Forging Friendships at Camp Royall: A Weekend Alternative Service Break Experience

Written by Ukiah Barnes

On the weekend of September 20th, Durham Tech’s Center for College and Community Service led an Alternative Service Break (ASB) trip to the Autism Society of North Carolina’s Camp Royall. The Autism Society of North Carolina is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “improve the lives of individuals with autism, support their families, and educate communities.” Early that morning 15 Durham Tech students, selected from over 40 applicants, arrived at Camp Royall in Moncure, North Carolina. After getting settled into their cabin they began their training session with Camp Royall Director, Sara Gage.

The team spent the first day in training learning about the Autism Spectrum. They explored how to meet the campers’ needs and how to be great counselors. During the training, they discussed common misconceptions about autism and different techniques that could be used to navigate various situations should they occur. When all was said and done the students were able to unanimously agree that the most important takeaway from their training was that the autism spectrum is broad and that no person with autism is the same. 

“If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

Stephen Shore

It became apparent just how true this statement was when the campers arrived at 5:30 p.m. that afternoon. The campers, age 7 to 38, were ecstatic to be there. Each counselor was assigned a camper and that was their buddy for the weekend. Upon their arrival, the Durham Tech counselors met with their assigned campers and the camper’s parents. By meeting the parents, the counselors were able to discuss necessary accommodations and learn more about their individual camper’s personality so they could ensure that their camper had the best experience. After the meet and greet, the weekend camp session kicked off with a big pool party and the adventure began!

Throughout the weekend, the Durham Tech students now trained as Mini-Camp Counselors spent the entire weekend under the leadership of Camp Royall staff facilitating activities like campfire songs, boating, hayrides, pool parties, and even a huge talent show at the end of the weekend. Each night was closed out with a reflection discussion led by the team leaders Ukiah Barnes and Shelbie Chervinko.

The most meaningful part of the experience for me was seeing the connections that were made between all of the counselors and campers. I feel that all of us learned something about ourselves and people on the spectrum that we did not know before.

Shelbie Chervinko

This trip aligned with many of the participants’ career goals whereas others had a more personal connection to the trip subject. While the participants’ majors varied from occupational therapy to computer science, nursing to web development, they all possessed a passion to understand autism to better serve as allies to persons on the spectrum. Each team member felt welcomed by their teammates and the camp. In turn, they did their best to create a welcoming environment for the campers that weekend.

I met a stranger at the beginning of the weekend but ended up with a friend.

Jose Perla

Jose’s experience embodied the goal for the “Forging Friendships at Camp Royall, Fall Alternative Service Break Trip.” Ukiah, Shelbie, and the Center for College and Community Service could not be more proud and cannot wait to host another Alternative Service Break trip at Camp Royall! 

Volunteer of the Month: Shelbie Chervinko

Every month the Center for College and Community Service selects a new Volunteer of the Month from the submissions in Durham Tech’s Volunteer Log. This month’s Volunteer of the Month is Shelbie Chervinko. Congratulations, Shelbie!

Shelbie has been passionate about volunteering since she was a child. She credits her years as a Girl Scout from elementary school through high school for inspiring her passion for service. When her English professor promoted the spring Serve the Herd Alternative Service Break (ASB) trip earlier this year, Shelbie knew she had to apply. She was among one of the students selected to participate in the animal rescue service trip that took place over Durham Tech’s spring inclement weather days in March.
“People feel more involved in Durham Tech’s community after participating in these service trips. I saw the value of giving and the impact on people who didn’t previously have volunteer experience. It’s nice to see that change in people and see firsthand how service is implemented in our community,” said Shelbie.

Shelbie and some of her ASB teammates at Briggs Avenue Community Garden

After the Serve the Herd team reunion, Shelbie considered becoming an ASB leader. “One of my favorite service experiences was when our Serve the Herd team reunited to volunteer at Briggs Avenue Community Garden after our trip. It made me realize that there were other people out there like me who want to make friends at Durham Tech and get out of bed and do something to make our community better,” said Shelbie. Shelbie has since become an ASB trip leader and has led not one, but two successful ASB trips.

