SUMMER TRIP SPOTLIGHT: Douglas Castle, Jamaica And a HUGE shout out to AOII at University of Alabama!!

Douglas Castle, Jamaica:  Where the mountains meet the sea.

From my journal January 3, 2018:

We left Montego Bay this morning at 8:30 a.m. headed toward Ochos Rios on Philip Goldston Hwy.  This highway is the main highway that is used to travel between most of the big cities along the Northern coastline.  

There is a good portion of the ride where you can look to your left and see the turquoise waters of the calm, majestic Caribbean Sea.  The highway is lined with beautiful landscape.  Palm trees and fruit trees to the left and rolling hills to the right spotted with beautiful green foliage.  This goes on for miles until after we leave St. Annes Bay, a small coastal town with amazing food and the hustle and bustle of people going on about their day.  We stopped in St. Anne's Bay for lunch and a quick visit to the bank (well, quick might be a little over stated.) 

We ate lunch at a little restaurant situated at the top of a narrow flight of stairs in a two story building on a side street away from most of the people conducting business on foot on the main drag.  Lunch consisted of the most amazing jerk chicken with rice and peas and "vegetables" that is literally what we would call cole slaw in the U.S.  It was super amazing.  And extremely fresh. 

Once we were done with lunch we headed back out for our hour and a half journey into the beautiful sweet smelling mountains near Nine Mile, the birth place of the legendary Bob Marley.   The ride was full of pot holes and good conversation and seemed a great deal shorter than the time showed it had been.  When we got high up in the mountains I could look out of the window to my left and literally see where the Caribbean Sea met the coastline of this beautiful country.  Far above any beaches I could see the majestic beauty of this island that I've made my second home.  The mountains made their way down to the coast as if they were arms, open...waiting to greet the newest wave of visitors.   I really had never seen such beauty. 

When we arrived in Douglas Castle residents there came up to the car to greet Dr. Douglas (yes the name is part of the town's name) as they were excited to see the former resident that had departed so long ago to go fulfill her dreams and education in the United States.  It had been six years since the last time they saw her.  Everyone was so excited she was home that when they saw her in the car they would come over to greet her and see how she was.  Even the deaf man, who knew no sign language, but could communicate with everyone by reading lips and making hand gestures.  It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.   There is one road into and out of Douglas Castle.  We were on it.  I couldn't help but think it felt as if we were the main attraction in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade even though we were the only car traveling through.  

We met with the local early childhood school principal and went over how we could best help her community and learn from what they were doing there in regards to education.   We assessed the site at which our service learners would be working and talked about where we would house the students to immerse them into the community there.  We toured the local church which is currently serving as the make shift classrooms for the children while they construct a new building down the road.   As the church is small, and the accommodations are challenging to say the least, there are times when they can not have school because some of the classrooms would be exposed to the elements if it rained.  I saw the reason for the hurried nature of the new construction happening as we toured the church.  

Then, as quickly as it felt we came into the community, we had to say our goodbyes to make the journey back down out of the mountains to where we were staying in Montego Bay.  But not before we made way to Nine Mile so I could pay my homage to the much respected Bob Marley.  As a historian who specializes in slavery and civil rights, I can not tell you the magnitude of my gratitude for my tour guides taking me there to see this iconic place.  I knew it would have to be an excursion for the service learners as well. 

Our journey back ( a different way) took me through different towns with more amazing food.  One thing about Jamaica, you will never be hungry there.  

Want to see this awesome and amazing place and learn about the community while living there for 10 days in June?  Make sure to apply today so we can get you started!! 



PRICE:  $1875.00 plus airfare  $350.00 deposit; payments monthly following. 


We visited with AOII at University of Alabama this week and they were AMAZING!! They were awesome at our Kahoot game and asked GREAT questions!!  Since they were so awesome we are giving away another COUPON in their honor!!!  If you mention "AOII" in the coupon section of the application, we will give you $50.00 off the trip of your choice!!! So hurry and get your savings!! If you are an AOII member you get $75.00 off!!!



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I always knew Rum was SPECIAL........... COUPON INSIDE!!

What do Nine Mile where Bob Marley was born and is buried, Climbing Dunn's River Falls, the Appleton Rum Estate and the Blue Mountain Coffee Plantation have in common?  You.  That's what.

You could be there this summer.  ALL WHILE STAYING IN A LOCAL COMMUNITY AND LEARNING ALL THINGS JAMAICA.    July 7-17, 2018 

What about the Heritage Center in Cherokee Nation Oklahoma, a replica Native American Village, cultural nights, basket weaving, and story telling?  What do those things have in common?

