paint on a seemingly never-ending wall. I have learned a lot from the surrounding people at the site, whether it is my group, Veronica, Maria, Francisco, or even the people walking by leaving compliments. The main thing I have learned from these surrounding people is to leave judgement behind, and try to see the best in every person you meet. There is no need to judge people by the way they look, talk, or the way they live their lives, as it only prevents relationships like the ones that we have made this week. We were sent to Tucson for a reason, and that reason is to spread the message that there is no place in this world for misleading judgment, but there is always room for new relationships, like the ones that we made with everyone we encountered. Who would have thought that painting a building in the sweltering one hundred ten degree heat would have joined us YNIA members closer to both the people of Tucson and God? I have a feeling there were not a lot of people thinking that as we were grouped around in the parking lot at 2:45 in the morning last on Sunday. As we now approach coming full circle in a few days, I believe many people, including myself, now know that God does work in special ways, as we experienced in Tucson this week.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Casa Alitas

final thoughts

hey everyone! my name is Maddy Green and this is my fourth and final trip with YNIA. It is with a heavy heart that I am nearly halfway done with the week as over the past four years I have made amazing friends, created lasting memories and been shaped as a person. I will be attending the University of Rhode Island in the fall, and I hope to continue mission work in college, and I thank YNIA for continuing to open my eyes to the world around me. Before I talk for ages, I would like to mention that I can already tell this year in particular will always hold a special place in my heart. We are on the completely different side of the country and are dealing with issues that are very prevalent in today's political climate. The experiences I have made and the people I have met will forever alter the way that I go forth in my life. I came here with certain stereotypes, judgements that have been fed to me ( whether it be through media or others opinions ) and I can say that all of those thoughts have vanished. As we have completed our third day at Casa Alita's, I continue to grow more and more. We have continued to strengthen the bond with the 5 month year old twin's, Mary and John, and two year old Holga, we continued to paint the mural that we started in the beginning of the week. While it continues to be extremely hot with the dry heat of over 100 degrees, something us people from Massachusetts aren't used to, the work is well worth it. I've watched my friends create beautiful artwork, I've become close to the group we are traveling with, and I have learned more about the area. While that is all great and meaningful and something I hold dear, nothing compares to the extreme change in mindset in regards to issues such as immigrants and healthcare. Today we had the special opportunity as told to us by a sister at Casa Alitas to go and listen to Sister Simone Campbell, the leader of Nun on a Bus, an activist religious group who travels around the country and discusses further ways to diminish issues that the world is facing.

Today's topic was fitting as it was in regards to healthcare and the new bill that may be passed. The speaker mentioned how the new bill would be "spirituality of death" rather than the "spirituality of life" and especially for those of us that are people of faith, that everyone has a fair chance. No matter the age, economic status, background, healthcare is crucial. It's unspeakable that healthcare is not a right anymore it is becoming a privilege ( and an expensive one at that. ) Political views aside, for me personally, I connected the two subjects that I have been surrounded with, which was immigrants and healthcare. The two for me represented the treatment of everyone as equal and fair. We are all God's children and wherever or not someone came from a different country, is a different religion, color, gender, they all should have the right to be treated with the respect and dignity that every human deserves. God made each and every person with a purpose. There are no mistakes and to treat people as if they are, or as if they are less because they may have a lower economic status or a different background is unfathomable and downright disgusting. The speaker today was very moving and tied in all of the subjects I've been exposed to. As some of my peers have spoken about in the blogs earlier this week, the people we have met have all touched us in previous ways, and like some have mentioned, are amazing people, and my life has been enriched due to me meeting them. I will go forth with a strong hand in the treatment of all humans as equal, and will continue to try and bring back that mentality home. The blog is a great tool to attempt to showcase the major happenings that are occurring this week, both mentally and spiritually during this week in Tucson. I hope that everyone takes into consideration the posts and take to heart what each student has to say.

- Maddy Green


Hello, my name is Hannah Morrison and I'm an incoming sophomore at BVT and this is my first YNIA trip. I was definitely a little apprehensive at the beginning of the week, but I have warmed up and I feel right at home. This week, my group and I have been sent to GAP. GAP is an organization that receives donations and purchases household items and food at a discounted price, and then continues to distribute the food and items to local foster families in the community. So far during the week, my group and I have mass produced breakfasts and lunches for foster families. We have made over 800 sandwiches, 400 meatballs, over 20 meatloaves, and made snack bags of strawberries and crackers. We have also put together and organized bags for foster children ranging from toddlers to teenagers containing a blanket, stuffed animal, a toy, and personal hygiene products. I am looking forward to continuing to help at GAP this week along with attending future YNIA trips.