In late September, Shelbie Chervinko and her co-leader Ukiah Barnes led the first-ever weekend ASB trip to the Autism Society of North Carolina’s Camp Royall. Their team served as camp counselors to children and adults on the autism spectrum. Just two weeks after the Camp Royall trip, Shelbie and her co-leader John Zhang led another ASB team to Charleston for an environmental conservation trip where they served four Charleston non-profit organizations.

Shelbie said that after returning from the Charleston trip she now regularly promotes recycling to her family and friends. “By serving as an ASB leader I have learned to hold myself accountable. I’m implementing what we’ve learned on the trip into my personal life and spreading that knowledge to my loved ones.”

This was the first time a student has led two Alternative Service Break trips back-to-back at Durham Tech and it was no small feat. Shelbie was implemental in planning the logistics of the trips, creating fun team-building opportunities, and leading meaningful reflection discussions.

Shelbie and her teammates took a break from volunteer work by taking a historical boat tour of Charleston

“Leading these trips this semester was one of the hardest things I’ve done. One lesson learned from this experience is the importance of communication and self-care. I’ve learned that you cannot help others if you don’t first take care of yourself and set boundaries,” said Shelbie.

Shelbie got some well-deserved rest after the trips concluded, but she is already back in action serving her community. She has signed on as Durham Tech’s official Census Fellow to educate students and community members in Durham about the upcoming 2020 Census. The 2020 Census Engagement Fellowship (CEF) is a joint project between North Carolina Campus Compact and the Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP). Shelbie was one of twelve student leaders selected in North Carolina to serve as a Census Fellow.

Thank you, Shelbie, for all that you for Durham Tech and your community!

Volunteer of The Month: Mohammed Alsakafi

Every month the Center for College and Community Service selects a new Volunteer of the Month from the submissions in Durham Tech’s Volunteer Log. This month’s Volunteer of the Month is Mohammed Alsakafi. Congratulations, Mohammed! 

Mohammed regularly volunteers at the Goodwill Community Foundation’s Durham farm and Briggs Avenue Community Garden. At the GCF Farm,  some of his favorite tasks include harvesting onions and preparing the beds for other fresh produce to be grown. GCF Farms donates fresh produce to the Food Bank of Central Eastern North Carolina which serves local food pantries including Durham Tech’s Campus Harvest Food Pantry. 

At his Friday shifts at Briggs Avenue Community Garden, Mohammed assists other Durham Tech and community volunteers in maintaining Durham Tech’s Campus Harvest Food Pantry’s garden plots. Thanks to dedicated volunteers like Mohammed, Durham Tech’s food pantry provides over 1,500 lbs. of fresh produce annually to food-insecure students and employees from Briggs Avenue Community Garden.

When asked why he prefers to serve his community through gardening, Mohammed stated, “I really enjoy being able to use my previous gardening experience for a good cause,” he says.

Thanks for using your green thumb for good, Mohammed!

First Years SERVE 2019 Event!

On Friday, August 23rd, over 40 Durham Tech students volunteered at five different community sites during the First Years SERVE (Students Engaging in Rewarding Volunteer Efforts) event. FY SERVE, a collaboration between the Center for College and Community Service and First-Year Experience Program, was created last year to welcome students in their first year at Durham Tech while connecting them to their peers and the greater Durham community. The student volunteers were joined on the teams by Durham Tech senior administrators and instructors. annual First Years Serve Event!

FY SERVE kicked off in the Multipurpose room early Friday morning where participants enjoyed a light breakfast and a welcome from Deidre Yancey, the FY Experience Chair. Erin Riney, Director of Student Engagement, reviewed the day’s exciting agenda. Jes Dormady, Coordinator for the Center for college and Community Service, introduced the event’s student leaders and-profit sites for the day. Student leaders were selected from last year’s FY SERVE participants because of their demonstrated leadership skills and their ongoing dedication to community service efforts this past year.  

2019 FY SERVE Leaders were:

Yousaf Abbasi, leader of the Food Bank of Central Eastern NC team

Ukiah Barnes, co-leader of the Book Harvest team

Lucas Gromyko, Leader of the Briggs Avenue Community Garden team

Rimeh Ksiksi Ksiksi, co-leader of the Book Harvest team

Juan Moraga, leader of the RN Harris team

John Zhang, leader of the Campus Harvest Food Pantry team

For two hours, the five volunteer teams served at their non-profit organizations. After the service shifts ended, the participants returned to the Multipurpose room for pizza and reflection. Ms. Yancey led the reflection session. Participants were assigned reflection teams with members who served at all five different service sites. Students were able to share their experience volunteering at their site and learn about the other service shifts that occurred that day.