You.  You could be there this summer doing all of these things while staying within the community and working alongside community members doing projects and "voluntouring" in this amazing place.   June 9-16, 2018

Ziplining, cave tubing, Mayan Ruins, snorkeling, petting stingrays?  Working with beautiful amazing wonderful kids that love to love on you and smile the day away with you?  Sound like a BLAST?  Come with us as we have a BLAST in Belize!!!   That's right.... you.  You could be doing all of that and changing your life FOREVER!!  June 18-30


JAMAICA is jammin, Cherokee is climbing, and Belize is blowin up!  Don't miss your chance to check out these amazing places at a fraction of what it would cost you to do it alone!!  And you get to do it with a group of students just like you!!! 

Are you all in?  Take the plunge today!!


Let's do this y'all.  

TODAY 1/31/18 ONLY:  Sign up and use Coupon "APPLETON" and get $75.00 off of your deposit.

Summer Service Learning Trips are Heating Up!

Summer Service Learning Trips are Hot Hot Hot!

Want to know what we do when we go on these trips?  Take a look at the video below of our fall trip to Belize!

We've been out and about talking in classes to students just like you about all the amazing trips we have to offer for our summer service learning and they are getting super excited about having somewhere to go.passionately. during their summer break!!  

Here's a breakdown of the trips we've got going on this summer.  Don't wait!  Apply today to reserve your spot!  They are already going super fast!

CHEROKEE NATION  Talequah Oklahoma June 2018 working with the Methodist Children's home for unplaced foster kids and aging out foster kids and also head start.  We will work and live in the community while learning all about the culture through the Heritage Center, Cultural night, learning basket weaving, story telling and seeing a replica village.  Plenty of things to do on this one!  Don't miss out on this amazing week!

BLAST IN BELIZE  Belize City, Belize  late June 2018  This is one you DEFINITELY don't want to miss!  We love Camp T.O.U.C.A.N.!!  This will be our second annual summer camp and we have so much fun the kids never want us to leave!! Water fights, team building skills, fun healthy ways to eat, financial literacy, progressing literacy skills and we do all of this and they have so much fun they don't even know we are disguising the learning as FUN!! We will also explore Belize through cave tubing, zip lining, Mayan Ruins, a boat adventure to a barrier island, snorkeling, and swimming with stingrays and sharks!!  WHAT???!!!??

DOUGLAS CASTLE JAMAICA  July 8-17 Travel with us to the mountains of Jamaica where Bob Marley was born and is buried (which we will go see!) where there are gorgeous waterfalls you can CLIMB and where we will stay within a community while they host a homecoming for all of the residents that grew up there that have moved to different parts of Jamaica or even overseas!  We will work with children there showing them integrated learning concepts while making a fun half day camp that includes showing them how to eat healthy fun snacks, fun ways to learn financial literacy and more!   Come with us as we explore Jamaican culture, cuisine and become part of the family.  We can promise you, you will never want to leave!


Until next time,


Her name is Leah...

The day I forgot to think about me...

I live in Atlanta.  Weather here is as bi-polar as it gets.  Hot, humid, cool, humid, rainy, humid, hurrican--y, humid, snowy and humid.  I can take the heat with the best of them.  I have traveled to quite a few different Caribbean countries and experienced more hot......humid.........heat than any one person should have to endure in a lifetime.  It gets pretty freaking hot in Atlanta in July...... same in Belize.

So, it came as no surprise to me when I was in Belize at the end of July with a group of service learners that (excuse my southernism here) I was sweating like a "stuck pig."  It was hot, my hair was in a deep state of frizz unlike any frizz it had known before it. If any of you have ever netflix binged on the series "Friends" there's an episode where Monica is in the Caribbean and her hair is having a full on frizz on steroids affliction.  I was Monica in this moment.   Made no difference.  I was about to take on 86 kids ages 3-12.  I could handle it right?  

The day started out ridiculously loud.  86 kids that have no idea who is in charge and really don't care, makes for a loud insanely crazy mess of a mess day that leaves one feeling as if the bus just hit them, backed up and invited 78 of his bus friends to come and help him hit you again.  You try to claw and clutch your way out of the hole that exists in time during those insane 7 hours to regroup and figure out where it all went wrong.  And then you go back the next day and shut that down like the beast boss you are because it's eat or be eaten.  And I wasn't ready to be 86 kids next chicken thigh.  Y'all hear what I'm sayin?