Sunday to Wednesday

Hi everyone, my name is Riley Bartolini and I am going into my senior year at Northbridge High School. This is my third trip and it is by far the hottest one with temperatures reaching up to 114! This week I am doing indirect service meaning I will not be able to see the outcome of what I do, only be apart of the process. I am working with a group called World Care and it has been great.

World Care is a non-profit organization. They take old technology like computers and salvage what they can. The parts that are unsalvageable are recycled. With the technology that they can save they rebuild commuters and create programs for schools and children to use. They are apart of tools for schools and this only costs the buyers $20. World Care also packages books and school useful items and sends them out to schools here in the US and overseas to Africa or Chia or south to Mexico. They also are partnered with hospitals and send out medical supplies to hospitals here in the US or overseas to countries where disasters hit- like hurricanes, tsunamis, or earthquakes.

On Monday my group and I went to an old ITT building. ITT was a college that was receiving government funding but lost that funding and the schools all shut down. I am not sure about the other ones but the one here in Tucson shut down so quickly that everything left behind (I even found Christmas cards that were written). We went through the classrooms and cleared out any stationary classroom supplies and computer/ technology parts. We had So Many keyboards and mice. While we were doing this, other people that work for World Care where taking doing the cubicle walls and tables and clearing out other things.

Yesterday we went to the actual quarters of World Care. For as much as they do they don't have much land but they make the most of it. We painted two walls and a bathroom. Everyone painted the two walls while myself and Belle painted the bathroom all day. The color we used on the walls and bathroom is blue. It is a nice color blue- it's light blue but not necessarily baby blue.

Today we did the touch ups to the painting, painted the door and the wood that goes around the door white. We all moved books onto a palette and also weighted books before putting the box on the palate. The heaviest box that was moved today was 111lbs.

I am not sure what the rest of the week has in store but I think we will be working on advertising and will be going back to ITT. I guess we'll have to wait and see!

Working in the 115 degree heat

Pascua Reservation Team

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

World Care

Today my group volunteered painting at an organization called World Care. World Care collects supplies, refurbishes computers, and fixes other electronics so that they can be donated to nearby cities or across the world. Today we painted 2 walls and a bathroom in the World Care office and we will be helping to organize and assist in the breakdown of computers in future visits this week. Volunteering at World Care helps us to realize that things such as computers that are so common for us could be something that changes another person's life.

Lindsey Sanderson

YNIA Day 2

Today at our site, San Juan Diego Center, located on the Pascua Yaqui Reservation, we continued what we started working on yesterday, painting the building. Before we even reached our site, we were already laughing, happy to be there and ready for the day. We finished painting one side and nearly the second in less than 4 hours, which was no easy task, but we made it fun and the time flew by. The people at the center provided us with water, gatorade, and fruit, which also made the work easier. Painting is uniquely rewarding because you can watch your progress as you go, moving closer and closer to your goal.

Emma Holtz

My First YNIA Experience

When going in to this week, I really had no idea what to expect. I have never been away from home without my parents for a week, never flown on a plane, and never been to the Arizona area. The most i've done to help people is volunteer at a soup kitchen but I believe that I was called for something more.
My first day, I already made new friends, and the only person I can thank for this is God himself. We connected through our beliefs and spirit in him, which I believe is the deepest connection that one could have. And they have guided me through this whole process and opened my eyes as well as my heart.
On Monday, I learned the reason behind the painting we were doing. These people journeyed here for a better life. Once they gained the land, they only had 60 days to register themselves and their families. Some dropped what they were doing, and travelled as soon as they found out. That to me, is what this is all about. Helping the people who would do anything to live a better life, but either don't have money, people, or materials to accomplish their goals. That's why it brings me joy to know, that I was able to help someone reach that goal, and that all of us together are helping to change the world.

Jackie Puda

Sending Mass 6/24

Principles of Catholic Social Teaching

The seven principles of Catholic social teaching are:
  • Dignity of the Human Person.
  • Call to Family, Community and Participation.
  • Rights and Responsibilities.
  • Preferential Option for and with People who are Poor.
  • Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers.
  • Solidarity.
  • Care for God's Creation.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Eye-Opening First Day

Hello everyone!  My name is Ilona Regan, and I just graduated from Northbridge High.  I will be attending WPI in the fall, and plan to continue service work during my time there.  This is my fourth and final YNIA trip as a youth.  Since this is my fourth trip, I've fallen into a sort of routine with these trips.  You wake up early, arrive on your work site about 9 am, work for the day, leave the worksite around 4, and then have programs and prayer with the entire group of youth.  However, this year has been far from routine.