Book Harvest

Participants had fun sorting and packaging approximately 2,250 books to be distributed to children over the school year.

Briggs Avenue Community Garden

Participants tended to the garden beds at Briggs Avenue Garden where they also harvested a plentiful bounty of peppers and tomatotes for Durham Tech’s very own Campus Harvest Food Pantry.

Campus Harvest Food Pantry

Participants packaged over 250 lbs. of rice and several months-worth of snacks to be distributed to students experiencing food insecurity at Durham Tech’s Campus Harvest Food Pantry.

Food bank of Easter North Carolina

Participants sorted and packaged 3,256 pounds of potatoes to be distributed to high need families in Eastern North Carolina. The potatoes packed on this day will feed 752 families and 2700 unique individuals. 

RN Harris

Participants prepared the garden beds at RN Harris to welcome back the children next week

None of this would have been possible without our student leaders, faculty, and administrators.

Thank you to all who participated, we can’t wait for another First Years Serve at Durham Tech!

Volunteer of the Month: Samuel Korvie

Every month the Center for College and Community Service selects a new Volunteer of the Month from the submissions in Durham Tech’s Volunteer Log. This month Samuel Korvie has been chosen, congratulations!

What stood out most about Samuel was his dedication to his service project collaborating with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. We would see him every week working diligently to complete his task no matter how long it took. Below he shares his experiences with us.

Volunteerism is a word that I consider to echo none but the words of a great President, father, and leader, John F. Kennedy. During his inauguration, he pleaded that  “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”  These words were some of the key pillars upon which my loving mother trained me; hence my ardent desire to engage in activities that benefit the society. I never knew our great school had opportunities to enable its student populace to engage in such an august institution until my enrollment in the C3 program. Upon this discovery, my desire for giving back to society was once again ignited. During one of my trips to the ever selfless Jes Dormady’s office in the quest for such opportunities, she introduced me to the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)  of Durham’s project which involved making of Plarn Mats for the Homeless.

This process basically involved the shredding of plastic bags into 2” strips and rolling them into huge balls of plastics yarns (plarns). These plarns were later to be woven into mats and distributed to the homeless. I can confidently boast that my best experience from volunteer service was from this project. One afternoon, while shredding the bags, I started feeling bored from shredding for an hour but experienced a life-changing moment: which has forever brightened my view of public service. I came across a large number of white bags with bold and beautiful red prints of “Thank You”. My subconsciousness immediately whispered to me “These are the words of thousands of people out there benefitting from your contribution to society. You may not see them, but know that their grateful hearts would always be appreciative of your services. Every smile is a thank you and every warm heart is a ‘God bless you’. Don’t stop, don’t feel bored. Please continue to give someone a reason to smile today and laugh tomorrow.” This was a re-defining moment I wouldn’t trade for anything. I hope to indulge in more activities like this one.  To everyone on here reading this: please don’t give up or ignore your contribution to volunteer service. Every second we spend puts a smile on a face. Let’s not stop but rather go all out to influence every one out there with the spirit of altruism.

May 2019 Volunteer of the Month: Lisandro Valdivia Saucedo

Every month the Center for College and Community Service selects a new Volunteer of the Month from the submissions in Durham Tech’s Volunteer Log. For the month of May 2019, it’s Lisandro Valdivia Saucedo. Lisandro participated in the Fall 2018 Serve Seaside ASB trip and came back this spring as a leader for the Serve the Herd trip. Lisandro graduated this month and will start at UNC-Chapel Hill this fall. Congrats, Lisandro! 

Spring 2019 Alternative Service Break ‘Serve the Herd’ leader, Lisandro Valdivia Saucedo

Lisandro explains what it meant to be an ASB leader at Durham Tech: 

Before I became a leader for the 2019 Spring Alternative Service Break (ASB) trip, I had little-to-no knowledge about factory farming and the negative effects it presents to our environment. Preparing for the trip made me do a deep dive on background information on the issue and I realized how the repercussions of factory farming is a lot worse than what I expected it to be. The cold truth only made me more determined to help animals who have been abused, neglected, and abandoned.