But on this first hot, ridiculously humid day, there was a little girl that caught my eye.  Quiet. Just sitting there observing trying to see who she wanted to trust and who she knew she couldn't.  I watched her for a few minutes and then kept kind of inching closer to her.  Finally, as she was making dirt pudding in her snack crafts class, I went up to her and started talking to her.  She didn't talk back to me.  She looked down.  I sat down next to her.  Moved closer and said, "Before this week is over, we will be BFF's."  She still didn't say anything but there was a small upward bend in the side of her mouth that indicated she might be trying to hide a smile.  Her name was Leah. Affectionately now and forever more known as "Miss Sass." 

Leah spent the day quietly figuring me out.  I knew she needed time and I let her have it.  More and more during the day she would move closer to me and eventually started asking if she could help me clean.  I told her, "Absolutely!!!" and gave her some small chores to do to assist me.  After she would finish each task I would tell her how amazingly she did and she would smile a little more each time.  Leah was starting to trust me.  Finally toward the end of the day she was hugging me and asking me about my life, my family, how many kids I had etc.  She let herself trust me enough to figure out what I was doing there.   As the week went on I saw Leah open up to all of the teachers, asking them if she could help or do a task that we needed help with.  The other teachers started to catch on and let her help them as well.  But she would always find me in the crowd and come give me big Leah hugs.   Leah was letting her heart open, Leah needed to feel that warmth and love from whomever would give it to her.   She had found her place if even just for a week. She was finding a reason to feel confident and wanted. 

Leah was no different that most of the other students we had at the camp.  They came everyday to understand their purpose to try to get a handle on the craziness in the world around them.  They come from homes without electricity or running water and 99% of them don't have clean drinking water on a daily basis.  Most of their parents are either addicted to heroin some of them are HIV/AIDS positive.  Some of them have lost their parents to one or both.  They wake up every morning trying to make sense of a world that there's little sense to be made. 

When I am speaking to classes, I tell them the story about how these kids got hot meals every day at camp. And every day like clockwork you would have them asking us to write their names on their meals so they could only eat half of them and take the rest home....most of the time not for themselves.....rather for other family members they knew would not have eaten that day.   

And that first day, in all its crazy hectic chaos I found myself not once thinking of how hot I was, where the sweat was dripping from, if or when I would eat, or when the day would end so I could get off of my feet.  I watched them all in disbelief as they smiled and laughed and teased their friends and made fun of the teachers.  I watched as they begged for additional "water pouches" to quench their thirsts so much that they wouldn't have to worry about it when they got home for the night.  I watched.  And I was amazed.  I was amazed at how they had all adapted to their normal.  How they just needed to be kids amidst the craziness and understand that for a hot second in time someone was there to ease their burdens if just for that crazy one day.  

After watching that I understood the next day why 99 kids showed up instead of 86.  I understood why they were sad that we didn't do a Saturday Sendoff instead of a Friday end to camp.  They didn't want it to end.  

Neither did I.  

They taught me so much.  Me.  This mom of six 46 year old person who thought she had the whole thing figured out.  I learned how to....not think about myself at all.... in one day.  


If you aren't doing a service learning trip one later.........explore.........find out who you want to be in life.......experience another culture, language, lifestyle than your own I promise you it will change your perspective on all.the.things. 

If you can't do a service learning trip, do something.  Get out in your community, ask someone where you can help, find your purpose through someone else's eyes, ears, nose, and tastebuds.  Feel life.  Feel adventure.  Give back.  Just give.  

We have spring and summer spots available so that you can go meet Leah.  She's quite the celebrity now.  She's featured on Ardenti's video about summer camp.  Her smile lights up a room and she will change your world forever.  Come with us during your spring break and see how working in a community other than your own makes you see things through a whole other lens.  If you can't come spring, come with us in the summer.  If you can't do it now there are ways you can help and give to this community or others. Feel free to contact us to find out how.  

If you would like to help provide clean drinking water for this community we are asking at this time for everyone to donate the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks so that Ardenti can provide these kids with drinking water fountains in their community.  You can donate here:

If you would like to sign up for one of the few spaces we have available for spring break or for our summer camp you can apply here:

Live. Laugh. Give. Love. Travel. See things.  Understand Compassion. and


Until next time,

It's been fun chatting.



Leah and her smile...

Fall Fell, Spring Sprung and Summer is HEATING UP!!


You guys were ON IT!!  We filled our Fall trip, we only have a few more spaces open for Spring (HURRY UP THEY ARE GETTING FILLED FAST) and because we had such an AMAZING response we felt it was a good idea to open up summer registration!!  WHAT WHAT??!!


