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Last week Change Begins With Me Volunteer Vacation winner Keisha McCoy-Wilson packed her bags for a little time away from her post as a school liaison officer at a military installation in Columbia, South Carolina. But Keisha and her husband, Tyrone, would not be lounging on a beach somewhere. Instead, they set off for New Orleans, where an exciting mix of fun, music and service awaited them.
On the itinerary: attending the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, one of the nation's largest music festivals, volunteering at the New Orleans Mission, participating in Global Youth Service Day with HandsOn New Orleans, a bus tour of the city and downtime to explore some of New Orleans' unique local offerings. Now back at work, Keisha took a few minutes to answer a few questions about her experience. Armed with one of our favorite new tools, a Flip camera, Keisha documented her time in the Crescent City below.
Kristin: Why did you submit a commitment for Change Begins With Me?
Keisha: I submitted my commitment for Change Begins With Me to voice the educational needs of transitioning military families. Military parents go through a great deal of transition both on the home front and abroad (in many instances, leaving their children behind with family or in the care of trusted friends). Soldiers who are on the field do and risk so much for our Nation. Their children’s education should not be a concern. I wanted people to know the importance of understanding what military children go through so that they could at least acknowledge that behind our pageantry and celebration of our Nation’s finest, rests the soul of the child that needs extra care while their parent(s) are away giving themselves for the Nation.
Kristin: What's the top moment that stands out in your mind and why?
Keisha: The top moment that stood out for me was when I volunteered at the New Orleans Mission. Along with my husband, we met and spoke with other volunteers who traveled far distances to serve. Even though I volunteered my time and hoped that I would make a difference in the lives of others, I in turn met someone who by her actions showed me what it means to be thankful ANYHOW. I met a lady who is known for the many meals she prepares for her “guests” (as she calls them). Each guest knows her by name and respects her. With her flare for words and a heart of compassion, she refrains from using the word “feed” when she serves her guests. With no hesitation, she explains why she chooses not to use that word. “We don’t “feed” our guests, we serve them…we feed animals” she said. No stranger to the environment she is now entrusted, her tenacity makes her one of the most memorable highlights of my act of service.
Kristin: Would you encourage others to take volunteer vacations? If so, why?
Keisha: I would most definitely encourage all of us, who are capable, to take time to give back to others, maybe in the form of volunteer vacations or just helping out in your own community. This opportunity reminded me that we all have reasons to be thankful and to give time to those who need you. While helping others, I acknowledged that complaining about issues does not solve the problem, positive actions solve problems. I look forward to doing this again, on this scale, someday. But until then, I will continue to contribute my time to serve others in my community.
Keisha's Video Documentary of her New Orleans Volunteer Vacation