Lisandro and Yousaf preparing food for their ASB team at Camp Royall.

Being a leader on this trip really taught me how to manage my time with community service, work, and school. It was such a great experience because I had a great co-leader, Yousaf Abbasi, and volunteer coordinator to help along the way. Being a leader also helped with my teamwork and communication skills. I had to learn how to work and communicate with people who I have never met before and that was one of the things I was extremely nervous about. However, I was very confident that we had a great team so that helped ease my nerves. Once on the trip, I knew our team was going to cooperate well with one another. I enjoyed getting to know and work with others who I have never previously encountered at Durham Tech. Being able to meet new people is one of the main reasons I enjoy doing community service. One of my favorite part of the trip was working with all my new teammates to clean out the sheep barn at the Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge because we were all having a great time, despite the frigid weather, while helping those animals. Being able to do community service is a great way to involve yourself with new people and serve the community while helping those in need. Before, I did not know many people starting my first year at Durham Tech; however, that changed once I began to involve myself with community service. Being able to lead this trip allowed me to capture an unforgettable moment which occurred at Durham Tech and I am glad to have been able to help while having an amazing time with others.

Alternative Service Break: Serve the Herd Days 3 & 4

On March 7th till March 10th, twelve elected Durham Tech students participated in the Spring 2019 Alternative Service Break ‘Serve The Herd’ where they volunteered at animal rescue farms and learned about the negative aspects of factory farming. Alternative Service Break experiences provide a meaningful way for students to engage in immersive community service during the fall and spring inclement weather breaks. Our own Durham Tech Volunteer Blog blogger, Irina Conc, participated in the service trip and shares her first-hand day-to-day experiences in this ASB blog series.

Days 3 & 4: Blind Spot Animal Sanctuary and going home

Saturday, March 9th, 2019

When we pulled into the driveway of our second volunteer destination, Blind Spot Animal Sanctuary, we got a warm welcome from Emma, the cutest rescued pig I have ever met. She really enjoyed the attention she got from our group and couldn’t get enough belly rubs. There were pigs, goats, and peacocks everywhere. John Zhang loved the open farm at Blind Spot, “It was a great thing to see how they all run around freely and how they come up to you and you can pet them.”

Jes made a new friend

I was excited to find out that the owners of the farm, Alesja and Alex Daehnrich, were from Germany and I had the chance to chat with them in German. Alesja walked us through the farm and explained, “My husband and I have to work full time in order to fund the sanctuary. A simple surgery for a pig can cost up to $600.” That is why they rely on their volunteers. “We have a number of volunteers who are here daily from the morning until the evening and they really help us rescue the animals.”

Our volunteer work consisted of cleaning the animal stalls inside the barn and the outdoor pig habitats. After cleaning, we had the chance to help feed the animals. Alima Diallo immediately fell in love, “I really enjoyed the horses. My favorite part was when we were working with them and feeding them.”

Alima, Ukiah, and Irina feed the horses carrots.

My personal highlight was when Alesja surprised us with homemade vegan chili for Lunch. It was delicious! I liked how she showed us that it does not need meat to make a good meal. Everybody enjoyed it and after we ate the whole pot of chili and hugged Emma one last time, we went back to camp Royal where we started cleaning up and packing our bags.

After dinner, we could not help but play another round of the sign-game which ended up in another round and suddenly we played for an hour again. Instead of going to bed we decided to enjoy the last night and hangout at the cabin’s porch. We had a great time and laughed a lot (to Jes’s grief as she tried to sleep). This gave me the chance to get to know the other students better and I was impressed by their stories and all the great things they reached in their lives.

Shelbie Chervinko was amazed by our group dynamic, “Doing all the stuff together as a group was great. I feel like on this trip we all equally pulled our weight. There was no dead weight in this team.” 

Sunday March 10th, 2019

On Sunday morning, we cleaned up the cabin, packed our stuff, and headed back to Durham Tech. I could feel that everyone was a little sad that the trip was already over. During the drive back, we reflected our favorite parts of the trip.