Here's all the 411 about our summer program:

  • 16 days/15 nights in Belize City Belize  Dates:  July 6, 2018 through July 21, 2018 
  • Hosting a summer camp for kids for 11 days focusing on literacy, social issues and just having a good old fashioned kick ass time. 
  • Stay in a dorm style bed and breakfast within the community
  • 4 different excursions including ziplining and cave tubing, mayan ruins, snorkeling, and a TBD excursion closer to trip date.
  • All Breakfasts and two group meals covered
  • All excursions covered
  • All lodging, transportation (except airfare) and insurance covered

COST FOR TRIP:  2100.00 + airfare (Around $450.00 ) 

There's a few ways you can do the program fees:

  1.  Pay deposit now,  monthly $300.00 starting November 1, 2017 Final Payment due June 1, 2018
  2.  Pay deposit now, three bigger payments due November 15,  February 15 and May 15 of $600.00
  3.  Pay in full at time of application and deposit.

And for those of you who still want to get in on the spring break action here are the deets on that trip:

  • 10 days/9 nights  Dates: March 9-18, 2018
  • Hosting after school literacy program in Belize City for kids at the Unity School in the Colett District and at the Gateway Center.
  • Stay in dorm style bed and breakfast with house hosts Lewis and Julia (who happen to be the most AWESOMEST people in all the land) 
  • 2 kick ass excursions cave tubing and zip lining and snorkeling
  • local field trips to hospital, University of West Indies and more
  • Shopping trip
  • All Breakfasts and two group meals covered
  • All excursions covered
  • All lodging, transportation (except airfare) and insurance covered

COST FOR TRIP:  $1490.00 + airfare (around $450.00 to $500.00) 

Also ways to pay for this trip: 

  1. Pay deposit now, monthly payments of 198.33 starting October 1, 2017 ending March 1, 2018
  2. Pay deposit now, two lump sum payments of $595.00 November 15, 2017 and January 15, 2018
  3. Pay in full now and go shopping for Caribbean clothes!! 




Act Now!  No need to wait!  Apply at the link below and we will get you on your way to Beautiful Belize for Spring or Summer break!!

It's been fun chatting, 


Until next time!!



Last Call for Fall!!

Last Call for Fall Y'all!! 

Hey Guys, 

 We are winding down now for recruiting for our fall trip to Belize and I spoke in some really fun classes this week!!  Shout out to UNG Oconee Campus for being super engaged and asking the BEST questions and to Alpha Omega Epsilon Sorority at University of Alabama for sitting through my lame jokes and still making me feel good about it by laughing...  We finish up Thursday the 21st of September at the UNG Volunteer fair so UNG Gainesville Students, stop by and see us for those amazing free things you like for us to give to you!!  

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Here are the things you need to know so you can be a part of this amazing fall program:

  • The first three people to sign up between now and Sunday September 24th will get their deposit of $300.00 waived.  That's right that is $300.00 off the total cost of the program!!  
  • You need to act fast.  Because we are also offering payment plans for this trip it will go quickly so that means click below to go sign up now!

  • Don't worry.  If you don't make the fall trip sign up, and you want to do our spring trip, registration is open for that now as it was requested that we open it so people could go ahead and reserve their spots!!  Spring trip is during spring break and what could be better than hanging out in Belize for your spring break??  But don't wait.... those spots are flying!!

  • Can't go Fall or Spring??  We've got you covered.  Email me at and let me know you want to be a part of our 2 week summer program and you will get priority sign up a week before registration opens for everyone else!!  

THERE IS NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT TO         Go. Passionately. 


It has come to my attention there is something REALLY REALLY bad going on here....

You guys, 

I am not going to post this huge long cray cray blog this week but I am going to talk for a hot second about something I am seeing in 100% of the classrooms I am talking in this fall.  


Every class I go into I ask this same question:  " Show of hands, does anyone here know what service learning is?" 

And every time in every class room not a single hand goes up. 

So I have made something for you all to briefly describe what service learning is and why it is so beneficial to you guys. 

  1. It impacts the communities we work in by giving much needed assistance where ever it is needed.
  2. It impacts our service learners by gaining a clearer understanding of a global community
  3. It impacts the service learner's community because most often our service learners come back and give to their own communities
  4. Lastly, it affects our service learners career beyond college by making their resume stand out among their peers!

So here's a quick video to sum up what service learning is.  


And a few more notes:

  • It is affordable
  • you can do it
  • there are many ways to go
  • fundraising
  • payment plans 
  • etc.



Let's play a game: I say a word, you give me a definition.

Reflection.... What does this word mean to you?

When you think of the word reflection, what image does it trigger in your mind?  When your teachers or professors ask you to "reflect" on something, do you ever really stop and think about what that really means?  Do  you "preflect" on what your reflection is going to look like, sound like, and feel like?  Not as easy as it sounded right?

