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Show and Tell Tuesday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Hi! Happy Tuesday! 
I am excited to be linking up with Andrea today for her 'Show and Tell Tuesdays' series!
Today's topic is: A service project or mission trip you have been a part of!
So...back when I was a sophomore in college at Southern Illinois University, I was itching to have an "adventure," but I wanted it to revolve around working with kids.  A couple of my friends were applying to work at "sleep-away" summer camps...but I knew I wanted to do something a little different. Well, while I was at work one day (I worked at our campus' health/recreation center), one of the graduate students who also worked there told me about Camp Adventure and I was totally intrigued!
Camp Adventure is a program run by the University of Northern Iowa and it's mission is to send college aged students to military bases around the world to work with US military kids through summer day camp programs and summer aquatics programs.  The premise of Camp Adventure is to "Catch the Magic" and be a supportive, positive influence to military children who move frequently and whose parents are often deployed- in dangerous situations.  
I loved Camp Adventure's mission and I was REALLY excited about the possibility of getting to travel overseas.  So I applied and got accepted for an aquatics position (teaching swimming lessons and lifeguarding) on Kadena Air Force Base in OKINAWA, JAPAN!!
**I have to give a quick disclaimer- I unfortunately was not able to use my own pictures of when I was in Okinawa for this post. They are buried in a box somewhere in the storage part of our basement and I just didn't have a chance to go on a wild goose chase for them :) **

After attending an intense training "camp" at University of Northern Iowa and finishing up my spring semester at SIU, I was headed off to Okinawa! I did not know anyone else I would be traveling with- so when my parents dropped me off at the Chicago airport- I was happy to meet several people I would be working with throughout the summer! We took an 18 hour flight to Okinawa and arrived at Kadena Air Force Base super late at night.
I tell you what- for a girl who grew up in a small corn and soy bean town in Central Illinois- it felt quite surreal to be on the other side of the world!!
We stayed in bachelor's officer quarters and everyone had a roommate.  This is the building all of the Camp Adventure people lived in for the summer. 
After a couple short days of getting acclimated to the huge time change, living on a military base AND in being in a different country- we started working our job assignments!
Kadena Air Force Base is HUGE and they have several pools.  Along with about 5 other people, I was assigned to one of the smaller pools to teach swimming lessons and lifeguard.  
We taught swimming lessons, Monday-Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Our classes ran every 45 minutes and every single class was packed with the cutest little kids.  I was always exhausted by the end of the day- but it was SO fun. The kids were so cute, the parents of the kids were AWESOME and the people I worked with were AMAZING.  
So- just a quick side note- because the premise of Camp Adventure is to provide service and education to military children- counselors and aquatics instructors do NOT get paid.  We were provided our living quarters, our plane ticket to and from Okinawa and a tiny stipend of about $13/day for food....which I think is absolutely incredible considering this is technically considered a volunteer experience! 
So like I said, Monday thru Friday I was teaching swimming lessons and lifeguarding.  We also participated in a lot of recreational events in the evening on the base.  Anything to be around the kids on the base and be a positive presence for them!

We also had some free time on the weekends to explore Okinawa on our own- which was SO AWESOME.  Me and 5 other girls I worked with went in together and bought a van to drive around the island- I know it sounds CRAZY- but you can buy a car REALLY cheap over there- HA!  
We loved exploring Naha, Okinawa's biggest city!
The most amazing thing about Okinawa, aside from its wonderful people and the presence of our incredible military, is the beaches.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Every single time we went to the beach- I was completely blown away by the absolutely crystal clear water, perfect white sand and just sheer beauty.  
 My friends and I had all gotten certified to scuba dive prior to coming to Okinawa, so we spent most of our free time scuba diving in all the amazing spots Okinawa has along its coast.  We saw so many beautiful things, on land and under the water.  It was truly incredible!
 I feel SO fortunate that I followed my heart at the age of 20 to pursue an adventure that would allow me to travel and more importantly, to be a part of such a special group of children. 
I met some of the MOST amazing military families and was so privileged to live along side them for several months. 
I LOVED that I got spend my days doing what I love (being in the water is my FAVORITE) while working with the cutest, spunkiest little kids that I would have never even known about if I hadn't traveled to Okinawa, Japan.  
And on top of all of that, I had the opportunity to build relationships with so many different people who were on my team and explore one of the most gorgeous islands in the world.
It was truly the experience of a life time and I am so grateful for it!!












4 comments:

  1. What a fun and unique adventure!! Sounds like a great experience for a college student!

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  2. What an adventure! I didn't realize an opportunity like this was out there - great to know for when my kids are in college! Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Wait. You BOUGHT a VAN! What a great story.

    ReplyDelete

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