“My favorite part was definitely the goats they were so cute like little kids. They would run around and play. They had so much energy. I loved the goats,” said Ukiah Barnes who had her phone full of goat-selfies.

We not only learned a lot about factory farming and animal rescue efforts in NC, but we also had a great time and made new friends. This would have not been possible without the great organization of the ASB trip team.

Lisandro Valdivia Saucedo was glad to be part of the leadership team, “It was great it was definitely something new. I never had this leadership role so did not know what to expect but going through the trip I really enjoyed making sure everything was going smoothly and everyone was having a good time. I really enjoyed this leadership role.”

After unloading the vans, we had to say goodbye to each other. It is crazy how close you can be to people you met just a few days ago.  The day after the trip we already had a plan to have a reunion. “I think it’s a great way to spend the spring break because you get to meet other students. Because sometimes during schooltimes you just go to school and after that, you go home, and you don’t have time to interact with other students,” said Cedric Ngbichi before we all left.

Alternative Service Break: Serve the Herd Day 2

On March 7th till March 10th, twelve elected Durham Tech students participated in the Spring 2019 Alternative Service Break ‘Serve The Herd’ where they volunteered at animal rescue farms and learned about the negative aspects of factory farming. Alternative Service Break experiences provide a meaningful way for students to engage in immersive community service during the fall and spring inclement weather breaks. Our own Durham Tech Volunteer Blog blogger, Irina Conc, participated in the service trip and shares her first-hand day-to-day experiences in this ASB blog series.

Day 2: Friday, March 8th at Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge

March 8th, 2019
Written by Irina Conc

I was already up early thanks to the snoring concert that was going on in our cabin. I made coffee and we all had breakfast together before heading out to our first volunteer destination: Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge.

Irina petting a sheep at Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge

Lenore Bradford, the owner of the non-profit farm, welcomed us and explained, “Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge is a safe space for farm animals who come from abuse and neglected abandonment. We have over a hundred animals that live here including goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, and ducks and we provide them with a safe space for the rest of their lives.”
When we walked into the welcome room, I spotted the pictures of her animals all over the walls and knew that she really put all her heart into this refuge. She later explained to me that she always tries to get the community involved in veganism by offering vegan cooking classes, tours to meet the animals, kids summer camps, and giving out recipes for easy vegan meals.
Before we started working, Lenore wanted us to meet the sheep, so she showed us how to call them. Betiel Amanuel was really impressed, “We yelled ‘sheep sheep sheep sheep’ and they all ran to us. That was really fun.”

We learned that cleaning a stall can actually be fun when the animals are around. Everybody enjoyed working with the animals and we took a break every now and then to cuddle with the goats or take selfies with the sheep. After their stalls were cleaned out and filled with fresh hay, Lenore gave us a tour of the farm. We heard about the horrible conditions the animals came from and their emotional stories on how they were saved. Khin Cho was shocked, “I learned a lot of new things today about factory farming. I feel bad about eating meat now.”

Back ‘home’ at the camp, the ASB Leaders, Lisandro and Yousaf, organized another team-building activity for us: an escape box. We competed in two teams and had a blast solving complex puzzles to save imaginary farm pigs from contamination. Jes Dormady could not hide how proud she was of the student leaders, “I was really impressed by the way Yousaf and Lisandro planned the details of the escape box especially because they tied it in with the ASB theme of factory farming and animals.”

After dinner, the leaders introduced us to the ‘Sign game’, a fun team collaborative game. We had so much fun that we completely lost track of time and played the game for hours. By that time, I already felt like we knew each other forever. Lucy Wajamatura could not agree more and said, “I love everybody here. They are all so nice and kind. I only knew a few people when I came here but now I have so many new friends.”

Alternative Service Break: Serve the Herd

On March 7th till March 10th, twelve elected Durham Tech students participated in the Spring 2019 Alternative Service Break ‘Serve The Herd’ where they volunteered at animal rescue farms and learned about the negative aspects of factory farming. Alternative Service Break experiences provide a meaningful way for students to engage in immersive community service during the fall and spring inclement weather breaks. Our own Durham Tech Volunteer Blog blogger, Irina Conc, participated in the service trip and shares her first-hand day-to-day experiences in this ASB blog series.