In just about 13 days our student service learners will be embarking on their journey to Belize to host a summer camp for children that are kindergartners through fifth graders.  This is no small feat.  For weeks we have been creating curriculum, thinking of activities, thinking about what our trip is going to look and feel like, and thinking about how excited we are to be going.  However, on July 10th during our pre-trip meeting they will be given an assignment.  Their assignment will be to preflect on what this journey means to them right now and what they think this journey is going to mean to them during the time that they are there and then after they come back.  This won't be done by writing a paper.  This will be done through some critical thinking and discussion and some preflection exercises I have prepared for them.  

So, think of something you will be doing soon that is of significance to you.  It may be a job interview.  It may be meeting your boyfriend's parents or maybe him meeting yours.  It may be trying to get a promotion at the job you already have or possibly getting into a program at school that is important to you.  Try this exercise about a week or so before you do it.  It may be a little out of your comfort zone, you may actually feel silly doing it.  But after you do it a few times I promise you will start to see the difference in how you are experiencing the experience!  

1. Find a mirror

Yes.  That's right go look in a mirror.  That in and of itself is the first step to REFLECTION and guess what..... you will be staring at your reflection!!  Stand in front of the mirror and pretend your reflection is the situation/person you will be facing soon.

2. Role Play

It may feel silly or weird but act out the scene you see playing out in your head with your reflection being the other actor in the scene.  Once you start doing it you will get used to the conversation happening and it will start to feel as natural as having a conversation with another person.  Act out the situation out loud and in person.  Be sure to throw in any problems or hurdles you see getting in your way.  When you get to these problems or hurdles work out with your "partner" (in the mirror) how you can best solve this situation.

3. Think about it

Take a few minutes to jot down on a piece of paper or on your ipad or computer how you felt about doing the role play, how you felt about how you portrayed the situation and then how you felt about how you handled the situation.  Jotting it down will let you come back to it and reflect more when you are going through the actual situation.  


Next week I will give you guys some exercises that will add to these exercises for the "during" reflection.  

Good honest amazing awesome reflection is a four part process.  It's the pre, the during, the post, and the revisit.  It's how you get the most out of any learning experience and it doesn't always mean you have to write a paper or do some boring assignment.  It can actually be a great deal of fun!  

Have a great week and be sure to tune in next week for the "during" part of the reflection process fun exercises.  Have a safe and fun Fourth of July!

It's been fun chatting,  

Until next time,



Think I don't understand how hard college is?? Think again!!

Let's Chat:  College is freaking hard.  I get it!!

 On May 7, 2017 I ended a six year love hate relationship with my college career.   I started college (not, "I went back to school" because I never went to college to begin with.) when my youngest of six children went to kindergarten.  I was 40 years old.  I thought.... "this will be easy...I got this"  I couldn't have been further from "getting it" than I was at that particular moment.  

College is full of challenges.  It taught me more than just my content for my major area.  Yes, I at 40 years old learned life lessons and how the average college kid struggles daily with deadlines, papers, speeches, lab reports, accounting projects, research madness, having to read a book and starting it the day before or the day of the paper on it being due.  I learned that much like my high school days a long time ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth,  the food in the cafeteria sucked.  I also learned that I could navigate this college thing no matter how clumsily, and that one day eventually in what seemed like a very distant future, this would come to an end.  

Along the way I met some GREAT friends.  Friends that I can't imagine my life without now.  I also met amazing professors and some not so amazing professors (I agree with you....there are some people who should just not be educators) I stuck out the bad professors, cussing and hissing the entire way.  I wanted to rip my hair out EVERY.SINGLE.WEEK.OF.FINALS.  The stress of having to know all of the information I had just spent 14 weeks cramming into my head in an attempt to make it one step closer to that stage and being handed that piece of paper was almost unbearable.  The late night cram sessions shoving anything with sugar in it into my mouth in an attempt to stay awake and process more information into my brain was very real. Contemplating how to invent a real coffee IV entered my mind on 23,000 different occasions and  I'm sure I actually surpassed that number in actual cups of coffee I drank.  I would walk the halls and see the good professors noticing my eye bags and lack of enthusiasm for the day of accounting notes, economics slides and management presentations, and listen as they would say, "keep are almost done."  Thinking the whole time, ""  I would quietly contemplate how to legally induce myself into a coma that would provide me with enough rest to endure the endless ranting of a certain student from a South American country that seemed to seek out and find every class I would take and plant herself in a seat very close to me.  ***disclaimer*** there are now certain South American countries I NEVER want to visit because of this classmate....  but that's another story for another day.  

