This summer I took part in the 10th annual Care-A-Van trip organized by Hebrew High in Phoenix. I heard about the Care-A-Van opportunity from Sharon Glassberg, director of Tucson’s Hebrew High. From June 13 to 29, we visited 18 different cities in seven different states: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. At each place we participated in volunteer programs at various organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, a food bank and Globus Relief, a healthcare project. During our trip we completed 43 hours of community service. We also got to see new sights like Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore.
Since this was a Jewish trip we would all look forward to Shabbat. Every Friday evening we would all get dressed up, have a service, and after that we would have a festive dinner. The next morning we would sleep in and have free time to explore the place we were visiting with friends. For example, the first Shabbat we stayed at Colorado College and got to look around the campus and the second Shabbat we were staying at vacation homes in Utah and explored Park City.
At the Boys & Girls Club in Colorado it was inspiring to see all the kids that were being helped through this amazing program. A lot of the kids didn’t have stable families and you could tell that they considered everyone at the club, from the counselors to the other children, their family. One girl was in the art class making her dad a “Welcome Home” poster because he was coming home from fighting in the military. She said that she was going to go to the airport the next day and her face lit up every time she talked about him.
We didn’t only volunteer at big national programs like the Boys & Girls Club. We also helped out at local places such as the Shalom Park Retirement Center in Denver, where we played bingo with the seniors, and the Albuquerque Rescue Mission, where we cleaned the bathrooms, doors, walls and tables. Another example is Hoofbeats to Healing in Provo, Utah, where we helped clean the stalls for the horses, which are used to help kids with autism and similar disorders.
During the 16 days of Care-A-Van not only did we feel as though we were helping all of the communities we visited, we also bonded and became somewhat of a family. I know I have met Jewish friends that I will have for the rest of my life because of this experience.
Hila Lamdan is a sophomore at Catalina Foothills High School.