Michael Gredzik MB’13, DPT’17, has been fortunate in life to live in two culturally and economically developed countries, Poland and the United States. In this blog entry, he shares his experience traveling to Jamaica on a mission trip.
Through traveling back and forth from Poland and the United States, I have met so many interesting and wonderful people. These interactions inspired me to become more self-aware of different cultures, lifestyles, and beliefs. During my second year at USciences, I became interested in learning the true meaning of happiness. I began researching documentaries on YouTube regarding different ways of life.
After listening to my Microbiology Professor Dr. James Johnson speak about the earthquake in Haiti and watching the short movies, I realized that I wanted to discover the intrinsic motivation that drove people to volunteer in third world countries. Instead of continuing to watch these movies, I wanted to get a firsthand account by volunteering.
Unsure of how to go about volunteering, I decided to seek advice from my friends, especially Father Jim McGuin of Saint Agatha and James Parish on University of Pennsylvania. During one of our many discussions, he recommended that I look into the Missionaries of the Poor. As I looked over the webpage, I became more and more excited with the idea of helping others. I decided to contact Brother Rodger, who is in charge of the volunteers, to get further information regarding their organizational mission. Once I was cleared to volunteer, I began to plan my journey to Jamaica. I quickly took on two jobs, one at a country club and the other at a local church, to generate enough funds to financially support my trip.
When I first landed in Kingston, Jamaica, my nerves got the best of me because I was so scared of the unknown. I was traveling alone to a third world country not knowing what to expect. Once the Brothers picked up from the airport, I began feeling relaxed and calm. As I was getting settled in at the visitor’s center, I began to wonder what was in store for me tomorrow. I woke up bright and early at 6 a.m., ready to get my day started. The first day was a little overwhelming trying to get adjusted to my surrounding environment since I was accustomed to more comfortable lifestyle. As the day went on, I became more open and willing to interact with people. On a daily basis my responsibilities included shaving the beards of the male residents, working with AIDS residents, building relationships with physically and mentally challenge people, discussing life experiences with the elderly, and dressing up the children residents for Sunday mass.
Throughout the week of service, I encountered so many people from all walks of life, including people from Uganda, Kenya, the Philippines, India, Canada, Alabama, Louisiana, Poland, and Dominican Republic. I also met Syrian Refugees, who were taken in by the Brothers at a request by an individual representing the United Nations. Meeting these individuals reemphasized my passion for helping others.
I was able to experience so many inspiring and impactful moments, but the one that stands out the most took place on the fifth day of my stay. I was in a residence’s home that was primary for men with physical and mental disabilities. I was in charge of changing the bedcovers, disinfecting the mattresses, and feeding the men who were unable to feed themselves. While I was feeding the men, I realized that I shouldn’t take people for granted because they resembled someone I knew. Furthermore, I came to the conclusion that the simple pleasures in life make me happy, such as my family, friends, education, and musical pursuits.
I envision returning next year but this time for two weeks. As of now, I will be once again traveling alone; however, it would be nice for some of my peers from USciences to join me on this amazing adventure. It would be cool to have someone who is more technologically advanced than I to digitally document the experience while at the same time helping others.
If you would like to hear more about my journey and join me next year, contact me at email@example.com.