Your parents probably say to you, "what are you so tired for?  All you do is go to school all day."  Um.......... Parents of America............. shut up YOUR mouths right now and never say that to your college kid again!!   You probably get done with school and do some sort of job and when you are done with that you probably come home and get started on some of the MOUNDS of homework that you have for your 32 classes...... most of which require a 15 page double spaced with footnotes and a bibliography paper.  This junk is NO JOKE.  You guys are hanging on by your fingernails for a 4 (sometimes more as in my six year case) year roller coaster ride of emotions and fatigue while doing shots of espresso and mastering the art of looking awake while actually catching some zzz's in your 8 a.m. monotone professor's class.

 I feel you.  I get you.  I understand you.  I am one with you.  You are my people.    

Let me tell you all, each and every one of you....  I don't care your age or your shoe size or the color of your hair........... You guys are navigating this junk like a rock star and don't ever let your parents or those adult like beings that think they have it all figured out make you think other wise.  You keep walking the good walk.  You carry on with your bad selves.  I got y'alls backs yo.... (college lingo this mom of six picked up along the way) I am here to proclaim loud proud and to all the land that you guys are big hairy awesome amazing beasts.  

And I promise......... no matter what anybody says........... at the end of your journey, that walk across that stage is going to be one of the single greatest moments of your ENTIRE life.  Because you did this.  YOU.  Not your parents,  not your friends, not your children, spouse, significant other.......... YOU........ you did this and you rocked that junk.  Like the beast that you are.   Until then............  keep walking the good walk.  If you need the patent ideas for the coffee IV I am happy to forward them over, I was never unbusy enough to ever get it going but you are all welcome to it.   While you are rocking it, remember to have fun.  Go places.  Explore them, and yourself.  Come to understand who you are an why you want the things you want.  Figure out how you can better help people and yourself.  Understand compassion and empathy and figure out how to apply them in the life you are living.  Go out there and change the world to the place you want it to be.  I'll be standing on the sidelines cheering you on.  



To learn more about how you can explore, go passionately, create your own adventure in love, kindness, learning and opportunity, click below and read about our awesome trips.   We would love to have you spend a small portion of your semesters with us.  

To subscribe to our blog posts and other exciting news click below:


It's been fun chatting.  Until next time,


Stop listening to the people that say "precious little snowflakes" You guys ROCK like no other!

Good Monday morning!!  Here at Ardenti we are coming off of a weekend of fun after having had our Gwinnett Braves fundraiser where we went out to the ball game and had fun with friends watching some awesome baseball.   

This week we are officially one month out from our inaugural Belize summer service learning trip and it got me to thinking... How on earth did I get here so quickly?  Well, I had some amazing help to get me to where I am today: one month away from a week long summer camp for kids in Belize City and then a few short months after that we will embark on our 12 day trips to Belize and Jamaica!   

Our summer service learners started out meeting weekly on Friday afternoons this past spring, to begin planning the curriculum for our summer camp.  Every week for about 8 weeks we met and came up with our daily activities for campers complete with themes, crafts to match the days themes, PE games to match each day, and one of our service learners even learned all.the.things. about bucket farming so she could teach our summer campers about how to bucket farm and grow free sustainable grocery!  We came up with the daily situation that our camp mascot would face and the solutions to them, we also came up with reading comprehension stories that matched the days themes so we could improve on literacy while hammering home our awareness issues.  

Our summer camp name is Camp T.O.U.C.A.N.  the Toucan is the national bird of Belize and the acronym is "Teaching outstanding urban children awareness now" an acronym that our service learners came up with while doing the weekly curriculum planning.  We will be teaching kids awareness about drugs and drug prevention, literacy, staying in school, sex education and peer pressure.  

I am so impressed with the work that went into this curriculum planning.  I was there to guide our service learners but honestly they did all of the hard work.  They really did get on board with what service learning truly meant!  It has been my pleasure to work with such a great group of MILLENIALS!!  Yes!!  That's right... you are not "precious little snowflakes"  you are brilliant awesome amazing talented creatures that show me every day what I still need to learn!  I have seen these students creatively tie sex education to awesome team building games, I have watched as my photographer makes a picture of a post card turn into brilliant art, I have seen words on paper turn into masterpiece literature for kindergarten through 5th graders to learn reading comprehension.  You guys may think differently but I am here to tell you THANK GOD YOU DO!!  

I could not be more excited if I tried to see all the great things that are going to come out of this service learning trip this summer and how these students are going to ROCK!  I could not be more humbled by the work and effort that was put into these kids that we will be volunteering with and I honestly am honored to have this particular group of  service learners that will pioneer Ardenti Service Learning's inaugural service learning trip.  They made my job easy.  And extremely FUN.   