Selection and Pre-ASB

Written by Irina Conc

Serve the Herd team

I was excited when I received an email from Jes Dormady, the coordinator of the Center for College and Community Service, saying that I was selected to be on the ASB Serve the Herd trip. I did not really know what to expect because I have never been on one of these trips before, nor did I know most of the students, but I could not wait to make new experiences.
A week before the actual ASB Trip, we had a meeting in which the Alternative Service Break leaders, Yousaf Abbasi and Lisandro Valdivia Saucedo, gave us insights about the trip and helped us complete the paperwork. Yousaf was really proud of their organizational work, “We started back in November to organize the trip. It was time-consuming researching all the farms and making the PowerPoints. The hardest part was choosing the applicants because we did not know them and had to find out their personalities through their applications.”

Day 1: Thursday, March 7th   Team-Building and Campfires

Packed and ready for the adventure, we gathered in the Transfer Center at Durham Tech to get a brief overview of what to expect and a chance to get to know each other. From the moment I walked into the room, all my concerns about not getting along with the other students were washed away. Everybody seemed to be excited and full of energy. I knew this is going to be a fun trip with great people.
After lunch, we jumped into the Durham Tech van and drove to our first stop at Durham Escape Room where we were trapped in a room and had to use our brains to make it out on time.
Jes and I both did an Escape Room before, so we split up in two teams and, in the end, proved that my team was the fastest and smartest (just kidding!). Shelbie Chervinko really enjoyed this teambuilding activity, “The escape room was my favorite because it gave us the chance to work as a team. I like doing puzzles. It was so much fun, and we won!”

After about an hour drive with surprisingly little complaints to our van-DJ Ukiah Barnes, we finally arrived at Camp Royal. We stayed in a cute little cabin with bunk beds and as soon as we arrived everybody wanted to secure the best bed. I was pretty satisfied with my acquisition but that was before I found out that I had the two biggest snorers on top and next to me (I won’t put any names here). We had time to unpack and then walked over to the kitchen where some of us started cooking dinner while the rest, including me, started an UNO game that put our new gained friendships on a hard trial. 
After dinner, we prepared our lunches for the next day and then used the only rain-free evening to make a campfire. People started sharing their creepiest experiences and scary stories over some smores. “The camping was fun. I loved the campfire. Toasting marshmallows and telling scary stories with Shelbie that was great,” said Tim McMillian.

Check back soon for additional posts from Irina about our Alternative Service Break Serve the Herd trip! 

February 2019 Volunteer of the Month: Irina Conc

Every month the Center for College and Community Service selects a new Volunteer of the Month from the submissions in Durham Tech’s Volunteer Log. For the month of February 2019, it’s Irina Conc.

Irina joined the Center for College and Community Service as our volunteer blog writer in the spring of 2018.  Irina has attended almost all of our service events over the past year and covered many of them for this blog. She has been a priceless asset to our team and we going to miss her once she graduates this May. 

Irina shares her experience serving her community below.

Irina Conc, Durham Tech’s Volunteer Blogger and February 2019’s Volunteer of the Month

I started writing for the Durham Tech volunteer blog in spring 2018 with the hope to earn experience for my intended major in media and journalism. What I got was so much more.
My first event was Garden2Table day at the Briggs Community Garden. I was nervous about my newly received role as a journalist, but all my fears disappeared when Jes Dormady welcomed me with the biggest smile, telling me how excited she was that I joined.
The rest of the day was great! I loved how everybody worked together and helped bring the garden back to its glory. Every now and then, I took a break from work to take my interviews and pictures. A few days later, when I saw my first article published on the blog I was not only proud of my achievement but, even more, I knew I was able to reach out to other students and inform them about the great volunteer projects.
Since then, I’ve participated in all of the Semester of Service projects from the Center for College and Community Service. I enjoy the work, knowing I can make a change in the world, and meeting the most amazing people. The best thing is, that there are so many different options for students to volunteer on and off campus. Through my articles, I want students at Durham Tech to be more aware of the volunteering opportunities and motivate them to join.
If people get more involved in volunteer service and help each other, we can make such a big change in our community. I did not only gain journalism experience, but I became more aware of social issues, expanded my network, and found my way to create a change in, what is now, my community.