Christopher Rollins is an 8-time Bridges trip volunteer who traveled with Bridges for the first time in 2004, one of the class years that we will celebrate on May 2 at our 2019 Leadership Dinner.
Christopher initially became involved with Bridges after his father and older brother traveled to Nicaragua with Bridges. When they returned so impacted from the experience, Christopher was also inspired to go on a Bridges trip the following year as a 9th-grade high school student. Of his very first Bridges trip in 2004, Christopher says, “It was so unlike anything I was expecting. I was so impacted by the relationships that I built while I was down there with the local Nicaraguan people, the families who received the homes, the masons, and also the relationships with fellow volunteers.”
That first trip completely changed Christopher’s perspective. He says, “At the time, I was a young, impressionable person and the trip made a profound impact on me and my view of the world. For the first time, I was struck by the idea that I was born into a privileged situation and I realized that these people I was working side by side with just happened to be born somewhere completely different, and into dire circumstances.”
Christopher returned to Nicaragua on Bridges trips five more times throughout high school. He says, “The genuine compassion, love, and hope that the Nicaraguan people had was really beautiful, and it kept me coming back. I built such a fondness for the community and…[it was amazing] to go back year after year and step back into the relationships I had built with people there.”
The Bridges experience so inspired Christopher that he decided to organize his own trip at his boarding school during his senior year of high school. The experience was so significant. According to Christopher, it was “so powerful to see the impact on my fellow volunteers. I saw them open up and their perspective change.”
After his senior year of high school, Christopher became busy with college and starting a career but returned to Nicaragua in November of 2017 and had an awakening while there. He says, “On my November 2017 Bridges trip, all the same feelings came rushing back to me and the reason why I was so passionate about Bridges in high school. Truthfully, I was annoyed with myself that I had gone so long without going on a Bridges trip and it became clear to me that this is something that I have to do every year because it is just so meaningful and fulfilling…and I need to prioritize it.
On that trip, I realized something. I am fortunate that I have had the chance to take lots of vacations in my life. On a Bridges trip, I work so hard and get dirtier than I ever had before. I go to sleep with my body aching every night. However, I have never returned from a vacation so recharged and refreshed as with Bridges. It really is so impactful.”
During his return trip to Bridges, Christopher also had the chance to visit the community he had worked in during high school, Las Conchitas, Masaya. Not only was it wonderful to see the people he had built relationships with, but he had the chance to see how the community had grown. The infrastructure, paved roads, and “vibrant activity around the community center…it was amazing to see the impact and change in the community over the course of 14 years.”
The November 2017 trip “reignited a fire” in Christopher and he decided to become a trip organizer and organize a Bridges trip every year to help others have the same experience he had. In April 2018, he co-coordinated a trip from start to finish. As a trip leader, it was so “energizing recruiting people. I love talking to people about my experience with Bridges. I get so passionate and energetic when I talk about it, and I love getting people into it. I get the chance to relive my own Bridges experience…it is also so meaningful [bringing] people on a trip for their first time. I get to watch others have the same experience I did.”
In general, Bridges has changed Christopher in many ways. He says, “I’m definitely conscious of how I go through my life and preserving and trying to reduce waste as much as possible. Bridges has also taught me to be compassionate, especially with people who don’t necessarily share the same experience or background as you…My experiences in Nicaragua taught me that there is always common ground between humans regardless of background or upbringing. I couldn’t be more different from anyone in Nicaragua on a surface level, but when you strip it all away, there are some really beautiful relationships you can form.”
Christopher is currently organizing a Bridges trip to the Dominican Republic in August 2019. He leads organizational development for a digital marketing research company and was happy to have three colleagues join him on his April 2018 trip. He says, “I am so grateful that I experienced Bridges at such a young age. It has been such an important part of my life as I’ve gotten older. I look forward to continuing to share that with as many people as possible.”