So here's a new acronym for you Millenials that are reading:  MILLENIAL:  Making intelligent loving legacies empathetically, noticeably in-tuned, and lasting.   You guys have my heart.  Keep moving toward the prize.  I've seen how you guys can move mountains!!  

Follow our summer journey on snapchat: Ardentiglo  Or facebook Ardenti Global Service learning, or Instagram Ardenti service learning or Twitter ardentiglobalserve we will be sending video updates throughout the week of July 15-22 so you can see first hand what we are doing!

And if you want to learn more about how to sign up for one of our fall service learning trips click below and send us your info!  Make the decision now to GO.PASSIONATELY.

But Jennifer, why should I do service learning??

I visit many classrooms when I am talking to undergrads about service learning.  The two biggest questions I get are "What is service learning" and "Why should I do it?"

So I have set out on a mission.  I want to tell everyone I can about the amazing benefits of service learning and how it not only affects you, but how it affects the communities you serve.  

In October 2016 I participated in a service learning trip from the student side of it.  I wanted to know as a student what doing a service learning trip felt like, looked like, and how it would affect me.  I did this so that I could know exactly what kind of experience I wanted to bring to the student service learners that I would be working with through my organization.  I never would have imagined how it would change my life forever.  

I set out on my journey to Petersfield Jamaica where I was met by Mr. Matthias Brown and an entourage of people that instantly told me I was now family.  We left the airport for what I thought was going to be my two hour trip to where I would be staying.  I was told when we were in the van that we would be stopping at a local Reggae concert where they would have local food.  I thought, "well ok.  that sounds fun."  We got to the concert and we sat with local people literally grilling right there where the concert was.  Not a concession stand, not a restaurant, just local people who had gathered to hang out at a reggae concert.  I was instantly invited to sit down and eat with these people that I didn't know and was treated as if I had known them my entire life.  They asked me about my family and how my trip was and told me all about who they were and how they knew this person or that person that lived in the U.S.  here's the best part about this whole conversation:  They asked me did I know the people that they were talking about.  That was my first clue that these people are one big community and because they were they naturally thought people in the U.S. must be.

We left the concert and traveled another hour to where I would be staying for the next 7 days.  I was taken into Miss Norma's house given a brief tour and was taken to my room where clearly she entertained more than one person on other service learning trips.  Miss Norma serves as a "House mom" in Petersfield for students that come in groups to do service learning trips through another service learning organization that has been present in this community for many years.  There were four twin beds.  Two on one wall, two on the opposite wall.  A beautiful armoire that looked as if it were 100 years old, a fan (Thank God) a small table and a chair.   There were towels stacked on one of the beds and all of the beds were made.  She told me to pick whichever bed I wanted to sleep in, told me that she would see me in the morning, gave me a hug and told me she was glad I was there, and left closing the door behind her.  


 From left to right: Me, Miss Norma ("MAHHHH") Mr. Brown (I love him) and my "Jamaican BFF" Nardia Wilson.  

From left to right: Me, Miss Norma ("MAHHHH") Mr. Brown (I love him) and my "Jamaican BFF" Nardia Wilson.  

The next morning I was awoken by something that I had never been exposed to before.....roosters....they really like to get up early.... I really am still not sure I love roosters after my stay in Jamaica....I am still processing the PTSD from having them surround my window and screech every morning while pecking on my window.  I'm kidding, this is one of the fondest memories I have of this trip.  The next thing that happened was I smelled the most heavenly scent I have ever smelled.  I had no idea what it was but my Lord it smelled divine.  Shortly after I tried to reason with the roosters about possibly starting at a later time the next morning, I heard Miss Norma scuffling down the hallway in her slippers saying loudly, "Jennifer......get up.....breakfast is ready!"  What?  Had my ears deceived me?  Did she say breakfast was ready?  I was getting a home cooked breakfast without having to make it for myself??  Ok.  I might be able to get used to this.  I got up, got dressed and made my way out to the dining room of this 5 room house thinking that surely I must be in heaven because they just don't make smells like this in the U.S.  She directed me to the small dining room table surrounded by shelves full of ceramic "knick knacks," a china cabinet full of dishes, and a door at the rear of the house that was standing open to let the breeze in.  There was no screen and as I scanned my surroundings I saw my friends the roosters standing at this back door as if to see who this new stranger was that was in the house.   I sat down at the table that was sat with my plate, a fresh glass of juice with ice, a napkin, a fork and a cup of coffee.... anyone who knows me, knows this instantly made me fall in love with my new house mom.  On my plate was what looked like a biscuit, and some sausage.  As a girl raised in the south, we know a little summin summin about sausage biscuits and gravy but this was not that.  This was "dumplings and sausage" and it was the most divine amazing piece of heaven on a plate that I have ever in my life sunk my teeth into.  There was also fried plantain and if you have never had fried plantain then I suggest you find your nearest Jamaican and tell them you have been deprived your entire life of fried plantain.  They will instantly take pity, find the nearest frying pan and lard and make you understand the gift from God that is called fried plantain.   After eating my breakfast I was told that Mr. Brown would be picking me up to take me to a few different places around Petersfield.  