This week, I am working at Casa Alitas.  It is a two bathroom, five bedroom house where families can stay while they sort their paperwork after crossing the border.  Typically, people present themselves to Border Control, are processed by ICE, and then are dropped off at a bus station with no food, water, money, or method to contact their family member that is a U.S. citizen.  Casa Alitas was founded so that ICE can bring these people to a house where they can shower, change their clothes, and enjoy a meal rather than buy a bus ticket while dealing with a language barrier.

When we arrived in the morning, there were two families staying in the house.  One family consists of a mother and two-year-old daughter from the Congo.  The other family is from Cameroon and consists of a mother and twin infants about six months old, whose father was apprehended and detained after crossing the border, leaving the mother and children with Casa Alitas.  During the day my team and I played with the children, and started to plan and paint a mural of the Lady of Guadalupe.  In the afternoon, we received news that about eighteen families were processed by ICE and needed a place to stay.  However, the families that Casa Alitas would receive were not arriving until about five p.m., so YNIA would be off site for the processing.  However, when three new families arrived at Casa Alitas this evening, they needed extra hands.

A couple girls and I helped with the process of intake at Casa Alitas this evening.  The paperwork was intense, and the families only spoke Spanish.  Luckily, some of the youth and chaperones speak some Spanish, so we were able to help with the intake process and enable the families to feel more at home.  It is hard to fathom leaving your home country to arrive in a strange one, with the hopes of escaping poverty, only to be presented with a language barrier and a stack of papers to fill out in an alien language.  Although this is only the first day of service work here, it is safe to say that it has impacted me immensely.  In a single day, I was exposed to more cultures, policies, and ideas than I feel I ever have been.  The amount of information that has been presented to us is overwhelming, but I feel as though through hard work and prayer, we can stand in solidarity with those who are experiencing difficulties in their lives.

La Casa Alitas: A Reflection

Hello to all,

My name is Katherine Pingeton and I currently attend Holy Name Central Catholic High School in Worcester, Mass. This upcoming academic year, I will be a senior. A few days ago, I found out that the site I will be at throughout the week is called La Casa Alitas. Border Patrol turns the immigrants over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), who provides them with documentation and orders to report to an immigration hearing. After this, ICE drops the immigrants off at La Casa Alitas, which is considered a hospitality center.

Upon my arrival at La Casa Alitas this morning, I was immediately filled with joy. When I walked through the front door, a little girl, who goes by the name of Holga, ran up to my group and I. Holga kept laughing and smiling, and you would have never suspected that her and her mother, Joyce, have experienced the traumatic experiences that they have. Joyce is from the Congo, as well as Holga, and has had two husbands murdered. Despite this, the two of them appeared as joyous as could be.

In addition to Holga and Joyce, a family of three are staying at La Casa Alitas. There is a mother, who was born in Cameroon, who has a set of twins, Mary and John (five months old). Throughout the day, I was lucky enough to spend time with John, rock him to sleep, feed him, and hear his little (and adorable) giggles. I have never seen a baby smile as much as John did, or laugh as frequently as he did.

I was lucky enough to be able to go back to La Casa de Alitas after supper, with two other group members and one of my leaders. When we arrived, there were three Guatemalan families at the house, all of whom barely spoke English. One man, who came with his son, told me that he left Guatemala because of the poverty. In order to get to the United States, he had to walk through the desert and eventually came across a metal wall. Together, him and his son climbed the metal wall and suffered burns on both their hands and feet due to the metal. Yet again, despite their struggles, the two were friendly.

The way the United States' government deals with immigrants is not humane in any way, shape, or form. It'd be fair to say that the immigrants' dignity is washed aside and all humanity that the immigrants possess is stripped from them. For example, the ICE agents will take the immigrants' shoe laces, just to make it harder for them to walk. In another instance, once the immigrants are detained, some of them are taken to a place referred to as "ICE Box," specifically because the temperature is freezing. The temperature is kept so cool in order to torture the immigrants, in a way, and make them uncomfortable. Why are we, the people of the United States, doing this to a group of people who solely want to make their lives better and the lives of their families better? Why are we labeling immigrants as criminals, or sexual predators, or gang members, when almost all of them are the exact opposite? Picture Joyce and her Holga, Mary, John, and their mother, the Guatemalan family mentioned above, do they sound like criminals, sexual predators, or gang members? No, they do not.