Over the next seven days I would take part in teaching in a 5 year old classroom at the galloway district elementary school (these babies now have my heart), I would teach a 5th grade class at the primary school and a 6th grade class at the primary school, I would have lunch with an amazing group of 5th graders who told me all about who they were and where they lived and how they were going to come to America when they were older.  I saw kids who were learning in a classroom that was open to other classrooms by only 3/4 to the roof walls.  I saw kids that were some of the most respectful children I have ever met in my life.  The 5 year olds would sit in their seats that were literally packed into a room not much bigger than most American bedrooms quietly while the teacher taught them their lesson responding when cued by saying, "Yes teacher." or "No teacher"  I watched as boys in the 5th grade class fought over rubber band guns they had picked up on the way to school that day as if these rubber band guns were their prized possessions.  I ate my lunch of rice and beans and fruit with a bottle of juice and thought it was the best thing I had ever tasted in my life.  I saw as some kids didn't have lunch money but were not turned away from eating because the personnel at the school know that sometimes this is one of the only meals these kids get during the day.   Kids at the elementary school got porridge.... this was my first experience with porridge.... I am still contemplating whether I am a porridge fan. 

I would visit a local beach, where the people of the community hung out with grills and cooked jerk chicken for family and friends, I would go to a local church where Mr. Brown would take his niece to see the non-profit eye doctor that checks the local people's eyes and fits them for glasses.  I would make my way to Sav-la-Mar where I would eat at the local KFC which is NOTHING like the KFC's here in America.... You can literally buy Jerk chicken at the KFC there.  WHAT?  Whoa.  I went to a Jamaican grave digging get together, had a "learn how to cook Jamaican cuisine" night where I learned how to make brown stew chicken (MY NEW FAVORITE CHICKEN OF ALL TIME) and curry chicken (ALSO AMAZING BUT DIDN'T BEAT OUT THE BROWN STEW CHICKEN) I would celebrate my being there at the Association of clubs and I would celebrate my leaving at the Association of clubs.  I would visit the local "Bar" which is nothing like any bar here in the U.S.  and I would eat "Jamaican BBQ" in the mountains.  

Having been to Jamaica a total of 6 times now 5 of which I visited as a tourist, this visit ruined any other visits I had or would have from now until the end of time.  I was part of the community.  I was greeted with kindness and curiosity and treated as if I would forever be called a part of the family.  And that is exactly what happened.  I get videos from my 5 year old babies on the regular, I started a pen pal program with the 5th graders in Petersfield with my daughter's 5th grade class (they have been writing all year now) and I formed life long relationships with people who for all intents and purposes served as MY COMMUNITY.   I learned exactly what community was and why it was so important to be community.  I learned what it felt like to know that everyone around me wanted only for my happiness and in turn I learned how I wanted theirs.   These people gave me insight that I had never before been privy to and it was invaluable and life changing.  

And that........... that is why you should do service learning.   So you can understand community.  So  you can see the benefits of being a community and being global.  So you can feel what it means to have everyone around you wanting only for your happiness and success and so you can feel what it feels like to want the same thing for people that come from a different culture and place than you do.  I promise you.....

It will change your life forever.  And you will learn if you do or do not love roosters.....and porridge.

It's been fun chatting.  Until next time....





 5th grade class

5th grade class

 outside time with the 5th graders

outside time with the 5th graders

 I was given this note by Callington, one of my 5th graders.  I was told not to open it until I got to the airport.  I cried.

I was given this note by Callington, one of my 5th graders.  I was told not to open it until I got to the airport.  I cried.

 My 5 year old babies

My 5 year old babies

 My new family.  Mahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh (my Jamaican mom) is on the end with the purple striped shirt.

My new family.  Mahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh (my Jamaican mom) is on the end with the purple striped shirt.

 the 5 year old classroom

the 5 year old classroom

 the 5th graders receiving their first envelope of pen pal letters from the U.S. 

the 5th graders receiving their first envelope of pen pal letters from the U.S. 

 My all time favorite picture of me and my babies

My all time favorite picture of me and my babies

 My 5th graders

My 5th graders

 The 5th grade classroom

The 5th grade classroom