As I'm reflecting upon today, I realize that the people of the United States need to remember two things: not to judge others and to be open. Most immigrants are fleeing from their countries because of the poverty or danger. In other cases, families leave because they don't want their daughter to become a "gang woman," who is constantly raped, or their son to become a gang member, who will most likely be killed. Instead of judging others and being close-minded, the people of the United States need to act as the oil of the world. We need to heal a world that condemns immigrants for wanting to improve their lives. Start thinking about how we can end such condemnation and abuse that immigrants undergo. Start thinking about how we can make a difference in a world that condemns people for wanting freedom. Start thinking about how you can make a change.

Thank you for your time and God bless.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Tucson: Day One

Hi guys, this is Hannah Fitzpatrick blogging. This upcoming fall, I'm going to be a senior at Holy Name Central Catholic High School. This is my first year participating in YNIA. I decided to join this mission trip that Saint Patrick's Parish is participating in because my best friend, Katherine Pingeton, invited me to join her and her parish. In preparation for this mission trip, through the multiple events and community services that YNIA participated in, I easily made new friends within the youth group and felt immediately at home. 

Today was the big day to travel to Tucson! We had to arrive at the Church for 2:45 am, which is really early for me. Despite waking up early, I was excited to travel because I love going on adventures on airplanes. The next thing I remember was boarding the plane and taking off. Immediately after take off, I conked for most of the flight. The part of the flight where I wasn't sleeping, I was watching "Top Chef." Once we touched-down in Phoenix and walked outside, I felt like I was in an oven...baking. It was so hot and the temperature did nothing but rise. We then got in our rental vans, and drove about two hours to Tucson. Before we arrived to our destination, we stopped at Wendy's for lunch. We were having such a good time just sitting and laughing because we were so overtired. Because of our loud laughter, a woman told our group that she was so happy to see us laughing because people are normally grumpy in such extreme heat. Once we got to our destination, we immediately met amazing people from Nebraska, who claim that a "bubbler" is a "water fountain" and that "soda" is "pop"…how strange. I learned more about the work site and the people I will be encountering tomorrow and am looking forward to it.

It's getting a little late and I should probably get to bed now. Also, thanks to Katherine for helping me with my spelling and writing this blog. 

Until next time, 
Hannah Fitzpatrick

Fourth and Final

Hello all! My name is Emily Chickinski and this is my fourth and final year participating in the YNIA mission trip. I am humbled and very gracious to have spent my last year here in Tucson. Right now I'm writing you from Pope Pius X Church in Tucson, Arizona.

Today went very well for the group. After all of us boarded a Foxy Travel bus at 3 in the morning, the day lasted very long without a lot of sleep, for some of us at least. I can tell you from personal experience that the 6 hour flight from Boston to Phoenix took a lot out of us. The 35 of us handled the lack of sleep very well and pushed through the semi-long drive from Phoenix to Tucson.

My group, consisting of Ray, Maryanne, Annemarie, Maddy, Hannah, Ilona and Katherine were so hungry that we stopped at Wendy's to enjoy the local cuisine. In Wendy's, all of us were overtired and in the weird stage where you cannot help but laugh at any and every possible thing. As we were leaving, a couple of elderly woman stopped me and said how happy they were to see all of us laughing at the top of our lungs and having such a good time. I proceeded to tell her it was just from exhaustion, but the ladies still thought it was great and wished us happy travels.

Today was a great first day in Tucson, minus the 114 degree heat. I'm hopeful for the start of tomorrow and entering our work sites. Make sure you keep checking back for daily entries from YNIA veterans and rookies!

-Emily Chickinski

Service begins

Hi, my name is Bianca DiVitto and this is my fourth YNIA trip that I will be attending. I am very nervous but excited to be taking this trip along with the other volunteers to the other side of the country. Being able to serve others is something that I really enjoy. Even knowing that you made a difference in maybe just one person's life is such a satisfying feeling. I can't wait to experience yet another life changing YNIA trip and I am thankful that God has given us the opportunity to go serve those in Tucson, Arizona.

Friday, June 23, 2017


Welcome to our blog! We are trying something new this year to keep the community updated on our service work in Tucson! Thank you all for your continued prayers and support of our program! Check back for the first entries in a day or two.